Most would agree that there has been no seminal 2020 moment. The past seven months have been a startlingly painful blur, with mere blips of reprieve – please see the rediscovered solace of at-home baking and Leslie Jordan Instagram videos.
For self-taught Richmond baker Leonda Jiggetts, the former has become “a form of calm and mediation and peace.”
Two years ago Jiggetts, who has a full time 9-to-5 on top of fulfilling custom cupcake and cookie orders, decided to launch The Sweetest Thing after a chance encounter. She had been baking solely for friends and loved ones when someone approached her about a paid gig. Even though that opportunity didn’t pan out, Jiggetts says it lit a fire under her.
“Within days, I was at City Hall filling out paperwork for my business license. … It was the push I needed,” she recalls. “Once I announced [the launch] and started to get the website together, business started rolling in. It has not stopped since.”
Business looks like vegan strawberry shortcake cupcakes, whiskey truffles and coconut macaroons. It looks like late nights fulfilling big orders for birthday parties and holidays and sold-out virtual bake sales benefitting local nonprofits.
For Jiggetts, running a small business means baking and recipe development, sure, but it also means invoicing, marketing and branding. She has teamed with other small, local business owners such as @cocoapariss, which creates specialty charcuterie boxes, and plans on more collaborations in the near future. She says she’s working to develop long-term relationships with other self-motivated entrepreneurs; “it’s not just a one-off kind of thing.”
“Like most people, I’m learning as I go,” she says. “I’m fortunate to have a large group of friends and just about every single one of them has a business, so we are able to support each other.”
Support looks like everything from words of encouragement to guidance on how to apply for certain permits. But Jiggetts’ preferred method of self-soothing looks like banana pudding cookies. “I’ve built my name on banana pudding cookies,” she explains. “I always get the same reaction, ‘What are you talking about?’ My favorite thing is seeing their reaction the first time they taste it.”
With a standout original recipe – a friend of a friend once called and offered to travel anywhere for the cookies – plus a steady customer base, the natural next step is to open her own little sweet corner shop. She’s in talks with a commercial kitchen, which would be an upgrade from her work-from-home situation.
“I started working from home March 13 and I was working at my dining room where I can see right into my kitchen,” she says, laughing. “The days blurred, my computer was always up and I was constantly working.”
She hopes that commercial kitchen experience will launch her – and those lauded banana pudding cookies – into the brick and mortar sooner than later, but she isn’t rushing anything. She trusts the process.
“The endgame is a storefront. When I first started I had a time frame, but God laughs at our timing,” Jiggetts says. “For now, I will continue doing what I’m doing.”
Keep your eyes open for new fall flavors and place your next custom order at thesweetestthingrva.com/order-online.