Jera Stewart, Owner/Operator
Jera’s Heavenly Sweet, LLC
Number of Employees:
Brief description of your business or organization:
Jera’s Heavenly Sweet is a bakery that specializes in making old-fashioned, from scratch, labor-of-love desserts that remind you of sweets that were made in your grandma’s kitchen. In addition to making delicious homestyle baked goods, Heavenly Sweet offers genuine, warm, eye-to-eye contact customer service with a smile.
Where you born/raised in the Toledo Region? If so, where? If not, where and why/when did you move to the area?
I was born in Fort Ord, California, which is a military base. My dad was in the Army. As an Army brat, I was raised in California, Germany and Texas. I moved to Toledo from Fort Worth, Texas, in the winter of 1982 when I was hired as a news reporter at WTVG 13 Strong News. I meant to only live here for about two years, getting some on-air experience, with plans to then move back to California to work in TV. But I met my Toledo native husband, Bill Stewart, and that’s my story.
When did you launch your first business, and how did you get to where you are today?
I consider my first real business was my home-based bakery which I started about 15 years ago. I got a home bakery license from the Department of Agriculture which enabled me to sell my baked goods at festivals, farmers’ markets and other venues where food trucks were allowed. I didn’t have a food truck but I would set up my table and tent and sell along with food truck vendors.
Having outgrown my home kitchen, I moved into my first brick and mortar location in downtown Toledo in June 2017. My bakery at 550 North Summit, inside the Fifth Third Bank building in the lower level, was a great starter location. After being there for three years, COVID hit and my built-in business customer base dried up.
After getting a tip from a staff member of the Toledo Chamber stating that the business located at 3059 Bancroft was soon closing, I contacted my realtor and the rest is history.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
For me, Black History Month is a time of remembering where we have come from and using those memories to advance us, as a people, forward in every way possible.
What do you like most about your job?
My passion is baking. Taking a few ingredients and creating something from them is pure excitement for me. But meeting people and hearing their life stories is the highlight of my job.
What are some of your favorite things to do when you are not working?
When I’m not working, I enjoy reading, singing and dancing, traveling, fishing, and spending time with my adult children.
Have you had any special mentors or supporters that have helped guide your career or business?
My husband had always been my strongest, most faithful supporter. I would not be where I am today had it not been for his love and support every step of the way. In fact, each of my four children have also been my backbone, pushing me to follow my dream.
The staff of the Toledo Small Business Development Center have been and continue to be great resources to me as I navigate this season of my business life. They ask me the hard questions and challenge me. The Toledo JumpStart team has been another fantastic support system to me, just always being there for any assistance needed. And finally, Eric Johnson of Ivy Entrepreneur Institute was one of the first people to give me life changing business guidance that started me on my way to success.
Major accomplishment(s) that make(s) you proud?
I am the first one of my family to own a business. That makes me proud. Winning the JumpStart competition was an unbelievable accomplishment that still makes me shake my head in disbelief when I think about it.
When minorities come into the bakery and look around and experience what we’re trying to do there, and they tell me they are so proud of me, THAT MAKES IT ALL WORTH IT!
What other Black-owned businesses should northwest Ohioans know about?
All 4 Kids child care center is a hidden gem.