Inspiring Black Business Owners: Maya-Camille Broussard, Founder of Justice of the Pies
How to Bake in Success: Kickstart Your Company & Give Others a Second Chance
After her father’s death from a brain tumor, Maya-Camille Broussard wanted to do something to honor his legacy as a Chicago criminal defense attorney who believed everyone deserved a second chance.
Broussard’s father, Stephen, had grown up in Chicago’s now defunct housing projects on the city’s west side. Many of his clients came from a similar background and struggled to navigate the legal system.
When he wasn’t in the courtroom, Broussard’s father loved baking (and eating) anything with a crust. In face, he fondly referred to himself as the pie master.
Broussard’s cousin suggested creating a foundation that involved baking pies. But, at the time, Maya-Camille Broussard was just days away from the 2009 grand opening of her first business, Three Peas Art Lounge. Three Peas Art Lounges was an art gallery with a bar in Chicago’s trendy South Loop.
She shelved the idea for few years but continued to grow her small business brand as an arts consultant and designer through her The MCB Project.
About a year after massive flooding forced Three Peas Art Lounge to close in 2011, Maya-Camille Broussard began pondering her next move. Broussard began to dream about how to honor her father by combining baking with a social justice.
Raising Capital Through Crowdfunding
As a seasoned business owner, Broussard knew she was going to need funding. She’d already invested her savings into her previous entrepreneurial venture.
She decided to raise capital through crowdfunding.
“It was a great way for me to start fresh into my new venture,” says Maya-Camille Broussard, who has a bachelor’s of fine arts from Howard University and a masters of arts from Northwestern University. “I learned majority of my lessons with my previous business. I came into Justice of the Pies seasoned as a business owner and ready to go.”
With her crowdfunding campaign, she launched Justice of the Pies, a Chicago-based bakery that serves sweet and savory pies and quiches and have been sold at farmer’s markets, local grocery stores and coffee shops.
To embody her father’s mantra that everyone deserves a second chance, she decided to hire people, “Who have faced significant difficulties and barriers in gaining employment” including workers who have a criminal background, lost their jobs and were living in a homeless shelter or who needed job training.
She currently has two employees, and partners with Chicago Catholic Charities and its summer youth program to provide employment and mentorship for at-risk children who reside in low-income housing. She’s also partnered with Cabrini Green Legal Aid, with a pie drive to help raise funds for the organization that provides no-cost legal assistance to low-income Chicagoans.
With the funds she raised, she wanted to pay for a shared kitchen license, to purchase liability insurance and train staff so they could receive sanitation certifications.
An Extended Community of Support
To entice funders, Maya-Camille Broussard got creative with her rewards. She used memorable taglines such as “Lovers ought to stick to pies” for heart-shaped stickers with her logo for pledges of $45 or more. For pledges of $500 or more, she sent invitations to the “Black pie affair” grand opening.
Within days, 67 backers had pledged $7,811, including a $2,000 pledge from a woman she didn’t know.
“I was shocked,” Maya-Camille Broussard says. “I would drive for about an hour and a half to hand deliver her rewards for being a backer. After the second or third time, she told me ‘You know, you don’t have to keep coming out here. Just keep me updated with what you’re doing with your business. I just want to support you.'”
Stunned, Maya-Camille Broussard was amazed at this random act of kindness that helped her quickly scale her business.
“She truly gave from her heart and expected nothing in return,” says Maya-Camille Broussard. In return, Broussard offered handwritten thank you notes, postcards, t-shirts, miniature pies and quiches, pie making classes and even a namesake “pie of the month” depending on the level of donations. “She didn’t even expect the rewards that were rightfully due to her as part of her pledge.”
Finding Distribution Partners
“I learned majority of my lessons with my previous business. I came into Justice of the Pies seasoned as a business owner and ready to go,” Maya-Camille Broussard says. “The best way to learn is to be in the moment.”
With unique names like Sweet Basil Key Lime Pie, Chili Roasted Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Quiche, Heirloom Tomato Tart and Blue Cheese Praline Pear Pie, Broussard began branding her pies and quiches trying to connect with grocery stores, coffee shops and other vendors who might be interested in her baked goods.
At the same time, she started selling her baked goods at various street fairs. That’s when local coffee shops began asking if they could carry her baked goods. The shops all had one stipulation, however. They wanted something exclusive for their stores. She now sells at Chicago’s downtown Daley Plaza Farmers Market. In addition she sells at Build Coffee in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.
“Partnerships come in many different forms. They can come about in various ways,” says Broussard. Broussard exemplifies this in the variety of ways she sells her pies. For example, she sells her baked goods through catering orders, pre-orders and pick-ups instead of a traditional bakery storefront.
To embody her father’s mantra that everyone deserves a second chance, she decided to hire people, “Who have faced significant difficulties and barriers in gaining employment”.
This includes workers who have a criminal background. It also includes those who lost their jobs and were living in a homeless shelter or who needed job training.
She currently has two employees. She partners with Chicago Catholic Charities and its summer youth program to provide employment and mentorship for at-risk children who reside in low-income housing. She’s also partnered with Cabrini Green Legal Aid, with a pie drive to help raise funds for the organization that provides no-cost legal assistance to low-income Chicagoans.
Her advice to other business owners, “The best way to learn is to be in the moment, Broussard says. “And don’t tell others what you’ve got planned until it’s solid. Keep your good news close to the vest until everything is nearly done.”
Let Maya-Camille inspire you in her TED talk on making everyday about your passion.
Editor’s Note: Maya-Camille’s story is one of a six-part series celebrating black small business owners throughout the month of February. Check out the other inspiring stories in the series: Turning Shakespeare into Rap into Revenue, From Mechanical Engineering to Marketing Consultancy – Building Businesses Through Analytics, Pioneering Metrics of Diversity and Inclusion and Overcoming a Hurricane of a Problem.