Naomi James is a 19-year old first-generation student at Baruch College who is a huge LeBron James fan, which may surprise many people.
“LeBron never fails to impress me on and off the court. I admire him as a player but his contribution to his community continues to be an inspiration to me,” James said.
Though she was born in the United States, both of James’ parents are from St. Lucia, where food is a huge part of the culture.
“My mother’s family resides in the southeast of St. Lucia, in the district of Micoud, while my father’s side resides in the southwest of the island in the district of Soufriere, home of Petit and Gros Pitons and Sulphur Springs landmarks,” she stated.
According to James, her entrepreneurial mindset has had the greatest influence on her path today. She grew up helping her parents around the kitchen, preparing different dishes, and as a result, her love for cooking and baking blossomed.
She established Sweet [ish] in her hometown of Brooklyn early on in the pandemic, when her family received an abundance of food from local pantries.
“With an abundance of decaying peaches, I unlocked the gate of a brand new path in my life. I made use of the peaches by baking a peach pie for my family. It was then that I realized I have discovered my talent and passion for baking,” she continued.
The company offers a varied dessert and sugary-snack menu, including a Black Fruit Cake (a flavorful Caribbean rum-soaked fruit cake), cheesecake for the traditional New York treat, and a “Smash Box” with assorted chocolate-covered strawberries.
James is majoring in Entrepreneurship at Baruch, and to her, the biggest success for her business is the support she receives there. “Since I began attending in August 2022, I found a community at the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship,” she stated.
Opportunities that have helped James’ business grow include participating in marketplaces held by the Center, and catering 100 customized sugar cookies for the Field Center’s Art Showcase.
Her business has thrived, going from selling individual brownies and fried Oreos packets in high school to selling batches 3-5 times a week. She also fulfills cake and gift box orders at least once a week.
Short-term goals James has set for Sweet [ish] are to: “maintain profit, advance productivity, and improve my social media content.”
After graduating, James’ long-term goals for her business are “to gain a storefront, invest in a mobile food truck that I will turn into a bakery truck, have a few of my treats available at local stores and supermarkets, and of course, open a Sweet[ish] bakery in St. Lucia.”
Challenges that James foresees are in financial management. “With little knowledge of financial literacy, I fear losing control of my profits and the cost of production as the business grows. Hence, I would like to expand my financial intelligence in order to maintain focus on other business operations,” said James.
Additionally, she would like to be an inspiration to young, black women who yearn to start their own small businesses. “It is crucial that they do not feel obligated to work under a large firm or company to achieve lifetime success,” she added.
Furthermore, James says it’s important for others to know the beginning stages of Sweet[ish]. James started the business with no background experience with cake decorating but selling brownies, cookies, and fried Oreos in high school daily.
“With determination, perseverance, and self-investment, I continue to acquire the knowledge and skills to grow my business. As a result, I am now capable of catering for events, preparing edible gift boxes for special occasions, and participating in local pop-up shops,” she said.
James now realizes that anyone can start a small business. To her, the key thing to remember is: “the business startup is successful by how the entrepreneur overcomes their challenges.”
Those who would like to support James and her business can view the menu, place orders and make special requests here: https://www.sweetishbynae.com/