Alicia Wingate considers herself an artist, but her canvas is a cake. She opened her own business, Alicia’s Homemade Cakes, nine years ago, creating custom desserts for all different occasions. But she said working as a small business owner comes with its challenges, one of which is building trust.
“As a business owner, there are things that you say you’re going to do or you say you won’t do, and just because you are a female, or a Black person or even just a small business, people think that they can kind of push the limits,” Wingate said.
August is National Black Business Month. Founded in 2004, the month seeks to both highlight and celebrate Black-owned businesses. Wingate said in the past, clients would push her boundaries. She said she used to struggle to say no because she wanted her business to grow.
“It was such a headache, and I was really burnt out because I was letting people take advantage of me to get my name out there,” Wingate said.
But she said she didn’t like the image this set for her business. Wingate said by allowing people to overstep, she was known in the community as someone who could be taken advantage of. Eventually, she said she realized she can’t please everyone.
“So I really had to put my big girl pants on and get in there and set my boundaries and stick with them,” Wingate said. “And since then, I’ve lost clients, but I’ve gained some wonderful wonderful clients who understand and they don’t try to test your policies, and it’s amazing.”
Wingate said because she interacts with the community every day, she has matured and come out of her shell. She said being a successful business owner has helped her to feel more confident.
“I am a big helper, and I have always been a big helper. So the fact that I get to do what I love and actually help people, which is something I also love, it really gives me a sense of purpose in my life as a Black woman and as a mother,” Wingate said.
Wingate occasionally hosts events where she invites other small businesses to attend and advertise their products. She will do back-to-school drives, give resources to shelters in the winter and partner with the Burlington Sock Puppets. These connections and functions help Wingate gain customers, but she said some people will support her business simply because it is Black owned.
Even though she has struggles, Wingate said it’s about sharing her talents with the community.
September is both Wingate's and her mother’s birthday month. Since she said her mother taught her everything she knows about baking, Wingate will celebrate by offering several specials throughout the month.