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After preaching in Alabama, Cherella and Thomas Lee stopped at a Smallcakes, eager for a sweet treat after dinner. They fell in love with the business’ concept and feel, and decided to mix their entrepreneurial spirit and a family history of baking to bring a Smallcakes franchise to Spartanburg.
We got back in the car and thought, ‘this would be good to bring to Spartanburg and to have where we live,’” Cherella said.
Cherella is currently enrolled in the City of Spartanburg’s African-American business accelerator, known as Amplify. The program provides African-American entrepreneurs hoping to open a business in Spartanburg with the necessary training, coaching, and support services to get their company off the ground. The 10-week program aids entrepreneurs in creating a business plan, learn more about finances and more.
“The process is amazing. I’ve definitely learned a wealth of knowledge just beginning. It’s basically taking us from point A all the way to point Z of our business,” she said. “A lot of times, you don’t really have access to the things you need access to. You can read around and try to get the info you need, but to me, it’s been amazing. We had speakers come in and they’ve been down the road we’re traveling down. We’re allowed access to those individuals, we can ask them questions about anything, really.”
“It’s so awesome that Spartanburg has such a program that invests in people,” Thomas said. “That is so very important, I believe that Spartanburg is becoming a trail-blazer and paving the way for other cities by setting up an excellent model.”
Natasha Pitts, minority business development coordinator with the City, said sustained success downtown will require a diverse array of businesses and business owners.
“Ideally, our downtown should be a representation of our entire city; the tastes, the sounds, the arts, the shopping,” she said. “That means all nationalities, races, age groups, gender orientations, and genders should have a stake in our downtown business growth.”
Part of Smallcakes’ mission is to be more than a cupcake shop in every community it’s in. Cherella said their Smallcakes franchise will hold baking classes, host parties, and work to partner with local schools to reward student achievement. Her goal is to help residents find creativity through baking.
The Lees plan to keep their business involved in the community, with a presence at local events and support of the Northside revitalization effort. Along with community support, the Lees hope their efforts serve to inspire other African-American entrepreneurs to get started in Spartanburg by using programs like Amplify.
“We want to maintain that excitement, not just on day one. I want that momentum to last,” Cherella said.
“We learned to embrace what seems to be impossible,” Thomas said. “If you empower the people, they’ll build the city.”
Smallcakes, founded by Jeff Martin, gained national exposure on the Food Network show, “Cupcake Wars.” The franchise boasts 18 signature flavors baked fresh every morning. The bakery’s signature chocolate and vanilla cupcakes topped with pink frosting are joined by delicious flavors like Lemon Drop, Wedding Cake, and Chocolate Cream. Classic ice cream flavors are churned out in the creamery, with flavors like Salted Caramel Crunch, Blue Munster Cookie (blue vanilla ice cream with cookie crumbles and pieces), and 24 Karrot (cream cheese ice cream infused with carrot cake cupcakes) available to cool off those warm summer days.
Seasonally, the cupcakery offers flavors like Maple Bacon, Fat Elvis, Tiramisu, and Pumpkin Spice. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, Smallcakes combines its two primary offerings to feature cupcake-infused ice cream. Known as SMASHes, these rich, sweet treats are served in a can-shaped glass.
Cherella said she comes from a family of bakers. She said her mother and grandmother would almost always have delectable delights available in their home.
“That’s what I remember, cakes from here to everywhere in our living room, our dining room. I remember people coming to pick up cakes all the time,” she said. “I think that kind of entrepreneurial spirit is with myself and my husband.”
Thomas, who’s from the Northside, and Cherella, who’s from the Southside, started researching the basics of franchising after visiting the Smallcakes in Alabama. Last July, the pair officially bought a Smallcakes franchise.
Thomas said from there, they started talking with Royce Camp, who was excited about Smallcakes and bringing the Lees’ passion for the business to his development downtown.
The Downtown Spartanburg Smallcakes will be the latest addition to the business, which now has franchises in more than 30 states. Smallcakes is set to occupy first-floor space at 198 W. Main St. in the 98 Main and Morgan development.
Pitts said Spartanburg is made up of people with differences and that’s what makes the city truly #OneSpartanburg. Amplify is only part of the effort to embrace that diversity, and Spartanburg is better for it.
“It is an exciting time for Amplify as Smallcakes will join several African American owned businesses in the downtown area,” she said. “Several Amplify entrepreneurs have expressed an interest in opening businesses in downtown Spartanburg. We are excited about the idea. This is just the beginning.”