Commentary: Local baker overcomes adversity to grow business

Algenon Cash

Commentary: Local baker overcomes adversity to grow business
July 11
14:40 2019

By Algenon Cash

Deciding to launch a new business requires courage, never ending passion, and unparalleled talent. Entrepreneurs must have vision, knowledge, and resources to establish a pathway to success. Socially conscious entrepreneurs often leverage their internal abilities to improve the surrounding community – investing in blighted areas, creating new jobs, and mentoring the next generation.

Retired business owner and former head of the Liberty Street Community Development Corporation, Jim Shaw established Brake World as a go-to destination for mechanic services during the heyday of bustling small businesses on Liberty Street. Over time Shaw grew the business and the garage was often a gathering place for men in the adjacent neighborhoods to assemble and discuss what’s happening in the community.

I grew up on Liberty Street in a shotgun house located behind the Minute Market across from Salem Seafood. I vividly recall buying the latest music from the Record Boutique, picking up food at Ma Chris or Zesto, and Saturdays were often dominated at the Imperial Barber Shop before grocery shopping at Paragon Foods.

The Liberty Street corridor today is just a remnant of what is once was in the past. Undoubtedly the economically depressed area requires significant investment to jumpstart revitalization. However, such a critical sub-market rarely attracts entrepreneurial interest; starting a business is a monumental challenge, so most business owner choose to locate in more fertile areas.

Ta’Nisha Monique, a former Blue Cross Blue Shield customer service agent and mother of two, started baking in 2012 to share more quality time with her mom after her grandmother passed. The hobby quickly manifested into a new excitement and Ta’Nisha found herself baking and “hustling” savory products in her free time.

Ta’Nisha made the uncomfortable choice to liquidate her 401(k) in 2018 to acquire and rehab the building that once housed Brake World – 1318 North Liberty Street. A compromise that not only placed her future at risk, but she also gambled with the ability to care long term for her son and daughter.

Converting the old garage into a retail bakery approved by the North Carolina Agricultural Department proved to be a daunting challenge. But in September 2018 Ta’Nisha Monique Cupcakes became reality when she celebrated a grand opening attended by family, friends, and at-large supporters.

Ta’Nisha grew up in East Winston-Salem and strongly felt led to make a difference in the community that raised her. Naturally, she face naysayers and many advisers who cautioned her not to located a business in a stagnant location. Nevertheless Ta’Nisha pressed on under the determination that her bakery could ignite positive change in a corridor long forgotten by most.

Ta’Nisha Monique Cupcakes is not just another baker, it’s more of a ministry. Ta’Nisha uses the business to engage the men and women congregating in the neighborhood, she provides small jobs to those down on their luck, she mentors young women about running a business, and of course, she hands out the occasional complimentary treats to those who may be homeless and hungry.

Ta’Nisha does not possess a deep background in business; in fact, she is not a professionally-trained baker, but overcomes whatever she lacks in technical resources through and unmatched network of relationships. Ta’Nisha is resourceful, humble, always open to assistance, and those qualities have led her to success. Not surprising, The Chronicle recognized the bakery in June as the Business of the Month.

In the early morning hours of July 8, the baker experienced a break-in; a suspect cut a hole into the kitchen wall to enter illegally. The suspect wrecked the production area while they hunted for valuables and left traces of blood that damaged supplies. In the end, only a mobile phone was stolen, no money was taken, but enough damage occurred that contractors were called for repairs to the kitchen.

Ta’Nisha was notified the morning of the break in around 3:00 a.m. when an unknown man contacted her to explain he just purchased her mobile phone from the suspect.

The man offered to meet and return the phone – most people would have declined for safety reason – but not Ta’Nisha. She sprang into action, determined to protect her business. After giving the man $40 to recover her phone, she went by the bakery to investigate what happened, which is how she discovered the robbery scene.

Ta’Nisha notified the police, but crimes of this nature rarely get solved and fall off the radar quickly. Undoubtedly the feeling of being violated along with necessary repair costs will linger far longer.

Many people would give up, but that’s also the reason many people don’t own a business – it’s highly difficult and challenging almost daily. Of course Ta’Nisha didn’t quit; instead, she posted online about the incident to generate a conversation about why she was motivated to open a business on Liberty Street, not to mention inform her large following the baker would reopen in two days.

People responded in droves, causing news about the break-in to go viral with many local groups rallying to support the newbie baker. The store robbery is now trending under #BuyOutTheBakery.

I encourage you to visit and support Ta’Nisha Monique Cupcakes, not because she is a victim or needs your sympathy, but moreover Ta’Nisha is an inspiring business owner demonstrating compassion for the community. You’ll find her in a small kitchen attached to the retail are or possible working the register, but I can assure she will be smiling, no matter what she is doing.

Tell her I told you to stop by!

Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm. Reach him at

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