BY CLYDE HUGHES, AC JosepH Media
FREEHOLD – Some would have believed that Kuree Cain had it made, working in a New York City office building overlooking Times Square with a bachelor’s degree in hand and pursuing her master’s degree in public administration.
So why would the 28-year-old leave that behind to open up her own gourmet dessert shop in Freehold Raceway Mall? With some prayer, savings and hard work, Sweetly Chique Confectionery and Event Design, LLC is making a name for itself, moving from a kiosk to its own spot in the mall.
“Leaving the ‘safety’ net of corporate America was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, and it was not a decision that I made lightly,” Cain told Front Runner New Jersey.com this month. “At the time I felt confident because I wanted to take the leap while I was young, without the responsibility of a family to care for.
“I didn’t want to be 80 years old reflecting back on what I wished I had done. Also, I made sure to secure my education prior to taking that leap. I completed my master’s degree about one month prior to opening the kiosk.”
Her desserts can be found at Treesy’s Soul Food Café in Turnersville in Gloucester County as well as her shop in Monmouth County.
Cain said that she “fell into” cooking, making all of her desserts from scratch, each one unique on their own. She knew it would take money to turn that love into a business. That’s where her corporate job – or the money she made from her corporate job – came in.
“Prior to leaving my job I was making pretty decent money so I was able to aggressively save,” Cain said. “Also, we started small with a kiosk in the mall and then moved into the store. It allowed for us to sort of ‘test the waters’ before making such a huge commitment. Starting small, and growing with company was the best model for us.”
Along the road, Cain said she had to learn some hard lessons that has made her a better businesswoman today.
“When I first opened, I wanted to do everything myself,” Cain said. “I quickly learned that this was a horrible idea and that outsourcing would be the key to my success. I began by taking a hard look at what I did best in my business, and what I actually liked to do.
“Then I compared that against what was taking up most of my time and the things that I actually did not like to do. I then reached out to local businesses who specialized in those things I did not like to do and began to carry their products in our shop. This helped to increase our sales and take some of the pressure of in house production,” she added.
Benjamin Sheard, Cain’s business partner, said in a video promoting Sweetly Chique, said Cain’s determination and hard work will allow her to succeed and give her customers something special.
“We’ve been talking about opening up a business like this for years,” Sheard said. “I can recall the many mornings of her getting up to go work in New York City, getting home late in the evening, then baking a custom order for a client, then repeating the cycle the next day.
“It’s that type of hard work and dedication that makes me fully believe in her and her dream,” he added.
Cain said she has never been shy about promoting her business and reaching out to mentors for advice, which also has been enriching.
“One thing that has always helped me in my career is my mouth,” Cain said. “I have the gift of gab and I love networking, and listening to other people’s stories. Networking in this business via social media helped me to befriend other bakery owners around the country. We now go to each other for advice, bounce ideas off of each other, and are just there to lend moral support and encouragement.”
Cain said she usually has a staff of five, but will increase that to seven during the holidays. She admitted, though, she’s still learning the art of delegation.
“I have the tendency to be a control freak and carry a ‘I’ll just do it myself’ mentality,” Cain said. “I quickly learned that I cannot do it all, and that if I want to be successful, I have to learn to lighten my load and transfer tasks to others who are equally as capable.”
While earning acceptance from others as a successful businesswoman, Cain said she had to be comfortable with herself in that position.
“My biggest challenge has been overcoming ‘imposter syndrome,’ that feeling that I don’t deserve my seat at the table,” Cain said. “When I first began to pitch my idea to shopping malls as a young 25-26 year old, my concept was unheard of and I would often get these perplexed looks in meetings.
“I had to learn to trust in myself and my skill. Once I learned to believe in myself and became my biggest fan, everything else started to fall into place,” she continued.
Cain said that belief is the biggest lesson she could pass on to other millennials looking to start their own business.
“What is for you will not pass you,” Cain said. “What God has for you, no man can block. We are in the age of social media where everybody is putting on for the ‘gram. Don’t worry about what others are doing, your only competition should be yourself.”