As Judy Douglass, owner of #Pound Cakes, tells it, the recipe for business success called for one beloved family dessert, a dash of empty-nest syndrome, and a pinch of fake-it-'til-you-make-it.
"About 11 years ago, I was talking to a friend about getting a real estate license for when my twin boys went off to school, so I'd have something to do. She said, 'Well, you should sell your coffee cakes,'" Douglass says. "I'd never sold one. I'd just always given them to people. I ribbed her that she was just afraid of me getting into the real estate market and taking over her business."
Still, Douglass took that advice to heart, and at a mothers' luncheon that November, she brought some of her pound cakes, based on her mother's coffee cake recipe, and was delighted at the response.
"People came up to me and said, 'Oh, that's so good!'" Douglass says. "I would say, 'Thanks, I sell them.' Really, I'd never sold one in my life. But by Christmas, I had 80 cake orders."
Now, 11 years later, Douglass is finally expanding from exclusively custom orders to selling her confections in local stores. She began selling the cakes in High Point Grocery in February at the urging of her friends Jill and Tom Flournoy, owners of another small family business, Tom's Tiny Kitchen pimento cheese. Soon, she followed their advice and got her cakes on the shelves of Miss Cordelia's Grocery in Harbor Town as well.
#Pound Cakes, which come in raspberry almond, blackberry almond, apricot almond, cinnamon pecan, and peach cinnamon, are packaged in a simple, brown box, tied up with ribbon, stamped to mark the flavor of cake, and slapped with a brightly colored #Pound Cakes sticker. Each slice is moist and crumbly with a golden brown crust; a separate packet of white powdered sugar can be applied — or not — upon presentation. (Douglass doesn't put the sugar on before packaging, because, as every baker knows, a dusting of powdered sugar will quickly dissolve into the cake, taking its pretty white stipple with it.)
She sells her 6-inch cakes at High Point Grocery, Miss Cordelia's, and Republic Coffee for $14.99 and takes orders for full-size, 18-inch versions of each flavor for $35. Eventually, Douglass will have to expand operations, if only to keep up with the holiday rush that slams her kitchen every Thanksgiving and Christmas. For now, though, she says #Pound Cakes is a solo endeavor, and it's a lot tastier than real estate.
#Pound Cakes, firstname.lastname@example.org
What does zucchini have to do with muffins and breads?
A lot, it turns out. Samantha Green of Lilee's Gourmet Bakery says the summer squash blends perfectly into sweet muffins and breads, adding extra moisture with a flavor so subtle that you can't even taste the added vitamins and fiber.
Lilee's Gourmet Bakery is based in Senatobia, Mississippi, and named after Lily Anne Collins Green, the late matriarch of the Green family and the inspiration for their line of zucchini muffins and breads. The bakery is an offshoot business of the family's farm, which has been providing fresh produce and meats to the Mid-South for five generations. Nearly every one of her children, eight girls and two boys, has stayed involved in the family business, which begins with growing the zucchini on the family farm and ends with turning that zucchini into a brand of healthy baked goods.
You can find their muffins and breads, which come in chocolate, cinnamon spice, carrot pecan, and raisin, at various farmers markets, including the Church Health Center Wellness Farmers Market, the Agricenter Farmers Market, the Hernando Farmers Market, and the South Memphis Farmers Market. The muffins are also sold at Miss Cordelia's and inside Memphis International Airport.
"Linking healthy eating directly to the farm is our priority," the Lilee's Gourmet Bakery website says. Green says they not only grow their own zucchini, but they source their eggs from nearby C&G Farms, and any additional zucchini they need comes via the Mid-South Progressive Agriculture Group, a collective of area farms.
A single jumbo muffin or a two-pack of the smaller muffins costs $2.89, while a mini loaf of the zucchini bread will run you around $4.50. Making these treats accessible and affordable is part of Lilee's mission.
"Our goal is to replace the candy bar and bag of chips that children are most likely to purchase on their own," Green says. "It's about creating an avenue for children and adults to learn about better health choices when it comes to snacks and basic healthy foods."
Lilee's Gourmet Bakery, www.lileesgourmetbakery.com