Right next to the hustle and bustle of Route 49 in Burlington stands a gray brick house — separated from the road by a lawn — with a sign in the window that reads “life is sweet.” Inside, Alicia Wingate is living her childhood dream.
“My mother was a baker so she taught me all the skills I needed to know,” Wingate, the owner of Alicia’s Homemade Cakes, said. “Turning it into a bakery allowed me to do what I love every day.”
Alicia’s Homemade Cakes opened in 2013 in Fayetteville before relocating to Burlington. Wingate, with her staff of two, bakes everything from dinner mints to wedding cakes.
“I make everything with love,” Wingate said. “We’re not just taking orders, we’re not just putting cakes together. We’re creating, we’re designing, we’re bringing people’s visions to life through our art — through our cake art, is what we call it.”
In North Carolina, 23% of business owners are minorities and 35% are female, according to data from the census. As a Black female business owner, Wingate said she has faced some challenges.
“I had what I thought was a customer come in and say like, we needed to leave the area and all this stuff,” Wingate said. “ That we’re in the wrong side of town to be opening a bakery. And it’s just like ‘Oh that kind of hurt.’ But at the same time I know what I have to offer my community is a lot more than what one or two people are saying.”
As small businesses are taking a hit from the coronavirus pandemic, more Black-owned businesses are closing than white-owned, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Since the start of the pandemic, 41% of Black-owned businesses have closed compared to 17% of white-owned businesses, the study said.
Alicia’s Homemade Cakes has not had to fully shut down operations, according to Wingate. The bakery is closed to daily traffic, but is still running on online orders and deliveries — including free deliveries within Alamance County. Wingate is planning to reopen to in-person customers on March 9.
Wingate said she feels blessed to be among the businesses staying afloat, but stressed the need to support minority-owned businesses.
“There is a need to support them,” she said. “A lot of what they do they put back into the community, they put back into their families so we definitely try to support the minority businesses out here.”
Looking back to when Wingate learned how to bake from her mom, she encourages aspiring Black and female business owners to take the leap.
“You just gotta keep motivated, you gotta keep pushing your dream,” she said. “Because if you don’t love it, you can’t expect anyone else to love it.”