MBA graduate makes “sweet” impact on her community
As an 11-year-old, Felicia Evans Long was a candy-loving kid who sold frozen cherry and grape slushes, profiting 13 cents from every sale. She knew she wanted to go into business someday.
Today, the 47-year-old University of Phoenix alumna still loves candy. Her profit margin is a little bigger. And she has turned her love for candy into Sweet Candy Café, a confectionery she and her late husband launched in her hometown of Lumberton, North Carolina, in 2012.
“The store carries 94 candy flavors — everything from nostalgia to retro,” Long says. “My goal is to give people what they can’t find at regular big-box or grocery stores, while expanding their palates.”
But nursing a customer’s sweet tooth is not the extent of Long’s mission. She uses the store as a platform to create an impact in her hometown through community engagement.
She dreamed about opening a business but knew she needed further education to accomplish her goals. “I knew a degree would give me the tools to help solidify our project,” says Long, who completed an MBA with University of Phoenix in 2008.
When the time came to open her business, she went back to her hometown of Lumberton. She wanted to take joy and inspiration to the community that saw her grow. To fulfill that purpose, she developed Candy Kids Wear Blazers at Sweet Candy Café, an entrepreneurship program for young girls that teaches them the concepts of business logistics, professionalism and hospitality. Each girl is given a blazer and a candy necklace as a uniform.
“Children are the future. I offer them the opportunity to polish their skills in customer service in a kid-friendly way and let them know they can do anything while being themselves,” Long says. “Nothing is impossible.”
The program’s first yearlong cohort launched in January 2017, graduating four participants ranging from 6 to 8 years old. “We are in our third cohort with three girls who started in January 2019,” Long says.
To further her interest in inspiring and empowering others to become successful, Long recently collaborated with author Tammy L. Woodard in the creation of the book “Beyond Her Reflection,” in which she and other women share memoirs of their stories of overcoming challenges.
“My University of Phoenix education was the springboard for our business. My MBA gave me the understanding to develop my business concept and retain customers,” she says, adding that the program rigor, knowledgeable instructors and engaged classmates motivated her to work harder.
Today, she’s using the business skills she learned to empower the next generation of women to learn business skills of their own. That’s pretty sweet.