Locally owned San Antonio bakery seeks community support to grow business

The Alamo City is home to a nationally recognized vegan bakery, but they can use your help to thrive, not just survive.

SAN ANTONIO — When Cara and Marcus Pitts aren’t working out of a bakery on the city’s south side, they are running their small business from home. They launched Southern Roots Vegan Bakery in 2019, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Marcus Pitts said. “This is something that I’ve always wanted to do, personally, just to start a business and leave a legacy behind for family and those to come—regardless of the ups and downs and struggles.”

Their business took off in the summer of 2020. They saw an influx of orders during the Buy Black movement in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd. Later, Southern Roots went viral after it was featured in coverage of top Black-owned vegan businesses to support.

But the big business was short-lived. Today, sales are steady, but nowhere near the extent of what they saw in June of 2020.

Still, the husband-and-wife duo have navigated some of the toughest times with optimism and positivity. They both pour their hearts and souls into serving San Antonio through their sweet treats and giving back to the community they call home.

If you scroll through their social media pages, Southern Roots looks like a highly successful business. It’s been nominated as one of the best vegan bakeries in the country by VegNews two years in a row, and their products have been shared by popular social media influencers.

But Cara Pitts said they are currently not profitable.

“Right now, I would say we’re really just surviving,” she said. “We’ve been able to stay afloat.”

At the end of 2021, the duo had to let go of their only two other staffers.

“We kept them on as long as we could. We even sold one of our vehicles to do payroll,” said Cara Pitts. “But it was just something that we couldn’t afford anymore.”

The two small-business owners have also struggled to get funding support from the Small Business Administration and their local bank.

“We were denied any PPP or COVID relief efforts because we did go viral in the month of June in 2020, which, unfortunately, it helped get our name out there,” Cara Pitts added. “But it hurt us financially with getting business assistance because we had a spike in sales, but after that the spike went down.”

“On paper, it looks like we’re doing better because they count your net sales; that doesn’t include what shipping costs or what our packaging and products cost us.”

In early 2022, they decided it was time to ask the community for help through a crowdfunding page.

They plan to use the money to continue growing their business, hire more staffers and continue producing out of the bakery they currently work out of, which is not their own brick and mortar.

You can donate to their crowdfunding page here. The two also emphasize the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses year-round.

“We get those waves,” said Cara Pitts. “We just had a huge corporate order because they wanted to intentionally support for Black History Month, but it would also be great if you ordered again maybe in June or July.”

Marcus Pitts said they are doing the best they can survive, but community support could help them thrive, too.

“We can’t do it without support. It has to be a community, it has to be a network that helps build it up,” he said. “Sometimes you just need a little bit of help.”

Local resources working to support San Antonio’s Black Owned Businesses

Bobby Blount, with the San Antonio Area African American Community Fund (SAAAACF), said they have partnered with LiftFund to support businesses through micro loans.

“We really do have to do more for African American-owned businesses,” said Blount. “Once they get that funding, we want to make sure that they survive and grow, and really become really strong players in our San Antonio economics, as a part.”

He said they also work with LiftFund to provide educational and informative resources on navigating the ins and outs of owning a business.

“Much more than the loan part of it, but it is meant for new startups…those that have ideas, want to figure out how do I establish my business, how do I set up my corporation,” he said.

For those interested in learning more, you can reach out to SAAAACF here.

The San Antonio African American Chamber of Commerce (SAAACC) also helps support businesses through $1,000 loans distributed every August.

The chairman of the SAAACC, Xavier Toson, said their organization also tried to provide monthly roundtables where black business owners can come together and network. They also provide opportunities on “getting them information on how to do sales and marketing, how to do their taxes, and how we can develop programs for business planning.”

“You really have to be intentional about seeking those black owned businesses,” he said.

Toson also shared this advice for local business owners:

  • Technology is the way forward: “As black owned businesses, we have to stay connected and we have to introduce technology into every aspect of our business.”
  • Adaptation: “Life is not steady it goes up and down all around, so you have to adapt to the times.”
  • Setting Goals: “Set goals for your week, your month, your quarter, your year and trying to stick with staying on top of them.”

The chairman said everyone in the community can have a role in helping Black-owned businesses thrive.

“If businesses who are not doing as well are supported, when we are supported, we all rise together and our community is more fruitful,” said Toson.

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