A Black-owned business built from a homemade recipe now has all of its products available to the public after expanding its distribution agreement with major grocery store chain. New dessert items from ComfortCake LLC, a Chicagobased dessert company, is n
A Black-owned business built from a homemade recipe now has all of its products available to the public after expanding its distribution agreement with a major grocery store chain.
New dessert items from ComfortCake LLC, a Chicagobased dessert company, is now available at 65 Chicago area Jewel Food Stores, just in time for the holidays, said Amy Hilliard, founder and president of ComfortCake. Those new items include the Whole Ring and Luscious Lemon cakes located in the frozen dessert isle at Jewels.
“Since 2003, ComfortCake products has been available at Jewels,” she said. “But now we have our most recent products being carried by Jewels as well.”
ComfortCake products are also sold in Walgreens and will be available in Dominick’s by January 2009, Hilliard said. Prices range from $1 for a single slice to $29.95 for whole cake. She hopes to expand to other retail outlets like Wal-Mart and even smaller stores.
“I would love to have my products sold at Black-owned stores, but that opportunity has not presented itself,” she said.
One obstacle keeping ComfortCake from distributing at Black-owned stores is transportation. ComfortCake does not own any trucks and delivery companies do not typically deliver to just one location, but multiple ones. And one store is usually the norm for most Black-owned retail stores.
And each cake has its own unique name. For example, there is the Very Vanilla cake, Awesome Almond cake, Chocolate Chip fantasy and Luscious Lemon cake, which also comes in a sugarless flavor.
“Because both my parents are diabetics and so many other Blacks I decided to add a sugarless flavor brand,” Hilliard said. “Our cakes are so good we live by our company motto: pound cake so good, it feels like a hug.”
After 20 years working in corporate America in 2001, Hilliard got the idea to start ComfortCake from friends who would compliment her on her cakes.
“My friends would always tell me I need to open up a bakery because my cakes tasted so good,” Hilliard recalls. “So I sold my house and financed the upstart money myself.”
And despite having worked in corporate America, Hilliard said no one would loan her money to start the business so she financed it herself.
“I sold my house for $300,000 and used the proceeds to buy the equipment I needed like lots of cooking pans,” Hilliard said.
Comfortcake is a privately owned company so Hilliard declined to give sales figures but said sales continue to increase, and 2008 looks like it will be their best year thus far. Hilliard hopes to expand the product line in the future and to move the slices into the in-store bakery from the snack cake section.
With just a small staff of two fulltime employees, which includes her daughter, overhead is low for the entrepreneur. Her office manager is her daughter Angelica Jones, 22, who said working with your mother is not the world’s easiest thing to do.
“At the end of the day, she is my boss. We work well together but that does not mean we don’t have our moments where we may disagree,” said Jones, who came up with the company’s line, “Pound cake so good, it feels like a hug.”
Aside from ComfortCake, Hilliard, a Detroit native, also owns The Hilliard Group LLC, a Chicago marketing and consulting firm she founded in 1995.
She earned a bachelor of science degree from Howard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She began her professional career as a buyer for Bloomingdale’s department store but later went to work at Burrell Communications Group in Chicago as senior vice president of integrated marketing.
From 1998 to 2000, Hilliard was senior vice president of marketing for Soft Sheen Products, a division of L’Oreal USA.
In addition to a daughter who works as the office manager, Hilliard, divorced, also has a 19- year-old son, a freshman at Howard University. Her son is the chief taste tester for ComfortCake, so nothing gets sold in stores until he tastes it, Hilliard said.
Aside from Jewel and Walgreens, orders can be made online at www.ComfortCake.com or by calling 866-264-CAKE (2253).
Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.