Tinka’s Treats specializes in sweet potato pie

By Katie Aldridge

Nothing beats a good, homemade, sweet potato pie, asserts Charmaine Webster, founder of Tinka’s Treats, a new home bakery business that specializes specifically in that special pie.

Charmaine comes from a family of bakers and hopes to eventually bring her family’s treats to the table as well. She is also building a nonprofit to support Black women in the community. She is a recent graduate of Early Risers Academy, a 10-week business-building bootcamp powered by Launch Dayton partner Parallax Advanced Research. We recently caught up with Charmaine to learn more about her business and her Academy experience.

Launch Dayton: So how did your company start?

Charmaine: I’ve been baking sweet potato pies for eight or nine years, just for family and close friends. This past holiday, I ended up baking over 100 pies in my little apartment kitchen for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I thought, “I’m really onto something here.” I decided to go for it, so in March, I got my home-baker’s license, and I now operate a home bakery.

Why this industry and why this idea?

I started baking these pies as a way to honor my aunt who passed away when I was 15 years old. I just wanted to honor her life and remember the good times with her. That’s what really got my started. I quit my job in October for a number of reasons, and then this came up. I think it is a beautiful way to build on my family’s legacy. I also chose this because I get to honor the legacy of working-class Black women.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

Yes and no. Yes, as I always wanted to have my own nonprofit, but I never really thought of having a for-profit business. On the other hand, when I was a little girl, I used to pray to God and say, “I want to grow up and be rich, so I can help poor kids like me.” So, maybe I always did want to be an entrepreneur!

What identities do you bring to entrepreneurship that helped prepare you for this lifestyle?

I’m a wife, and my husband has been supportive. One part is having my husband’s support to give me this space to figure entrepreneurship out. Another part is that I worked at a startup-style nonprofit for seven years, so I know how to build things from the ground up. I used to be an outreach director, so I know how to get my name out there, talk to people and get an events calendar together. I know how to meet people, talk to people and make partnerships.

Why do you love what do you?

I love this because it is transforming me. I love that it is touching people. I never would have thought about a pie business touching people, but it is. It matters to people that I’m baking these pies. It matters to people that they can put something nice in front of their families on the days where they all gather together. I realized that this is blessing people, and I’m being blessed by it, so I’m going to keep going with it. If this doesn’t work, I can still bake pies, I can still make people happy, I can still honor my aunt and I can still bless people.

What advice do you have for fellow or aspiring entrepreneurs?

Use the resources around you. In the Dayton area, there are many resources that you can use, such as Launch Dayton and the Early Risers Academy. Use up all the free resources to help get you started, and that will help you clarify what you actually need to pay for and figure out.

How was your experience with Early Risers Academy?

Very positive. It was educational, and I made a lot of connections and met a lot of great people. I felt that there were certain things that I understood much later after we discussed it and not as we were discussing it.

How can the Launch Dayton community support you?

Buy a pie! I’ve reached the point where this business is beyond my kitchen. I would love some training on how to use commercial equipment. If anyone could help me learn how to ship my pies, I would greatly appreciate that. If anyone wants to donate, please do! Follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

Learn more about Tinka’Charmain Webster, founder, Tinka’ here, watch Charmaine’s Early Risers Academy pitch here, and learn about her nonprofit here.