Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mary Jennifer Russell, Founder of Sugaree's Bakery, located in New Albany, MS, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I started Sugaree's Bakery 25 years ago as a wholesale bakery, added our retail location in 2001, started the mail order business in 2008, and the fundraising business more recently. Our wholesale customers are restaurants, specialty food markets, butcher shops, local grocery stores, and gift shops, primarily in the Southeastern states. Our retail customers are local folks and destination travelers, whom we love to give extra special attention to while visiting our charming downtown! Our mail order customers are individuals from all over the country, as well as corporate gifting accounts. Fundraising customers tend to be schools, churches, and other local non-profits.

Tell us about yourself

I started Sugaree's after getting fired from my first "real" job in pharmaceutical sales after college (due to having too many speeding tickets that I didn't disclose during the interview process.) That motivated me to take more control over my future! Now, I find that I love building the brand, building teams, and building culture as an inclusive, safe space for a diverse group of team members!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I was honored in 2017 by the US Small Business Association as the Mississippi Small Business Person of the Year, which was really cool because I was able to take my mom, who taught me to bake and works at the bakery, to the ceremony in D.C. and have a nice full circle moment with her!

Also, just being able to build this team makes me really proud. I love working with my employees, and I have so much respect for the way my managers work together and lead with their hearts.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Where do I start... lol. Wearing all the hats all the time can get exhausting sometimes, but it's all worth it to have the freedom and flexibility provided by the position.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Find a niche.
  2. Always be respectful to your employees.
  3. Don't grow too fast.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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