Charles and Mary Walker started Ma’s Cakes four years ago in their kitchen. Thanks to the River District Association’s Dream Launch program and the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC), they’ll soon have a brick and mortar location in downtown Danville.
“When we found out about Dream Launch, we decided to take the course,” Charles says.
The program, free to start ups as well as current businesses, is set up as a six-week business boot camp. During those six weeks, local entrepreneurs create business plans and pitch their ideas in hopes of winning part of $70,500 in grant funding.
SBDC’s Western Regional Director Lin Hite taught the six-week course.
“We had different speakers each week who talked about start up, set up, and marketing,” Charles adds. “That’s how we were introduced to SBDC Regional Consultant Kelvin Perry.”
Due to the pandemic, the final session of the course was done virtually.
“We presented our pitch by Zoom and won a grant for $15,000,” Charles explains. “We plan to use the grant to buy equipment for Ma’s downtown location.”
Previously that location was on the road.
“About a year after we started, we got our truck,” Charles explains.
The brightly decorated food truck featuring Mary’s homemade cakes was a hit wherever it went.
“We wanted to see if we could market our cakes by food truck,” he says.
The answer was a resounding “yes.”
“We started with five or six cakes and maxed out at 24 cakes,” he adds. “At 12 slices per cake, that’s a lot of cake!”
The COVID pandemic affected the business but not for long.
“The pandemic did affect us,” Mary notes.
“We were able to secure funds through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) that helped us maneuver through that first hit,” Charles adds. “SBDC gave us great information on the PPP program and how to spend the funding.”
The Walkers found that having the right information pays off.
“We just received information that the PPP loan was 100 percent forgiven,” he says.
The Walkers’ primary SBDC contact is Kelvin Perry, although Lin Hite is also available.
“Lin’s a big fan of our cake,” Mary adds. “He actually gave us a slogan — ‘It’s like heaven in your mouth.’ We’re going to keep that one!”
Mary and Charles had planned to take an SBDC class on developing a website and social media marketing, but it was postponed due to COVID.
“We’ll be there when it’s rescheduled,” Charles states.
The Walkers are looking forward to working with SBDC as they continue plans for a new downtown location. Currently employees number four: Charles, Mary, son Shaunté Walker, and grandson Teshaun Walker.
“We plan to increase our employees and add jobs for the community,” Charles says. “We want everyone to know we’re a hometown business.”
The Walkers see the Dream Launch program as instrumental in making their dream of a permanent location a reality.
“I would absolutely recommend SBDC,” Charles concludes. “SBDC will give you detailed information on how to cross those t’s and dot the i’s. It’s a plan for success right from the start.”