A true story of reinventing, dreaming (planning!) and support - Kia and Joan Palmer are the mother daughter team behind Palmer's Sweetery and Cafe. After building successful careers in advertising and education Kia and Joan made the brave decision for an about-face, a total 180, we're talking disruptive change here people. All in the name of chasing your passion. If you are on the fence about taking the plunge in any aspect of your life - read on to see how this power duo made it happen.
SRG: It’s amazing that both you and your mother didn’t start out in the food industry! Take us through your career paths toward where you are today.
Kia: I started out in Advertising after graduating college. An internship while at Boston College led me to that path. After about 4 years, while I was successful career-wise, I still wanted more. Baking has always been a part of my life, but coming from a family of professionals (Principals, Doctors, Lawyers), I never thought that being a Chef was truly an option. Thank God for age and growing confidence! It allowed me to feel comfortable leaving my former career and striking my own path.
Joan: I’d been in the NYC Education System for over 30 years. I retired as a Principal in 2009. I moved to Georgia for a slower pace and to enjoy my retirement. My Daughter sweet talked me into moving back up North and opening the business with her. Since birth, I’ve always supported her dreams, and this was no different. It’s been such a great experience working together with my child.
SRG: Owning your own company is your 2nd career! What kept you inspired and moving toward starting your own brand?
Kia: As a woman, after a certain age, you begin to think about the life you want. Family, what does being a Mom look like and mean to me? Am I going to be able to give my future children the life my Mom afforded me? Working as a Pastry Chef in upscale restaurants is grueling. It also calls for late nights very often. I knew I needed to begin to craft a life that would make it easier for me down the road to be the Mom I want to be. Watching female Chefs in the kitchen go through their pregnancy while still working was eye-opening. It made me question if we can really have it all? I realized that I could still do what I love, be my own boss and find a better work-life balance. It was just going to take time, faith, and belief that I could go out on my own and be successful.
SRG: What inspires your cooking creativity?
Joan: Being the eldest of 4, with a working a Mom and Dad, I was given the title of “Family Cook”. This wasn’t what I chose, but when it’s family, you do what you have to do. Over time, I learned to love food. Cooking different cuisines made it fun. Our family is originally from Jamaica, where food is an integral part of life. When you’re happy, you eat. When you’re sad, you eat. Every occasion calls for a good meal. It’s been fun to use family recipes in the store. My curry chicken hand pies are a hit! It makes me smile to see people (family, friends, customers) enjoying things I make.
SRG: Joan, do you find your career as a NYC school principal helps in running the business? Any school phrases come in handy?
Joan: Sure does! After running a school with over 1,300 children in Brooklyn, this is a piece of cake! My “Principal voice” goes a long way in the store. It helps me to whip our staff is shape! If you can run a school, you can run a business!
SRG: Finish this sentence... I last felt most inspired when _______.
Joan: I started to see my Daughter live her dream, and was able to be a part of it.
Kia: I was able to speak to a group of children about becoming a Chef. It’s a great feeling to see the excitement of the next generation for your industry. It makes you want to leave things just a little better than you found it for them.
SRG: As a mother daughter team how you try to support one another and how do you in turn support other women?
Kia: When you open a business, you need people who share your vision, can be trusted and will always be honest with you. What better person to venture out with than your Mother/Daughter. We support each other as much as possible, even with things as small as making sure each other has eaten. Sometimes you lose sight of the little things, and it’s great to partner with someone who has your back. If I can’t make an event, my Mom is there, and vice versa. We try to share the load as much as possible.
Supporting other women for us has come in different ways. 100% of our staff is currently women. We have created a safe and fair environment for our employees, where we encourage them, provide new skills and cheer them on as they grow. We are active in the community, giving back as much as we can. We also try to share as much knowledge as we can with other Women entrepreneurs. It’s as fulfilling for us to be able to give back, and help others grow.
SRG: Do you have a team motto?
“Good Vibes. Good Eats. Good Sweets.” This sums up who we are, and what we strive for.
SRG: You’re both women on the go. What are your top 5 must haves in your wardrobe?
1. Black Pants 2. Comfortable Sneakers 3. Great Earrings 4. A statement coat 5. A stylish top
SRG: What is your vision for Palmer’s Sweetery and Café? Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? Wildest, craziest dreams accepted!
We see ourselves growing into e-commerce. We’d love to see our products being sold all over the country in stores like (Neiman Marcus, Williams Sonoma, etc.). We’d love to be listed as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things! After turning 3, we feel more confident that these goals are attainable. We’ve had our bumps and bruises along the way, but really feel confident that the future is bright for us.
Kia and Joan own Palmer's Sweetery and Cafe @sweetsavorypalmers
Stylist Elana Nanscawen @supercolorfashionistic supercolorfashionistic.com
Photographer Danielle Guenther photography @danielleguentherphotos danielleguentherphotography.com