After being laid off three times from manufacturing management jobs, Jackie Green prayed about what to do next. "I said, I have to go back to what I know best, and that was baking," she recalls.
Green started Sweet Cheeks Bakery in her Holly Springs home in August 2009, preparing special orders for birthdays and weddings. But she outgrew the space. "I knew it was time to leave home when people came knocking on our doors," she says, recounting a time when she arrived to find a stranger waiting in her living room to order a cake.
To finance the project, Green worked with The Support Center, a nonprofit organization that offers small business loans. The Center was more flexible in its lending than a traditional bank. "It's not just financial [support] that they've offered," says Green. "They've offered opportunities to help you grow ... and help your business succeed."
Next month, Sweet Cheeks Bakery will celebrate its first anniversary in a small storefront off Williams Street in Apex. Nine cakes are displayed on the counter, including caramel, double chocolate, pineapple and strawberry (not to mention a cooler of pies and éclairs, and a small case of cupcakes). And on a recent Friday afternoon, Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two" was humming through a speaker.
"I want people when they come here to have fun," Green says while seated in the bakery's pink-striped dining room. On a wall nearby hangs a picture of Green's grandmother, Maggie, who taught her to bake in South Carolina. "Sunday wasn't Sunday without something sweet," Green says.
When Green was a child, the two often baked yellow cake with chocolate icing and many other Southern-style cakes that are staples at the shop. But Green's grandmother didn't pass along any firm recipes. Instead, she cooked by intuition with "a little of this and a little of that." Green bakes in a similar manner. "I can look at a cake batter and tell what it needs," she says.
For many years, Green took that for granted and didn't recognize she had a gift to build on. "That was a part of life," she says.
But it has proven to be the basis of a thriving business. "We'd like for this to be the corner store for the community," she says. "Where people can come for fellowship and have some of their old favorites." Sweet Cheeks offers free wireless Internet and often plays host for meet-up groups and birthday parties. If Green gets her way, it may soon be the corner store with karaoke.
Over the past few years, Green has spoken to groups including students at Wake Tech about her experience in launching a small, home-based business. In September, she will teach a four-week class at Reedy Creek Middle School for adults interested in opening a home bakery. Green says she's up front about "the many hats you have to wear in order to have your own business and have it be a successful business."
As for her own accomplishments, Green is quick to credit her faith. "He can make good things happen for us," she says. Or as she recites on her voicemail, Proverbs 16:3, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Slice of life."