This business profile ran as part of Motif’s Black History Month issue, centering the experiences of Black business owners.
Alaska-native Nina Reed received her culinary degree from J&W over a decade ago, focusing on baking and pastries. After graduating, she returned to Alaska to complete her internship, but her love of RI and the solid food truck scene brought her back. In March 2011, she opened Sarcastic Sweets, a specialty mobile dessert and brunch food truck that she describes as a “café on wheels.” Her goal was to build her brand and eventually open a brick-and-mortar bakery. Sarcastic Sweets and Alaskan Treehouse Café opened their doors on Taunton Ave in Seekonk, MA in August 2021.
“Owning a storefront is far different than a mobile business,” Reed says when discussing the two businesses she owns. “One prepared me for the other. I believe anyone in the restaurant or bakery industry should try their hand at a food truck first and then grow into a store. It teaches you how to order better than any school can, how to shop more affordably, and be versatile in any situation with tight spaces.”
At Sarcastic Sweets, Reed makes desserts that can cater to all allergies (keto, gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, etc). She follows a simple yet important motto that lets customers know that she can make anything that they ask: “It’s not like I can’t make it for you.”
Reed’s aunt taught her how to make a dish out of anything, but it was her mentor, Kirsten Roseberry, who taught her to apply this skill to baking and pastry back in Alaska. Roseberry taught her the integrity and respect that comes with being a business owner and also employer.
“If there was a product that was ruined, she knew how to fix it; if there was something that there wasn’t enough of she knew how to stretch it. And her decorating skills are unbelievable. But what was most amazing about her is her ability to work around the clock at the same quality. I strive to show the same type of vigor, and I think I’m successful.”
Reed has a tremendous reputation. She was a 2016 Center for Women Enterprise Rising Star Award Recipient, featured pastry chef in Providence Monthly’s April 2018 edition and was a guest star on the Food Network’s “Sweet Genius.”
With the brick and mortar store open, Reed plans to do more than just sell baked goods. Baking and dessert decorating classes begin this month. She aims to serve as a mentor to her staff, becoming a hands-on bakery that will give them the opportunity to grow and enhance their skills as chefs.
“What I am most proud of is my ability to give back to students and teach younger people. I think giving people a fair opportunity as well as giving them fair pay is a double positive, and I can’t see there being a negative outcome if you have patience and good people.”
Sarcastic Sweets & The Alaskan Treehouse Cafe, 184 Taunton Ave, Seekonk, Mass, sarcasticsweet.com
Eboni Silva is a determined and resilient individual. She honed her skills working in other bakeries and started building her business baking cakes for family and friends, growing her side hustle until Cakes by Eboni became her full-time job. She recently got her own space on Mineral Spring Ave in Pawtucket after working out of another kitchen for two years.
Cakes by Eboni is a small bakery that makes custom desserts as well as a monthly menu (February includes a Black History Month Cake – vanilla with chocolate butter cream frosting, decorated in black green and gold, with the fist emblem – along with Valentine’s treats for both couples and singles). Everything is made from scratch, which is a source of pride. She offers cakes, cookies, cupcakes, chocolate-covered pretzels and berries. Her thoughtfully designed treats are beautiful and intricate, showcasing her talents as both a baker and an artist. She works with customers to turn their design ideas into a reality.
“My favorite part about my business is bringing all the different ideas to life,” Silva says. “Each event is unique and it keeps the job refreshing and doesn’t become redundant. If I wouldn’t eat it, I would not give it to you.”
Cakes by Eboni is a dream coming true for Silva and testament to her endurance. Options looked grim when she was a pregnant high school senior, failing a class that she needed to graduate. Silva had adults telling her that she wouldn’t graduate or amount of anything. Instead of giving up, she proved her naysayers wrong by finishing high school, having her child, working through college and graduating cum laude, all before starting her own business.
“Cakes by Eboni definitely represents perseverance, determination and passion,” she shared.
Silva’s children are her inspiration. She keeps pushing to show her children that dreams can come true if you are dedicated, refine your skills and endure challenges and cynics. She takes every test thrown at her as a learning and growing opportunity.
“It’s not all just cupcakes and rainbows in the business world. Some days are busier than others and that’s ok. The important thing is to keep putting in the work and keeping going.”
Cakes by Eboni, 560 Mineral Spring Ave Unit 2-161, Pawtucket, cakesbyeboni.square.site