The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

‘I am supposed to be here’: Earth Month keynote speaker on boldness in baking

Several of Melanie Lino’s business partners and friends came to see her speak at last week’s keynote event. (Photo courtesy of @madebylino on Instagram)

Baker and entrepreneur Melanie Lino stood in front of a crowd in the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights on Tuesday and set the tone for the next hour as the opening keynote speaker for Earth Month.

“I made a promise to myself to always show up for myself a hundred percent,” she said. 

Lino is the co-founder of the Lit Coffee Roastery & Bakeshop located in Bethlehem, which sells baked goods from her personal company Made by Lino. She was recognized as one of the top 20 bakers in the country by the National Honey Board.  She attributed her success to “just being myself and that being well received.”

The talk focused on how Lino broke through her limited perceptions of herself as a Black woman entrepreneur and learned her own value. She started this conversation by discussing her upbringing: as a first-generation Dominican-American, she was constantly in a battle between her identities and her place in the world. 

Her childhood was not easy. She said that her family had to “hustle” to make a living. As entrepreneurs, her grandmother and mother taught her what it meant to use resources wisely and make the most out of situations. 

“When I think about the term sustainability, I think of all the Black women that struggle and have chosen to be resourceful and have chosen to be problem solvers,” she said of her family. 

Lino started working when she was 14 years old to support her family. Since then, she has always characterized herself as a “rebel.” If she wasn’t being treated right at work, she would speak out about it. 

“In true Melanie fashion, if someone’s not going to do something then I’m going to do it,” she said of bringing up the injustices in the workplace. 

In 2013, she made the decision to quit her career in the dental industry because of what she perceived to be a classist environment. She started dabbling in hobbies to turn into a career, and she fell full force into baking.

She displayed a slideshow of her career timeline on the screen, which showed that she sold her baked goods for the first time in 2015 through the aid of friends and unbridled perseverance. In 2017, she opened Lit Coffee Roastery & Bakeshop with a very special mission in mind. 

“I created this business for the need for work environments that were not terrible, to put it in simple terms,” she said. 

Lino emphasized that Lit prioritizes the well-being of its employees and also works with small local producers to source ingredients. She specializes in sourdough laminated pastries, ciabatta and cookies, sprinkling hints of her Dominican heritage into her recipes.

“I want to continue to create work for more people … so they can feel excited about working,” she said.

In doing this, Lino has also remained loyal to the concept of sustainability in her career. From her grandmother, she has learned how to get creative in the kitchen by saving food scraps to be incorporated into other recipes.

Madeline Marriott ‘24, who attended the event, was moved by Lino’s stance on sustainability within her life and work. 

“It’s really important to demonstrate that you can be both successful and sustainably minded,” she said. “So often sustainability is painted as this thing that is unrealistic for a business, but Melanie is an example of people that can do both.”

Her baking has been well recognized by the community, and she credits her success to the ups and downs, hustling and learning she has experienced throughout her journey.

“There is … a lot of beauty in our struggle,” she said. “All of those experiences made me get to this point in my life.”

Every day, Lino takes one further step in deconstructing her limiting beliefs about herself. At the end of the talk, she invited the audience to consider the lessons she learned through gaining faith in herself. 

“I’m going to take up space because I’m allowed to be here,” she said. “I am supposed to be here.”

Disclaimer: Culture Editor Madeline Marriott ’24 did not contribute writing or reporting. 

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About the Contributor
Bernadette Russo
Bernadette Russo, Culture Editor
Likes trees and hates writing bios.

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