If you love Carrot Cake, and you didn’t have a chance to get your fix on Saturday, February 3, 2018. National Carrot Cake Day, you’re in luck. Recently, I had a chance to interview Terryl Atkinson, the owner of The Carrot Cake Lady. Terryl specializes in making Carrot Cakes. Years ago grating the carrots was not her thing, especially with a hand-held grater. Luckily her mom took on that task, saying “I’ll grate if you bake.” The cakes were so delicious!
Fast forward to 2008, when Terryl lost her job and thought, “what will I do now?” She knew she loved to make carrot cake, and knowing that “God put’s a gift in each of us”, could carrot cake be in her future?
Terryl thought about turning her love for carrot cakes into a business. So what do you do when you have a passion for carrot cake? Terryl, called Mama Dip, the Soul Food icon in Chapel Hill to see if she might carry her cakes in her restaurant. Mama Dip (Mildred Cotton Council) owner of Mama Dips Restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC recommended Terryl get exposure first by selling her carrot cakes at the farmers market. That proved to be the best recommendation she could have received.
Starting a Carrot Cake Business
Terryl didn’t really think selling at the farmers’ market was the best idea for her cakes, but she went to the market and started to walk away three times. The third time a voice told her to go back. She spoke to one of the vendors at the market and asked about how she might sell her cakes. The vendor shared information about contacting the NC Department of Agriculture and as they say in Hollywood, the rest is history. Her home was inspected and today she is a seasoned farmers’ market vendor, who’s been in business selling carrot cakes for 10 years.
When asked how she got the name The Carrot Cake Lady, Terryl said when customers came to the market looking for her carrot cakes, they would say, “where’s the carrot cake lady?” The Carrot Cake Lady was officially in business.
According to Terryl, the farmers market is a location she wants to keep no matter how big her business grows. It’s her humble beginning and people from all over the world come to the market and purchase her cakes. She has one customer from Tokyo, Japan who stops by to purchase every time she visits the United States.
The Future of the Carrot Cake Lady
Terryl is quickly outgrowing her home kitchen which supplies two Butcher’s Market locations and the Raleigh Farmers’ Market. She takes call-in orders and hopes to soon start shipping her cakes.
According to Terryl, there have been few if any challenges in 10 years aside from finding it difficult to hire help. It’s not what you think. Terryl finds it next to impossible to relinquish production responsibility. She knows if her business is to grow, she’ll need to trust employees to do the work she may not have time to do. Delegation is her biggest hurdle.
Terryl reflects however, she’s come a long way from cutting cardboard boxes to make cake circles, lined with aluminum foil. Today her cakes are almost too lovely to eat. I did not almost. Terryl’s presentation is impressive and her cakes are delicious.
When asked what characteristics are beneficial to new food entrepreneurs, she said having the right attitude, being a people person, being friendly, a go-getter, and never giving up on what you want to do.
After 10 years in business, it’s clear to see Terryl is passionate about her product and her business. Enjoying the freedom of working for herself, talking to people from all over the world; she never thought she could make a living selling carrot cakes.
If you are visiting the Raleigh Farmers’ Market located at 1201 Agriculture Street, Raleigh, NC 27601 on Saturday, drop by and pick up The Cake Lady’s Carrot Cake. There’s a variety of sizes and something for everyone. Terrly will be at the market Saturday, February 17th pick up a carrot cake!