Who says that baking and purchasing fruit cakes is strictly a seasonal tradition? Though the sweet treats are more prominent during Christmas and New Year festivities, there is no restriction on the time of year to make or purchase them. You can make, buy and sell fruit cakes at any time of the year. You just need to market it well.
That’s the view of Kimone Leon, founder and CEO of Karly’s Dawta, whose business creates pre-prepared mixed ingredients for an easy baking process. Her business provides a dry ingredient mixture, packaged spices and a soaked fruits mixture for anyone who wants to make fruit cakes or other treats with a similar ingredient base.
“Fruit cakes are not limited to one time of year. I think it has to do with marketing and adjusting traditions. If you like fruit cakes then make them, buy them and consume them whenever, Leon said in an interview with Our Today.
“From my experience, fruit cake is sold right throughout the year, and especially for wedding season. It’s perfect for anytime you need it. If you market it in different forms and change the narrative of it being a Christmas-time experience, more people will catch on,” she said.
Karly’s Dawta is a small business, based in Orlando, Florida. They are a little under a year into operation and create delicious and easy baking recipes infused with authentic Jamaican flavours. They pride themselves in sourcing authentic and fresh Jamaican ingredients to create cakes, puddings, sauces and sweet spices, all while trying to cater to the health conscious, vegans, and the gluten-free people in their clientele.
“My products can also be used to make cake pops, cheese cakes, icecream, and an array of other desserts,” Leon added.
“My products include real Jamaican spices and I have the soaked fruits. So, let’s say you want to bake from scratch, you can just purchase the soaked fruits and you add it to your recipe. The soaked, dried fruits are blended already, further adding to the ease. It has the vanilla, the browning, so all you’re doing is adding it to your flour, egg and the other ingredients,” Leon explained.
Derived from her mother’s name, Karly’s Dawta is based on Leon’s late mother, Karlene. “I shortened her first name and used ‘Karly’s’ and ‘Dawta’. So, it’s ‘Karlene’s daughter’ but in the Jamaican version. I wanted to honour her and this was the best way for me to do it,” Leon said.
She recalled having fun memories of cooking with her mother and baking a fruit cake for the first time.
“My mother had three of us and, of the children, I was the only one in the kitchen cooking every Sunday with mom. I did not mind. Cooking and baking with her was always a treat,” Leon said.
Leon shared that her mother supported and nurtured her childhood love for cooking and baking and would buy ingredients for her to try new recipes at home.
Another one of Karly’s ‘dawtas’ and one of Leon’s younger sisters, Mitchka, is also praised as being great emotional support for Leon.
“She is always there to encourage me. Mitchka has some good business ethics, she’s determined and that motivates me. She also helps me with the marketing of my business,” Leon said.
Though not one of the ‘dawtas’, Leon also credits her husband who also supports.
“Once I brought the idea of ‘Karly’s Dawta’ to him, he said that ‘nothing beats a failure than a try’.”
Additionally, Leon said her son gives her a boost every time he asks, ‘when are we going to get rich, mom?’.
Leon’s mother was a teacher in Jamaica and it is no surprise that she followed in Karlene’s footsteps to become an educator.
VISUAL AND CULINARY ARTS
Though she is not a chef, Leon enjoys baking. She shared that she studied home economics and visual arts in high school. However, she chose art to further her education.
In her day job, Leon operates as an art teacher where she currently teaches students in kindergarten up to grade five. She enjoys her profession and inspires children to explore the world of art.
“Sometimes I will enter my students in art competitions. I also recall that last year I hosted a little paint and sip for the art club students at my school and it felt so rewarding,” she said.
“Sometimes I regret not pursuing food. Though I love art, the culinary space is still interesting to me, hence part of the reason for Karly’s Dawta,” she added.
“I’ve always had an interest in food and coming to the US from Jamaica made me want to bring my culture here. So, I thought about coming up with the Jamaican fruit cake mix. I wanted authenticity and so I only use real Jamaican ingredients from the spices to the alcohol content in my products.”
DESIGN, DECOR, AND CAKES
Leon told Our Today: “Entrepreneurship was always on the table but I did not know exactly what I wanted to venture into. First I designed wedding invitations and then I ventured into wedding decor. However, later down the line, I said to myself, ‘let’s do food instead’.”
Leon said she is currently working on brand awareness and getting the name of Karly’s Dawta in the public domain for people to know about the company.
“I think people will support you more when they trust you,” she said.
As for the future, Leon’s vision is to see Karly’s Dawta products in supermarkets.
“I’m hoping that the products will go in store. From there, I am hoping to expand into baking actual cakes instead of creating the cake mixes.” she said.
“Just as how you can go in the supermarket and pick up a frozen cheesecake, maybe one day you’ll see a Karly’s Dawta fruit cake and be able to buy it from the store,” she said.
In maximising e-commerce, she highlights that the company only sells products via the website. She expects to commence shipping across country borders soon.
“Hopefully in the future, when we reach the supermarkets, we can branch out. I have a potential partner who wants to bring the product to China. We’re just in the conversation stages but that is an exciting future prospect,” she said.
Leon has plans to give back to Jamaica, especially to the schools that hold a special place in her heart.
“My mother was a person who continuously gave back to her community. She didn’t have to know you. Once she could, she would help. I recall my mom paying for kids to do their CXC courses. That’s how awesome she was. I’m considering giving back to my home country, Jamaica. I would pay it forward to students at the Ewarton High School that my mother taught at. I would also give back to the Guy’s Hill High School that I taught at,” Leon said.
– Contact Karly’s Dawta on Instagram at @karlysdawta.
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