Move over Betty Crocker. Former professional baker Marla Pruitte of Mary Alice Cakes has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help her bring her cake mix to store shelves so consumers can #BuyBlack in the baking aisle.
“I grew up in a family of exceptional cooks and bakers,” Pruitte says on her crowdfunding site. “My great, great aunt Mary Alice Sain was the matriarch of our family and was well known for her baking. She was a kind, gentle soul and opened her home and kitchen to so many. This is a tribute of love to her.”
The Atlanta-based company, which a 100% woman- and black-owned business, is raising funds to launch its cake mix, starting with its flagship Perfect White flavor, based on Pruitte’s best-selling wedding cake flavor from her days as owner of Sweet by Design Cupcakery in Tennessee.
Although Pruitte owned the bakery for only two years, making the decision in 2013 to re-enter the workforce for the financial stability of her family, she enjoyed her time as an entrepreneur and walked away with a lot of new knowledge.
“Owning a storefront bakery was one of the best experiences as a business owner,” Pruitt said in an email to Black Enterprise. “It taught me a great deal about operating an actual brick and mortal, dealing with consumers on the front line, customer service, and creating experiences.”
Most importantly, “It gave me an opportunity to put my finger on the heart of the baked goods industry,” she says.
After having the worst year of her life in 2019—Pruitte totaled her car, losing her ability to work as a contractor and forcing her and her twin sons to move in with family—she is ready to make a living from her baking skills again. But this time, she knew she needed to “come out of the kitchen.”
“I realized that in order to make a larger impact in the industry I had to create a scalable product that was more widely available to anyone, not just my regular or walk-in customers,” she says.
Pruitte believes she has found her solution in a commercial cake mix—a huge market that’s only getting bigger, and one in which there’s little diversity.
“The cake mix industry is experiencing trending growth, even now, and especially in the U.S. The [global] valuation is estimated to be $1.54 billion in six years,” she says. “Currently there is not a Black-owned cake mix line in super store and big box retailers. Part of my mission is to bridge the gap in racial and gender disparities in this industry.”
Pruitte found a manufacturer for her cake mixes through a Google search. She’s now in the initial stages of securing a consultant who will help her connect with retailers to get the product on shelves. The investment she’s seeking is primarily to help her meet the large minimum initial order required by the manufacturer.
“I thought I could order a much smaller quantity to do some old-fashioned marketing and pounding the pavement,” Pruitte says. “This has pushed us beyond our financial bandwidth.”
She’s seeking $18,000 on Kickstarter to cover the order and also boxes, packaging, inventory, shipping costs, and marketing and development.
Not being afraid to ask for help financially is one of the lessons Pruitte leaned from her first go-round as an entrepreneur: “I started my first business with very limited finances, actually with an unemployment check, but I learned people are willing to help and invest.”
Pruitte is counting on the success of this campaign to “bring Mary Alice to life fully” and to help the company become the “home baker’s answer to made-from-scratch taste in a box.”
“I really have enjoyed this process of taking my personal recipes I used in my bakery and creating a formula for mass production,” she says. “I am certain that it will taste just as good as making it from scratch.”