Meet Stephanie Hart; she is the only Black woman-owned chocolate manufacturer in the United States. She is behind the company Brown Sugar Bakery, which she launched in 2002. The bakery serves Chicago, IL, with tasty treats which include cakes, cobblers, pies, cupcakes, and chocolates.
With its roots deeply rooted in Chicago’s Grand Crossing neighborhood, the bakery has consistently been an influential community presence across the South Side of the city, according to this press release.
Today, the bakery has expanded its operations following the grand launch of a 10,000 square-foot manufacturing facility which saw the attendance of Chicago Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.
The 10,000-square-foot facility will enable large-scale production on Chicago’s South Side while creating jobs for the local community. What is more, the bakery’s nationwide shipping options will soon expand due to its new manufacturing space.
“One of the most important things I get to do as governor is help entrepreneurs start new businesses, and help small businesses become big ones. That’s the best way to create jobs and grow the economy,” said Governor Pritzker. “I couldn’t be prouder of the Brown Sugar Bakery team as they continue to uplift the community, making a difference in so many people’s lives while bringing smiles to the faces of people everywhere.”
The expansion of the bakery was made possible thanks to $500,000 in grant funding from the state’s Minority-Owned Business Capital and Infrastructure Program in 2020.
“Today marks an exciting milestone for Stephanie Hart and Black women everywhere, making her the only Black woman-owned chocolate manufacturer in the United States! This is Black HERStory in action,” said Lt. Governor Stratton. “I’m so excited for Brown Sugar Bakery’s success as they take this next step in their journey.”
In addition to the $500,000 grand funding, the State also awarded the bakery a grant from the Back to Business (B2B) Restaurants program designed to offset losses and support job retention in one of the industries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the release said.
“Additionally, Brown Sugar Bakery was featured in the Illinois Office of Tourism’s Illinois Made campaign to promote the bakery’s ‘dangerously delicious’ confections and encourage patronage from visitors near and far,” the release added.
“The State of Illinois’ commitment to supporting businesses owned by people of color and other underrepresented groups goes beyond grant funding programs – DCEO provides a number of resources, opportunities and support to help small businesses thrive in a diverse business ecosystem,” said Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity Director Kristin Richards.
“Bolstered by state funding and support, Brown Sugar Bakery and other locally-owned neighborhood favorites are expanding their roots in Illinois – the best place to live, work and do business.”