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Our Southern Souls: I want to help Mississippi eat better



healthy eating mississippi

The following was republished with permission from Read the original article here.

“I grew up in a small town on the east coast of North Carolina and was raised by my grandparents. They died when I was 13, and I was tossed around between my biological parents. Ages thirteen to seventeen were miserable years. I was different and the new kid who was called names and picked on through high school. Going back and forth between parents made adjusting even harder.

Those years weren’t fun, but they made me stronger and more independent. I learned that if you want something, you must work your butt off and go after it.

In Georgia, some of my friends were Latino and spoke Spanish, so I checked out books at the library to learn the language. I majored in Spanish at Mississippi State and put myself through seven years of college with bartending and financial aid.

In college, I realized something wasn’t right. I couldn’t eat anything without falling asleep. I was tired, lethargic, and gaining weight. I turned 21 and figured out people go to doctors in situations like this. My blood sugar was sky-high, and the doctor said my body couldn’t process the carbs and sugar I was taking in. The fatigue and tingling feet after I ate were signs of diabetes. I wasn’t ready for the change in diet during college, so I kept eating what I wanted. But I hit 25 and 360 pounds – I had to make some changes. I went on the Keto diet and lost 124 pounds cutting out the carbs and sugar.

I finally accepted this is my new way of life, but buying healthier foods in Mississippi is hard. Bakeries use wheat, flour, and tons of sugar. I found monk fruit, a sugar alternative. It tastes like sugar and has zero glycemic impact, but it’s expensive. I was laid off from my bartending job during the COVID shutdown and started baking with monk fruit for something to do and to see what I could create.

Nobody in my family is a cook or a baker, so I taught myself. The first thing I made was a Keto pound cake – the edges were burned, and it looked bad. I got the hang of it and thought I could start a business making pound cakes out of my house. Mississippi laws for cottage food changed during COVID, and vendors could advertise on social media. A lot of quarantine bakers started during the pandemic.

I started The Power of the Almond Bakery in 2020. The name means everything is made from almond flour. I lived in Tupelo and put wrapped Keto cookies with a note and my business card in mailboxes around town. It worked. People started ordering the pound cakes from the guy putting cookies in mailboxes.

In April 2021, I started baking full-time. The hardest part of this bakery is finding a storefront with a kitchen. Mississippi State offered an incubator space in the technology park with low rent and kitchen equipment. It was a good next step.

I call myself a sugar-free, gluten-free, Keto baker. There aren’t many bakeries like this in Mississippi that cater to people with dietary restrictions. It warms my heart that others like me can find food that tastes without going into a diabetic coma. The gluten-free folks are the most excited because they have choices and can eat everything we serve. We are filling a gap in mass grocery stores and impacting the food ecosystem.

I am constantly developing recipes and working on a grab-and-go section with different salads and soups. I also hired a business coach to help start a consumer package brand and get into grocery stores. Power of the Almond cakes are in about 30 stores across the state.

Our product is good, but our location – off campus and outside Starkville – is our biggest obstacle. People can’t find us, and we almost went out of business in January. My post asking folks not to forget about our little bakery in the middle of nowhere went viral. We had 1200 orders that day and shipped to Alaska, Hawaii, and every state in the U.S. The store line was out the door. That bump in sales saved our bakery, but we must move to a better location with walk-up traffic to have a future.

I’ve already designed my dream bakery – it’s the background photo on all my devices reminding me of my goal. It’s a little modern but cozy. The walls will be brick and there will be some couches for seating.

Finding a storefront in Starkville with a kitchen isn’t easy. I found the perfect spot, but it requires a kitchen installation that will cost $20,000 more than I have. As a young entrepreneur, every bank has denied me a loan, so I started a GoFundMe asking for help from our customers. I am buying used equipment off Facebook Marketplace and doing all I can to save money on the new kitchen. Being an entrepreneur is figuring out solutions.

When I started Power of the Almond, I bought a sign: ‘winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit.’ My whole life has taught me not to quit. Running this bakery and helping Mississippi eat better is my purpose. I won’t let it fail.”


(Here is the link to the GoFundMe for Power of the Almond.

Here is the link to the bakery’s website.

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