Black Business Spotlight: Cheesecake Funk

Submitted photo Vanessa Drews

Desserts delectable enough to satisfy a Prince

“I love baking because it brings people joy,” said Vanessa Drews, owner and head baker of Cheesecake Funk. She operates her business out of Kitchen Space, a commercial kitchen located at 5750 Lyndale Avenue S. in Minneapolis. 

Drews, a South Minneapolis native, began her baking legacy in 2003 when she’d whip up her signature cheesecake for friends and relatives. 

Later in 2008, her desserts were exclusively available at McMahon’s Irish Pub. Unfortunately, the pub was engulfed by a tragic fire in April 2010. As a result, Drews took a break from baking cheesecake and worked full-time as a senior paralegal.

Then in 2013, Drews found work at Paisley Park. “I was super honored working for Prince,” she recalled. “I would set up his merchandise. I had been making cheesecake for family and friends.” But her cheesecakes eventually got Prince’s attention, as it became an instant hit amongst band members and staff at Paisley Park.

“I would bring cheesecakes for them to put in the fridge,” continued Drews. “I made them as a care package for those who came to visit Minnesota.” To her surprise, Prince rocked with Cheesecake Funk. “I never thought he’d eat cheesecake because I thought he was vegan. He found it and tried it. He started posting it on Twitter.” His favorite? The turtle cheesecake.

Submitted photo This Prince invitation for a show in November 2015 helped launch the Cheesecake Funk brand.

Prince referred to her cheesecake at “CHEESECAKEFUNK” on a flyer and special invite for a “Paisley After Dark Park”show that took place on November 6 and 7 in 2015. The late legend’s endorsement helped launch the brand.

Cheesecake Funk also sparked the interest of producers at “Shark Tank,” a popular TV show that showcases innovative entrepreneurs. “It was super cool. By chance, I saw something online,” said Drews. After submitting her business, she was called upon to pitch it to the judges. We’ll stay tuned to find out the outcome of her pitch.

During August 2019, Drews departed from working a 9-5 job to focus on strengthening and growing the Cheesecake Funk brand. “After working as a senior paralegal for 20 years, it is honestly a privilege and honor baking,” said Drews.

In March 2020, Cheesecake Funk re-emerged but then the pandemic hit. Drews explained, “I moved into the Kitchen Space March 1. Then COVID hit; the shutdown happened in mid-March. I decided to take a pause in April,” she said. After taking time to reflect, she began offering an online ordering option and curbside pick-up.

As for the impact of COVID, the landscape has been challenging. “There’s been some ups and downs, but I’m trying to ensure the highest level of safety. When restaurants shut down, I wasn’t able to fulfill orders,” said Drews. Now, Cheesecake Funk is busy processing orders.

“I’ve had to pivot the pandemic,” said Drews. She posted online that she would be hosting a  pop-up event. To her amazement, she received over 50 orders within a day and a half. There was an outpouring of support. Customers picked up their orders curbside.

It’s important to note that Drews’ cheesecakes are intricately made from scratch. There’s a flavorful variation of traditional and unique cheesecakes to try. “Wide variety; solid 10-15 flavors. The traditional base of the cheesecake is so simple. Whether it’s Snickers Cheesecake or Keylime Pie. Customizing is totally ok, too,” said Drews.

Submitted photo Cheesecake Funk!

Customers can also order fresh flavors like apple, banana cream, blueberry, butterscotch, chocolate rain, cookies & cream, strawberry, turtle, white chocolate raspberry, and white chocolate caramel cheesecake. Each decadent dessert is baked by the owner.

Cheesecake Funk desserts are also available at various restaurants in Minnesota. Customers can order a slice when they dine at the CRAVE Restaurants, Tequila Butcher, School of the Wise and/or Oak 19. In the future, Drew aspires to partner with local sports teams like the Twins and Vikings.

Overall, “The main thing I want people to be aware of is my brand desserts,” said Drews. She encourages individuals to think of Cheesecake Funk when they want a rich, delectable dessert made from scratch.

When asked what motivates her, Drews said, “Providing an amazing childhood experience for my kids. It motivates me. I want to provide a good homebase for them. Being a good mom and providing for them the best way I know how.”

Also, “My advice to youth is to gain all the education possible and follow your dreams. If you find interest in anything, excel at it and it will lead you onto an amazing journey in life,” said Drews.

Cheesecake Funk is open Monday-Friday, 9 am to 5 pm and closed Saturday & Sunday.

Note: Customers can place an order online Monday-Friday, 9 am to 4 pm. Orders are typically ready within 2-3 business days for curbside pick-up or delivery. For more info, visit www.cheesecakefunk.com.

About Ashley Lauren

Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at alauren@spokesman-recorder.com.

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