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Flint, MI—Jaszmane Sisco is celebrating a milestone for her baking business after taking the top spot at 100K Ideas’ “Pitch For $K” competition last week.
The 27-year-old entrepreneur and Flint native started planning for her business, Little Suga’s, a little over two years ago after reading “Write It Down, Make It Happen” by Henriette Clauser.
“So in that book, what stuck out to me was she told us to pay attention to where your mind goes when you’re uninterested,” said Sisco. “Look at the things that you’re doing without even knowing you’re doing them.”
Sisco said she originally wanted to be a physician’s assistant and holds a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration from UM-Flint. The entrepreneur was working as a local pharmacy liaison and helping her father, Therman Sisco, with his catering business when she picked up Clauser’s book.
“What I found myself doing when I was uninterested: I was looking at recipes,” she said. “I was on Pinterest, writing down recipes and changing the numbers.”
Sisco began experimenting with baking those altered recipes and fell in love with the process. She started culinary school at Mott Community College in late 2018 and hosted her first baking event in 2019 — a precursor to Little Suga’s baking classes — at the ELGA Credit Union Demo Kitchen at Flint Farmers’ Market.
Sisco said she was ready to get moving on more classes by early 2020, but COVID derailed her plans. Instead, she graduated with a degree in Baking and Pastry Arts in 2020 and licensed Little Suga’s the same year, focused on building capital and a following while starting to host COVID-safe classes again.
Sisco estimated she’s done around nine classes now, but she’s hoping for more capital so she can eventually have her own bakery and demo space.
“Unfortunately, what I’ve been running into at the market is wedding and open house season,” said Sisco. Such events mean the market’s demo kitchen cannot be booked for her baking classes at the same time.
So Sisco applied for the 100K Ideas pitch competition, which culminated in her pitch presentation Aug 5.
As the competition’s first place winner, Sisco received $5,000 dollars, but the organizers also assign each competitor a mentor—Sisco’s was Keysa Smith of Spectacular Spudz—and provide feedback and coaching throughout the lead up to the competition date.
“I mean, I didn’t go to school for business,” said Sisco, so the mentorship and feedback components of the competition were just as valuable as the cash prize to her. “I told Keysa that even though the competition is over, she’s stuck with me.”
And that’s the real goal, said Brandee Cooke-Brown, executive director of 100K Ideas, the organization that hosts the “Pitch For K” competition three times a year.
The competition started in 2019 to get capital into the hands of local, early-stage entrepreneurs, but Cooke-Brown said 100K Ideas soon added the mentorship component to the competition structure.
“We found that people who tend to be more successful moving forward have strong mentor relationships and connections within the industry they’re looking to grow in,” she said.
The “Pitch For $K” competition is funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The prizes total $8,500 between the top three entrepreneurs selected by the competition judges and a “People’s Choice” winner selected by the audience.
Aside from Sisco’s first place prize, last week’s “Pitch For $K” winners also included KB Party Rental CEO and co-owner, Jake Kendall, who took second place and the “People’s Choice” category, and local photographer Danen Williams, who is looking to re-open the long defunct Pirate’s Park in Flint Township.
All of the “Pitch For K” competition winners said they plan to invest their prize money directly back into their business, whether for current operations or marketing