Started as a one-man show in 1998, DC Sweet Potato Cake is now a reputable manufacturer of baked goods with 25 employees serving more than 700 retail stores and restaurants in the Washington D.C. area.
It all began when Derek Lowery’s mother sent him an age-old family recipe for a rich, moist cake made of fresh sweet potatoes. After baking it himself, Derek decided the recipe was too good not to share, so he started driving around the Washington D.C. area selling them out of his car. Due to the cake’s popularity, Derek quickly expanded his operation to a commercial kitchen to keep up with demand. While Derek had a desirable product, he struggled to grow his business and faced several setbacks along the way. This is when his lawyer, April Richardson, stepped in. Determined to keep the company alive, April helped drive DC Sweet Potato Cake in a new direction.
Her first mission was to find a retailer to sell their product.
April walked into the Woodmore, Maryland, Wegmans as she did every week to shop, but this time with a new purpose. She approached a manager and asked him to consider carrying her product in the store. After that, a meeting was arranged for April and our buying team, and soon after, DC Sweet Potato Cakes were on display in the Woodmore Wegmans.
“Introducing DC Sweet Potato Cake to our Woodmore store is a great example of our commitment to supporting local businesses and having our stores – people, products, and suppliers – reflect the community they’re in,” said Ayana Douglas, former Woodmore Store Manager and now Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion. “We’ve always heard from our customers how important it is that we offer a product assortment incorporating locally produced products reflective of their community. Prior to partnering with DC Sweet Potato Cake, many Woodmore customers knew of Derek and April’s business and asked if we sold their products. When April pitched our team, we knew immediately it would be a valuable relationship for us and our customers as she was introducing a product unique from anything we currently offered.”
“Our partnership with Wegmans was a turning point for our business,” said April. “Not only was this our first step into the retail space, but it was also the first time someone outside our company believed in us and our product. Since the start of our partnership, Wegmans has played an integral role in our business development. From learning all the logistics of mass production and delivery to merchandising strategies, Wegmans has been our teacher.”
When we are considering a new supplier, our principles are simple; we seek companies whose values align with ours and offer a product we know our customers will love. From the moment our team met with April, it was clear she led with her company’s values and presented us with a niche product that we were missing in our product assortment.
Within a year of offering DC Sweet Potato Cakes, the opportunity to expand distribution to additional stores in the area was clear. Today, DC Sweet Potato Cakes are in 7 Wegmans stores in Maryland and Virginia.