Felicia Evans Long knew from an early age she was an entrepreneur. When she was 11, she sold frozen cherry and grape ICEE in Styrofoam cups, profiting 13 cents from every sale. Her love for candy later transformed into Sweet Candy Café, a confectionery flagship storefront Evans Long and her late husband launched in her hometown of Lumberton, N.C., in 2012.
“The store carries 94 candy flavors; everything from nostalgia to retro,” Long said. “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 plans to create an impact in her hometown, and is using her store to do just that through community engagement.
A federal government employee, Long dreamt about opening a business with her husband. However, she had been out of college for over a decade and felt she needed further education that would help her become serious about our intentions.
“I knew a degree would give me the tools to help solidify our project,” said Long, who completed an MBA with University of Phoenix in 2008.
“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.”
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 said. “Nothing is impossible.”
The program’s first year-long cohort launched in January 2017, graduating four participants ranging from 6 through 8 years old. “We are in our third cohort with three girls who started in January 2019,” Long said.
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, where 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 said, adding that the program rigor, knowledgeable instructors and engaged classmates motivated her to work harder.