Mahkayla Pickering, otherwise called Kayla, is a 22-year-old entrepreneur and owner of VI Sweet Treats. She describes herself as a confident yet humble and optimistic young person who is aided by her ambitious nature which makes her truly happy, She officially started her business some ten years ago and since then it has picked up steam and has grown larger. VI Life and Style Magazine caught up with Mahkayla to discuss the growth of her business and the future she envisions for herself as a young entrepreneur in the Virgin Islands.
VI L&S: When was VI Sweet Treat Started?
MP: VI Sweet Treats officially started in 2012. But long before we opened our doors, we opened our oven to bake cakes and cupcakes for family and friends. We opened our first location in 2016 and were forced to close when the location was damaged during Hurricane Irma in 2017. We reopened in December of 2018 in our present location, in the former Elite Supermarket Building parallel to the new One Mart location in Fat Hog’s Bay.
VI L&S: What school did you attend? What did you study before graduation?
MP: I am a proud alumna of the Francis Lettsome Primary School Class of 2013 and the Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS) Class of 2019. At ESHS I studied Home Economics, Technical Drawing, and Woodwork. After high school, I attended the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College where I studied Culinary Arts.
I am proud of my accomplishments because school was not an easy task for me. Yet I was able to open my business from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and then attend classes by 5:00 p.m. Today I am a certified pastry chef. Indeed, I am extremely proud.
VI L&S: What are your hobbies?
MP: I enjoy doing many things like playing basketball, cooking, reading and learning new and exciting things. As a basketball player, I have travelled as part of the national team to represent the Virgin Islands throughout the Caribbean, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom. I enjoy being a chef and exploring new dishes. I love to read and from reading, I learn so many new things. Family is also very important to me; I especially appreciate spending time with my mom. “Looking sharp” and dressing up always puts a smile on my face and recently I added farming to my long list of hobbies.
VI L&S: What was the inspiration behind the business creations?
MP: VI Sweet Treat’s humble beginning is interesting. It started when I was about 10 years old. I was a member of the Girls’ Brigade and one year the group was going to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I asked my mom if I could attend, and she said yes but that I would have to raise some of the funds. At 10 years old I questioned where would I get money from. How would I get that done? My mom smiled and said not to worry I will show you. We went to the store and purchased ingredients to bake cupcakes. We started selling cupcakes to family and friends and they loved them. I was able to raise my portion of the money and I attended the trip. The orders continued to increase week after week. Our customer base grew beyond family and friends and VI Sweet Treats was born!
VI L&S: How big is your clientele now? Do you have clientele outside of the Virgin Islands?
MP: We have a large clientele in the Virgin Islands, mostly from East End, but stretching to the western end of the Island. Our customers also include residents of the sister islands. We have customers outside of the Virgin Islands from the United States Virgin Islands to America. Interestingly enough, we receive several Facebook messages from people in America asking where we are located and wanting to place orders based on the images that we share.
VI L&S: What does your unique business offer and unlike others?
MP: Aside from our amazing and consistent customer service, our American-style breakfast, and our mouthwatering cakes and other sweet treats set us apart. Uniquely, strategically focus on selling Virgin Islands foods. At the heart of VI Sweet Treats is peas soup with milk and sugar, tarts, potato pudding, and coconut sugar cake: Virgin Islands favourites.
VI L&S: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment overall?
MP: My greatest accomplishment is being a young entrepreneur! Although owning and running a business is not easy, I find it rewarding. It is rewarding especially when I can come up with solutions for challenges that may arise.
VI L&S: What would you say to another young person who is struggling to find their niche?
MP: I would encourage a young person who might be struggling to find their niche, to find their passion. Proverbs 18:16 says, “Your gift will make room for you, and bring you before great men.” Also, I would strongly advise them to find a mentor, someone who can guide them through the process, from writing a business plan to applying for a trade license, and how to conduct business operations. When you do what you love to do, it does not feel like work. I love what I do, from cooking to baking, cake decorating, creating social media content and other advertisements, customer interaction and doing deliveries. I found my niche by following my passion.
VI L&S: What are the visions for VI Sweet Treats in 2024?
MP: In 2024 we will return to our pre-COVID-19 opening hours, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and continue to add more Virgin Islands Traditional foods to our menu and increase our deliveries island-wide.
VI L&S: Anything else you would like to tell the public?
MP: I would like the public to know that we appreciate all the support they continue to give us. As a young entrepreneur I am overwhelmed by the love and support my business continues to receive from the Virgin Islands communities. I am extremely grateful for everything God has blessed me with. I am also very passionate about helping the next generation focus on a positive direction; I believe they are our future, and that the future is coming to us quickly.
Keep the love and positive vibes coming our way.