Sandy Smith's passion for baking helped turn her dream into reality.
Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Smith attended the University of North Florida to study psychology and social work.
However, Smith’s life took an unexpected route.
Smith became pregnant with her daughter in 2011. In her third year of college, she decided to come back to Gainesville. Among other personal reasons, she said this was a painful time in her life during which she often felt depressed.
Her family was her support system, she said, and her mother helped motivate her during this time. While Smith was living at home, she began baking in her family's kitchen to contribute.
"I was hurt, and SandySweets came out of, just, pain," she said. "That's how SandySweets began, just out of creating joy for other people and just finding peace when I was doing it."
Baking started as a temporary hobby, but over time it evolved into her full-fledged passion. She first began posting her cakes online, finding customers on Facebook, and using the income to support herself and her daughter.
As her cake orders increased, she decided it was time to open her own business officially. At 29 years of age, Smith owns her own company that has been opened since 2017.
When the pandemic began, like many local businesses, Smith started facing some hardships. Not only was the flour she uses sold out at supermarkets, but with the pandemic coinciding with the wedding season, Smith's cake orders took a dip.
To compensate, Smith began baking smaller cakes and putting together snack boxes of treats like brownies and donuts. She called them her quarantine cakes.
While the worldwide pandemic has affected people all across the globe, the United States has been confronted with a national social movement. Smith said that the Black Lives Matter movement and recent public protests have been necessary to raise awareness and end racism. She recounts an instance in her life that she will never forget.
When she moved out of her college dorm with the help of her mom and dad, their car got pulled over.
"In the blink of my eyes, my dad was tased and sent to jail for doing nothing," she said. "To see that, I was scared for my life because I was seeing my dad being attacked."
Smith and her family are not alone in how police forces are affecting Black lives.
"I am a Black woman,” she said.“I get in my car, and I hate when police get behind me, and I haven't done anything wrong, but the fear is still there.”
That fear is felt widely by the Black community, and there needs to be change, she said.
"I want laws that hold everybody accountable because you're human," she said. She hopes to see legislative action that will help Black people receive justice.
As a Black business owner in Gainesville, Smith said she had felt support from her peers and community.
"Regardless of race, I am good at what I do, and getting my name out there has been pretty awesome," she said.
Natasha Williams, the founder of Make-Up Motivation, 35, met Smith in 2016 at Makeup Moscato & More, an event in Orlando. Since then, they have continued to support each other's businesses and maintain a friendship.
"She is an amazing baker and person," said Williams. "The taste will blow you away, along with the designs. I've ordered many times from her. The experience is like no other."
Smith continues to bake cakes and grow her business. SandySweets has allowed her to escape survival mode and focus on being a mom, she said.
"My best advice is to don't quit,” she said. “You're going to have people who like your cake, and you're going to have people who don't like your cake. Focus on the people who do.”
This story is a part of an Avenue series called “The Voices of Gainesville” meant to spotlight black-owned businesses, black artists and black musicians in Gainesville.
Michelle Holder is a second-year journalism student at UF minoring in entrepreneurship and a Metro reporter at The Alligator. She is from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. In her free time she enjoys going to coffee shops and reading.