Burlington baker discusses setting boundaries as a black business owner
Alicia Wingate considers herself an artist, but her canvas is cake. She opened her own business, Alicia’s Homemade Cakes, nine years ago, creating personalized desserts for all occasions. But she said working as a small business owner has its challengesone of which is building trust.
“As a business owner, there are things that you say you’re going to do or you won’t do, and just because you’re a woman, or a black person, or even just a small business, people think they can kind of push the envelope,” Wingate said.
August is National Black Affairs Month. Founded in 2004, the month seeks to both highlight and celebrate Black-owned businesses. Wingate said that in the past, customers would push his limits. 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 exhausted 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 the ensemble gave her company. Wingate said that by allowing people to pass, she was known in the community as someone who could be taken advantage of. Eventually, she said she realized she couldn’t please everyone.
“So I really had to put on my big girl pants and get in there and set my limits and stick to them,” Wingate said. “And since then I’ve lost clients, but I’ve gained wonderful, wonderful clients who understand and don’t try to test your policies, and that’s amazing.”
Wingate said that because she interacts with the community every day, she has matured and come out of her shell. She said owning a successful business has helped her feel more confident.
“I’m a big helper, and I always have been a big helper. So the fact that I can do what I love and actually help people, which I love too, it really gives me meaning to my life as a black woman and as a mother,” Wingate said.
Wingate occasionally hosts events where it invites other small businesses to attend and advertise their products. She will organize back-to-school campaigns, donate resources to shelters in the winter, and partner with the Burlington Sock Puppets. These connections and functions help Wingate win customers, but she said some people would support her business just because it’s black-owned.
Although she struggles, Wingate said it’s about sharing her talents with the community.
September is Wingate and her mother’s birthday month. Since she said her mom taught her everything she knows about baking, Wingate will be celebrating by offering several specials throughout the month.