Nailah Browne left St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and moved to the Bradenton with a passion for baking. While working in a preschool, she realized that she wanted to take the chance to chase her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
“I grew up in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and my aunt baked a lot,” she said. “I got into baking as I got older and when I moved to Bradenton I attended [Manatee Technical College] in the baking and culinary school. The actual courses there made me fall in love with baking and pastries.”
Browne took the first steps in her career by working at various local bakeries before taking a leap to launch her own business, Island Girl Custom Cakes. “I never actually really liked working for other people. I always knew that owning my own business is something that I wanted to do,” she added.
In 2015, Browne started her business by offering an innovative idea to the Tampa Bay area. “I had seen that people would rather have something more custom and would rather be able to customize and tell you what exactly they want,” she said. “I thought that this would be a great idea and something new to bring to the bakery scene.”
StackD Cakes Studio is a branch off of Island Girl Cakes that offers an opportunity for customers to come in and order a one-of-a-kind individual cake. It’s a custom, one-serving cake. Cakes are customized right in front of the customers.
After working out of her home for some time, Browne decided that she needed some help with the expansion of her business, thus leading her to reach out to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida.
“Initially, I have never had a brick-and-mortar location, I have always worked from home. I just thought it would be better to have a professional help me who knows what they’re talking about, who knows what they’re doing, and also the SBDC is a great help and they’re free. It was kind of a no brainier with the help that I needed,” she said.
After reaching out to the Florida SBDC at USF, Browne was matched up with business consultant Scott Carpenter. “Scott helped me tremendously with everything from beginning to end. He helped me create a business plan, he helped me figure how to explain what this business was going to be because I had a hard time explaining it. It’s easier to show you than to tell you about the business,” Browne said. “He helped me come up with the “Subway for Cakes” slogan. He also helped me to make a list on what I needed, he helped me negotiate my pricing for the unit that I’m in right now and helped me pick a great unit that I love and I was able to move in and get started.”
StackD Cakes Studio opens to the public the first week of April, on Highway 301 North in Ellenton.
While the COVID-19 pandemic did create some additional barriers to opening a new brick-and-mortar location by having to find alternative funding and pushing back her opening date, Browne has continued to grow her business from home. “I am growing more as a small business,” she said. “I have more people inquiring about my brick-and-mortar and coming in and wanting to learn more about this “Subway for Cakes” – as Scott calls it.”
As Browne’s business continues to grow, she still plans on using the Florida SBDC at USF as a valuable resource. “Moving forward, I have spoken to Scott about other outlets that you guys offer with the social media help and the website help,” she said. “I did build my own website but moving forward social media help would be great for me.”