Proof is in the pies for radio show host turned baking entrepreneur

Miranda Wilson - Photo Z'ma Wyatt.

By Kim Harris, shades Magazine

Miranda Wilson hates the word entrepreneur.

For her, the word implies an impermanent, impersonal sentiment that is not what her work is founded upon.

“I’ve always carried myself as a corporation of one,” said Wilson, owner of Goodness Gracious Sweet Potato Pies – a bake-to-order pie business in Oakland. “When you’re baking personally for people you know, there’s still love in the food.”

Pies were always a part of Wilson’s life growing up. Her grandmother passed down the recipe and allowed her to bake.

“Grandma was a little more lenient. That generation gives you a recipe there are no cups, no teaspoons,” Wilson said laughing. “And if you mess up, they talk about you real bad.”

For many, the memories of sitting in Grandma’s or Nana’s kitchen is one that is treasured dearly. Today, women using their cultural culinary upbringings to make a living are a growing trend in new entrepreneurs across the country. From baked goods to tamale shops to a diverse mix of diverse restaurants and caterers, these women are finding their way through tough economic times to support their families while celebrating tradition.

A popular jazz radio personality, Wilson’s baking talents were at one time limited to holidays and special occasions. But when she was presented the opportunity to begin baking her family-famous pies and build a community around them, she took it. Wilson worked for 103.7 KKSF in San Francisco for 17 years where she was a midday host. When the station changed its format to classic rock in 2009, she started work as host of the midday program for syndicated The Smooth Jazz network, where she had been getting additional airtime since 2006. She built a studio at her house and began working from home for the network Monday through Friday. But she soon felt that something was missing.

“I missed the passion of everyday talking to folks,” Wilson said. “That’s essentially who I am.”

So with time on her side and a bit of inspiration, Wilson began delivering the pies that had won her respect at home to friends and colleagues and spread the word via Facebook. She soon built a fan base and was delivering pies face-to-face to many gracious customers.

“As you go to each home, it’s not just ‘thank you for the pie,’” Wilson said. “It’s about community.”

Goodness Gracious Sweet Potato Pies is operated out of Kitchen by the Hour, a timeshare commercial kitchen in Hayward, California. CEO Erin Maffit said more and more people are taking their food talents to the next level due to the economy.

“A lot of people have lost their jobs and are looking for a way to make ends meet,” Maffit said, adding different bakers and cooks use the kitchens, including people crafting cookies, gelato, cereal and even baby food.

Wilson hard at work in at Kitchen by the Hour. Photo by Z'ma Wyatt.

Wilson said she has benefited from the camaraderie with other women of color in the food industry and is inspired by the work that goes into such a grueling pastime.

“I noticed that they don’t toot their own horns and I kind of see why,” Wilson said. “Because you’re so busy doing it that you don’t have time to.”

Wilson said she also shares a special joy with other women of color working in the industry.

“There’s a joy in the struggle,” Wilson said. “That’s what makes you who you are.”

Moving forward: From cooking in their kitchens to opening restaurants, minority women are finding strength in numbers as food continues to be one of those pastimes not affected by the economy. Stay tuned for a closer look how these culinary entrepreneurs are changing the business landscape at

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