April Harris, Founder Of Keeping You Sweet, On Entrepreneurship And The Power Of Female Support

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The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” is a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.

April Harris is the founder of Keeping You Sweet, a company that specializes in gluten-free desserts with vegan and no added sugar options. Many may know Harris as 1/3 of the platinum-selling girl group Seduction, which brought forth the hits, “You’re My One & Only,” “Heartbeat,” “Could This Be Love,” and the Billboard No. 1 Smash “Two To Make It Right.” 

Harris started her company in 2017 baking large quantities of the sweets and giving them to organizations to use as fundraisers. After participating in a fundraising event and receiving strong demand for her all-natural sugar-free cheesecakes, she asked a friend to refer her to a restaurant or store that might carry her cakes for the holidays. The friend suggested she reach out to a contact at Newark’s Whole Foods and soon she was invited to partner with the market. Two weeks later she was offered five more stores and the rest is history.

In this Q&A, Harris shares more about what motivated her to start her own company, and the power of community and female support.

April Harris, founder of Keeping You Sweet

Q: What’s the story behind how you founded your company?

In 2011 my mom passed away and I was devastated to the point that I did not feel like I could live without her. I began using her recipes to bake and ease my grief. 

Seeing her handwriting in her recipe books gave me such peace. My mom owned a catering company and was an amazing cook and baker. Baking with her recipes made me feel like she and I were in the kitchen together again. Baking became my life passion.

Q: What challenges did you face as an entrepreneur? How has Ureeka helped?

As an entrepreneur, if you are not surrounded by other entrepreneurs you will feel alienated because you will have a different mindset that is not easily understood by those who are not entrepreneurs.

Ureeka, a small business platform where Next Wave entrepreneurs – Black, brown and women – have access to the people, programs and connections they need to grow, is like a second home. It’s a place where you are understood and feel included. My greatest challenge is being a solopreneur and doing everything that involves the business by myself. Ureeka offers a community for every aspect of my business and I can lean on them for mentorship, advice, coaching, fellowship and specialized assistance.

Q: What has been the biggest impact founder communities have made on your business journey?

The greatest impact on my business has been participating in a CEO Bootcamp led by Dave Jakubowski. I learned how to create and use a quadrant for my business so I can manage all the aspects of my business on one sheet of paper. I redefined my go-to-market strategy and perfected my promise. My website was thoroughly analyzed to increase customer conversions. There were so many things I did not know prior to joining the bootcamp. It has reignited my passion for my business and has given me ALL the tools I need to scale my business. 

Q: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in a similar situation?

I would advise all entrepreneurs to join founder communities like Ureeka; they help prepare you for success.

Q: What was your biggest challenge during the fundraising process, and how did you rise above it?

The biggest challenge that still exists with my fundraising is being able to raise enough funding to continue to scale my business. I continue to look for investors who will believe in me and my company.  

Q: There’s an old but common belief that women have to be twice as cutthroat as men to make it in business. Do you believe this to be true? What has your journey looked like as a female founder? 

As a female founder, I have only received support from other female founders. In fact, if it had not been for their support I would not be as far along as I am in my business.  

Most of my mentors and advisers are women who want to see me succeed. Denise Woodard, founder of Partake Foods has advised me every step of the way. She is the definition of giving back and has been a great example to me on how to be a mentor.  

Q: How have you grown as a leader since starting your company? 

While I am excited to be a food entrepreneur with products in Whole Foods Market, I am learning that as a woman, I represent less than 10 percent of all food producers, and as an African American, I represent less than 1 percent. I decided to speak about this as much as possible to bring attention and inspire more women and African Americans to become interested in food production and manufacturing.

Q: How do you move through fear or hesitation as a decision-maker?

I find that research and facts help to make the best decisions, so as long as I feel prepared and informed I have no fear or hesitation about moving forward on a decision.

Q: If you could change one thing you did when first starting your business, what would that be? 

I baked over 30,000 cakes before I realized I needed a baker. I would have hired as much staff as I could afford to make sure all orders were on time and that I had more time to rest and restore myself. I worked 18 hours a day for 2 years and it affected my home life and my health.  If you can’t afford to hire staff, ask friends and family to assist you.

Azizza Brinson headshot

Azizza Brinson has been a Media Relations and Strategy Specialist at Hotwire for the last 2 years where she works with tech companies driving results across media in the US. Prior to joining Hotwire, she has 5 years of public relations and digital media experience working with startups and large enterprises across the tech, entertainment, consumer/lifestyle, wealth management, and cannabis sectors. She received her Bachelor’s in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations at Georgia State University. 

  • Originally published April 29, 2021