By McKenzie Henningsen, Photos courtesy of Pink Sugar Treats & Eats
From minimalist wedding cakes to cookies featuring her clients’ faces, Shelesa “Sugar” Tennon’s preferred art form only requires two things: creativity and lots of sugar.
With a business as unique as she is, Tennon’s Pink Sugar Treats & Eats isn’t your typical bakery. The local Black female-owned bakery seeks to make a positive impact through its commitment to sustainability and providing opportunities for local food entrepreneurs. The business’ storefront, opening this year, will make all of this possible for Tennon, who began baking to bring joy to herself and those around her.
“I’ve always been artistic and creative, and baking just allows me to be creative,” Tennon says. “I call it healing my inner child because I get to play with my food, [which]I was never allowed to do. Now I get to do that in a way that makes other people happy and adds to their celebrations. I enjoy it the most just for healing my inner child and letting her play and be creative, but also for making other people happy.”
A Spoonful of Sugar (to Start)
Tennon began her baking journey in 2015, when she decided to bake a cake for her mother after watching an episode of Cake Boss. But after failing to let the cake cool and secure it to the plate, it slid onto the ground.
“I sucked,” Tennon says. “[My mother], as graceful as she is, picked it up, still ate it and said it was the best cake she ever had. I spent the next year teaching myself everything there was to know about cake and cookie decorating so that I could make her cake better and right the next year. Almost everything I know came from YouTube and just watching copious amounts of videos over and over again. It was a great resource and a great tool, but [it took]a lot of trial and error because you can watch somebody else do something all day long, but until you do it yourself, you don’t really know.”
After months of watching tutorials and taking requests for family and friends’ parties, Tennon’s baking skills improved. However, one sugary experiment she conducted on her own led to the creation of The Face Cookie, a cookie with an edible photograph of an individual’s face on top.
“It really just started with me sending my face to my friends because I missed them,” Tennon says. “Then it just kind of blew up to where I made it its own brand. It’s funny, and it’s also a little weird to put somebody’s face on a cookie and then eat it. Not so weird that you are repulsed by it. But it’s just weird enough that you’ll buy it and keep buying it because of the reception. It’s just enough. You get to laugh, you get to smile and you get something sweet. I think that’s why people love it.”
When transitioning her hobby into a business, Tennon decided to focus on the social and environmental impact of Pink Sugar. Tennon has plans to launch a program called More than Cake, which will teach young food entrepreneurs how to start their own businesses under the Texas Cottage Food Law. Tennon’s other main focus for her company is sustainability, specifically through strictly baking in small batches.
“Sustainability and being planet aware are things that are important to me personally. It just makes sense that I carry that through to my business, especially since a lot of food waste comes from retail food businesses, like bakeries,” Tennon says. “I’m committing to being safe. Small-batch [baking]is going to be a challenge, but it will be for the greater good. I really hope that Pink Sugar becomes a catalyst for making other food entrepreneurs and other food businesses rethink mass producing food and letting it perish in a case or a trash can.”