The Sweet Taste of Transformation
By Brett Bralley
As founder of the wildly popular Luv’s Brownies, alumna Andrea Lacy is all about giving back and lifting others up, like SJSU did for her.
In 1996, long before Uber Eats or DoorDash—before you could dream up a dessert and get it delivered right to your front door—Andrea Lacy, ’93 Mass Communications and Journalism, created a website to sell her homemade brownies direct to customers online.
What initially started as a tasty thank-you gift for a friend soon turned into a full-fledged business known for her signature heart-shaped gooey treats. Twenty-five years later, Luv’s Brownies is still serving up award-winning brownies and other sweet treats, both online and from a food truck (something else Lacy envisioned before it became a trend).
But her successful business is doing even more: A portion of every purchase from her food truck goes toward the Andrea R. Lacy “Grit Award” Scholarship to help students who have overcome personal challenges and want to pursue higher education or vocational training.
“I wanted to help people who were just like me: young adults who have a goal in mind and just need a little help getting there,” Lacy said.
On her own journey to becoming a business owner, much of the help she received came from San José State University.
San José State transformed my life. I don't think I would have done as well anywhere else. All of those people at SJSU who took time with me, all of those people in my life who helped me sell my brownies — none of them had to do that for me. When I think about those people who have supported me, that is why I want to support others.
The recipe for opportunity
Ever since she was a teenager working at her dad’s hair salon in San Bruno, California, Lacy dreamed of a job with Hewlett-Packard.
“I was chatting with a customer who started telling me how one day HP was going to develop computers, and we would all have them in our home,” she recalled.
“I told my parents that I wanted to work there one day. My mom was like, ‘That's hilarious; HP makes calculators.’ I told her, ‘They’re going to do other stuff, Mom. Trust me.’”
To get there, Lacy had her sights set on San José State, thanks to a friendship with alumna Kim Terrell-Kearney—another hair salon customer and a two-time All-American in bowling at SJSU who invited Lacy to come visit her on campus.
“From the day I walked on campus, I knew it was the place for me,” Lacy recalled.
During her first semester, a friend in one of Lacy’s classes happened to work at HP, and he offered to put Lacy up for a job interview with the company’s call center. She nailed it, got the job, and then looked for a way to thank him.
“He said, ‘Oh, just make me some brownies or something,’” Lacy said.
So she did. It was her first attempt, and she noticed the dough didn’t look quite right. But she went with it anyway, and they were a hit. Her friend told his friends, and soon she was in business.
But while her brownie side hustle was an overnight success, Lacy struggled in her SJSU courses. Her academic advisor began to wonder if there was an underlying issue and referred Lacy to the Accessible Education Center, known then as the Disability Resource Center.
“I went through the testing, and sure enough, the testing for dyslexia came back so strong,” she said.
Counselors at the Disability Resource Center advised Lacy on how to proceed: She needed to go back to instructors and explain her diagnosis, then see if and how they might be able to retroactively adjust her grades.
|Lacy graduated from SJSU in 1993, and she was honored with an Outstanding Academic Achievement award from the university, despite her struggle with dyslexia.|
“They gave me ownership of the situation,” she explained. “Some of my professors said no; my grade was final, but some were full of compassion and empathy.”
Eventually, Lacy was able to raise her GPA—and she was even honored with an Outstanding Academic Achievement award by the university.
After she graduated, Lacy stayed at HP, moving into a marketing and communications position. Meanwhile, her brownies’ popularity were rising, and her business, which she named after her beloved childhood doll Luv, was taking off.
And that brownie dough that didn’t look quite right but tasted amazing? Lacy thanked her dyslexia for that.
“I had transposed some ingredients when reading the recipe,” she laughed. “Sometimes a detriment is a blessing in disguise.”
The taste of sweet success
After massive layoffs at HP in 2000, Lacy took her severance package and decided it was time to dedicate herself fully to Luv’s Brownies. Since then, the company has been recognized both locally and nationally in magazines, including Rachael Ray, Essence, and on the cover of Black Enterprise magazine, and highlighted on “Good Morning America.”
|Lacy presenting her dessert creation in 1996, the early days of her business.|
When she first started her business, Lacy had another ahead-of-the-curve idea: selling her brownies off of a food truck. Throughout the years, she kept that vision in mind. In 2019, she bought a fixer-upper on wheels and revamped it into what it is today: A dessert truck serving up brownies, ice cream, and as a nod to her heritage, café Cubano, mocktail mojitos and other Cuban drinks. The dessert truck can be spotted all around Santa Clara County.
But for Lacy, all that success wouldn’t be as sweet if she weren’t able to give back. That’s why she started the “Grit Award” scholarship, so she could help transform the life of a go-getter who needs it, just like others—especially those at SJSU—who helped transform hers.
“I wanted to do something more,” she explained. “My business has been all about grit. When I think of the struggle I’ve had, how many jobs I’ve had, all the hard work I’ve taken on, I know there are other people out there like me.”
She also gives back by mentoring SJSU students, including through the Black Leadership and Opportunity Center’s African American College Readiness Summit program. She even teaches a course on entrepreneurship through Classes Without Quizzes, a series of workshops presented by San José State alumni. In 2004, she received an Outstanding Alumnus Award from the SJSU Disability Resource Center.
“San José State transformed my life,” she said. “I don't think I would have done as well anywhere else. All of those people at SJSU who took time with me, all of those people in my life who helped me sell my brownies—none of them had to do that for me. When I think about those people who have supported me, that is why I want to support others.”
Learn more about Luv’s Brownies (and maybe even try one) by visiting luvsbrownies.com.