“This is Matt…he’s been with me since the very beginning, and we can’t thank him enough for all the support he’s offered…”
“You’re gonna learn how to cook…” – that’s what JaWanda Jackson’s mother said as a young girl. After her marriage to her husband Eddie, JaWanda found that her mother’s sweet potato pie recipe was more than a hit – it was a marketable commodity.
In March of 2013, JaWanda was simply selling at the Town of Mt. Laurel Farmers’ Market in North Shelby County. She attended the inaugural Food Entrepreneurship Conference – hosted by the Auburn University Food Systems Institute – where the Alabama Small Business Development Center (“SBDC”) Network was invited to speak on the business aspects of running a food-based business. Then, a relationship blossomed. JaWanda had big dreams of a commercial facility and selling wholesale pies to local grocers. That’s where the SBDC Network stepped in.
As a part of her strategic planning efforts, we assisted the client as it relates to product placement. Today, the client has wholesale and retail sales in various grocery and convenience store locations throughout the Birmingham-metroplex, particularly in the Piggly Wiggly locations. Then, the magic happened: the client decided to take a leap of faith and move into a commercial-bakery location in Inverness – a prime real estate location. Through our collective conversations, and a lot of soul-searching – JaWanda was able to secure her location and provide a store-front from which to sell her delicious pies.
In May of 2015, JaWanda moved into her current location – offering a variety of pies, expanding to cakes and other goodies – including cobblers. From there she has expanded to three (3) full-time and two (2) part-time employees, with sales increasing by some 30%.
JaWanda truly feels that God, word-of-mouth, tastings, expansions to other-area farmers’ markets and her wholesale experience can account for her continued growth and success. To this day, the original-recipe continues to be her best-seller, while she has expanded her profile to pecan, pineapple cream cheese, and other exotic flavors. Traffic in her bakery continues to be high-volume.
Needless to say, JaWanda’s Sweet Potato Pies continues to be both an asset to the community, an economic driver and a delicious treat for the soul. We know there are only sweet dreams ahead for her!