Liang Shi and Miraya Berke: Making New York Sweeter One Dessert Festival At A Time

Cookie dough, boba, truffles, pudding, and cake pops--could we ask for s’more? New York’s first ever dessert festival gathers sweets from all over the city, with tickets selling out in under five minutes. Thousands of fans gather for the ultimate cheat day, exploring 20 different vendors, an Instagrammable photo garden, fun workshops, and an unreal rooftop lounge featuring inflatable gummy bear chairs. It sounded like #dessertgoals to us, so we interviewed creators Liang Shi and Miraya Berke to get the scoop on how they created this food lover’s dream.

 

 

Name: Liang Shi

Age: 29

Education: University of Texas at Austin, Advertising and Photojournalism

Hometown: Houston, TX

 

 

Name: Miraya Berke

Age: 26

Education: UC Berkeley, Business

Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA

 

 

HC NYU: How did you come up with the idea for Dessert Goals?

LS: Miraya and I are two friends who basically hang out and eat dessert. So when we were talking about potentially doing something together that combined our skillsets, a dessert festival was pretty much the first idea that came up.

 

HC NYU: Was it daunting to approach vendors and venues during your first year of the event?

LS: Miraya’s background is in event production so she was a pro at reaching out to venues. I handled outreach to vendors and focused on getting our top picks first and personally reaching out to everyone. We are so grateful that our vendors trusted us to pull off the first event. I think the massive interest we had on Facebook (40k+ interested in attending!) really helped them see that we had a very hungry audience!

MB: I have planned a lot of events for clients but it was definitely a different experience putting down our own money with our name on the line to make the event a success.

 

HC NYU: Dessert Goals is very social media and millennial oriented. In what ways do you see social media changing the way food is perceived?

LS: I think people definitely eat with their eyes a lot more these days. Most of my friends find things only on Instagram now, which is primarily visually focused. I think that’s why there’s this huge trend now with very “Instagrammable” over-the-top desserts. I think it’s great so long as the quality doesn’t get lost. However, it can hurt the businesses if they chase these pretty unicorn hyped up desserts that people try once, but if the quality isn’t there, you’re just going to have a bunch of one-time customers, making it hard to build up a long lasting business.

MB: The dining experience has altered so much over the last few years where we now make decisions of what to order based on how it will look and there’s always that moment you pause before a meal when everyone takes a picture, or many pictures, before eating. I think the burden falls on the businesses to create special items that not only taste good, but look good, and keep changing to bring the customers back.

 

 

HC NYU: Did you have any relevant experience from college that helped you plan this event? What was the most important thing you learned in college professionally or personally, and what advice would you give to students now?

LS: My photojournalism degree definitely is coming in handy as I shoot all the photos for our Dessert Goals Instagram account. And studying advertising has made me very mindful of how we craft the Dessert Goals brand. However, the biggest thing I learned from college was what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t go down a photojournalism or advertising track professionally post-college (I did UX/UI design instead) because doing internships in college made me realize I didn’t like working in those industries. However, the skills learned still translated.

MB: I studied business in school and the classes in finance and project management have always been useful in event planning. I was really involved in different extracurricular organizations in college where I planned events for charities and my sorority - the skills I learned in the clubs reinstated my thought that I wanted to be an event planner. I think college is a great time to try different things to figure out what you like, sign up for a range of classes and clubs, you don’t know what or who will spark something in you.

 

 

HC NYU: Miraya, you've been interested in event planning since you were 10. What has the process been like from doing something at such a young age to turning it into a career?

MB: When I was a kid I used to plan the most elaborate birthday parties, then in high school I was very involved in student government and planning rallies and proms. In college I went on to continue being in clubs and planning events. Over summers in college I interned at event planning companies in New York and London. When I graduated from college in California I moved to New York to work at an event agency, and for three years I worked for different agencies and companies planning all sorts of events. Two years ago I started my own company, Pop Productions, to get to plan the types of events I like best with clients I get along well with. I now focus on food, family, and community events. Starting Dessert Goals has been exciting because there is no client, it’s just Liang and I getting to put on our dream event. Even knowing that I wanted to be an event planner it’s been a journey of trial and error to figure out the types of events I like planning most. I’ve loved event planning from a young age because I get such joy creating memorable experiences for people and Dessert Goals is truly the epitome of the perfect day.

 

 

HC NYU: What have you learned throughout the process of creating Dessert Goals, and did the response to the event exceed your expectations?

LS: We knew people loved dessert, but after seeing how fast tickets sold out, we learned people REALLY love dessert. I know cliché advice says to “follow your passions,” but I didn’t think I could get away with being so literal about it; who knew being passionate about eating desserts could be such a successful venture?

MB: Everyday Liang and I are learning something new, from taxes to email subject lines to  functions on Eventbrite. I think I would get bored doing the same thing every day so it’s great having each day be full of learning. One of my roles is getting sponsors for our event and I have learned a lot getting to pitch our event to big brands and put together proposals. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but each time I feel like I’m getting better and perfecting the pitch. I’ve been recognizing how much brands are targeting millennials and their interest in being involved in Dessert Goals. Liang and I care a lot about our brand and the attendee experience and only want to work with partners that make sense.

 

 

 

HC NYU: What is next for Dessert Goals or your other ventures?

LS: We’re expanding Dessert Goals to L.A. this summer and thinking about new cities in 2018 already! We’ll also be back in NYC this August.

MB: In addition to LA & NY we’re also talking to some partners about smaller events which could be exciting ways to expand Dessert Goals.

 

HC NYU: Quick favorites!

Favorite book:

LS: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

MB: Harry Potter

Favorite movie:

LS: Skyfall

MB: 10 Things I Hate About You

Favorite food:

LS: Soup dumplings

MB: Sushi

Favorite artist:

LS: Taylor Swift

MB: Yuna

 

Connect with Liang, Miraya, and their dessert festival for more sweet updates!

Instagram: liangs/mirayaberke/omgdessertgoals

Facebook: omgdessertgoals