Cara and Marcus Pitts founded Southern Roots Vegan Bakery, which is now thriving after a challenging year. | Southern Roots Vegan Bakery

How A Tumultuous 2020 Helped This Black-Owned Vegan Bakery Thrive

2020 was a touch year all around. Here's how the founders of Southern Roots Vegan Bakery thrived amid a pandemic.

An outpouring of support for Black-owned businesses back in June launched Southern Roots Vegan Bakery into the spotlight. In the words of co-founder Cara Pitts, the San Antonio, Texas-based online business “literally grew overnight.” Now, the family-run bakery is in the midst of a busy holiday season and planning on an even busier new year. But what makes Southern Roots Vegan Bakery stand out? And where did it all begin for the business?

Keep reading to find out the bakery’s story, plus there’s a special discount on offer for LIVEKINDLY readers.

Finding Veganism

Southern Roots Vegan Bakery’s journey started with the viewing of a vegan documentary a few years ago. Cara’s husband, Marcus Pitts, sat down to watch 2017’s What The Health, and, by the end, he was ready to rid his life of animal products for good. After taking the time to research the vegan lifestyle more, both he and Cara decided Marcus’ instinct after watching the documentary was right: the vegan diet was the best choice for them.

Marcus says the vegan lifestyle is important to him now, “because it increases the chance of vitality and improves the quality of life with a simple mindset shift.” For Cara, veganism is also about living a healthy lifestyle. She sees the difference not just in Marcus but in her 97-year-old grandmother Mary Lee, who she cares for.

“Implementing a plant-based diet has done wonders for her,” she tells LIVEKINDLY. “At 97, she has so much more energy. She’s up until after midnight watching Family Feud and does laps around the house with her walker for exercise.”

Veganizing Their Favorite Foods

The Pitts are both firm supporters of plant-based food now, but after they first made the switch, they struggled to find foods and dishes they enjoyed.

“We really didn’t know where to start,” Cara explains. “We both loved to cook prior to changing our eating habits, and I’ve been baking since my first Easy-Bake Oven, but we were really struggling trying to create plant-based meals just for us to enjoy.”

With little luck, they decided to go back to the drawing board, eventually deciding to revisit the foods they had originally enjoyed before going vegan, only without the animal products.

They started veganizing traditional soul food dishes and their favorite desserts, like cookies, cakes, and brownies, testing out the recipes on Mary Lee, the local church community, and their children’s ministry classes. Their creations were a resounding hit – the food was delicious and the lack of animal products unnoticeable. The feedback was so positive, they started toying with the idea of selling professionally.

After contemplating a full soul food line, Cara and Marcus decided to start with desserts and Southern Roots Vegan Bakery was born. Made with soy milk, dairy-free butter, and zero eggs, their vegan cakes, brownies, and cookies easily compete with their animal-based counterparts on delicious taste and texture. “I love when people first experience our desserts and you can see the stigma breaking right before your eyes of what they thought vegan food was,” says Cara. (Plus, good news for parents of allergy-sufferers, everything is nut-free.)

To grow their plant-based business, they gained experience through selling their baked goods at farmers’ markets and vegan events in San Antonio. Additionally, they took part in Break Fast and Launch, an accelerator program for culinary-related companies. The Pitts credit the 10-week course for providing them with the necessary business expertise to get through the “ups-and-downs” that come with starting a food business. It also gave them mentor access and a multitude of other helpful resources.

Cara’s grandmother Mary Lee inspired some of the bakery’s creations. | Southern Roots Vegan Bakery

Navigating a Tumultuous Year

By the beginning of 2020, the couple was ready to bring their delicious indistinguishable-from-the-animal-version sweet treats nationwide and show the world that adopting a vegan lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to miss out on any of your favorite foods, including scrumptious chocolate fudge brownies and red velvet donuts.

They had just launched their website when the unprecedented events of 2020 started to unfold, and the novel coronavirus began to sweep the globe.

In May, in the thick of COVID-19, another event shook the U.S.: The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. The tragedy sparked a surge of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which spiraled into a social media juggernaut of advocacy for the cause. Thousands of listicles and articles flooded the web, not just calling for justice and reform, but also calling for more support for the Black community, for Black entrepreneurs and influencers, as well as Black-owned businesses.

Southern Roots Vegan Bakery was featured in a number of publications calling out Black-owned vegan businesses to support. The bakery started to receive an influx of new orders as a result. It doubled sales at the time. “We went from having a few sales a week to thousands in a week,” Cara recalls.

The sudden surge in sales was undeniably a positive. Cara says they felt “blessed” to receive the “overwhelming love and support.” But it was also “scary” and “eye-opening,” she remembers. Not least because they were unprepared. They make all of their sweet treats in a commercial kitchen before they are shipped out to customers across the country, who place orders through their website. They didn’t have enough capacity, or resources, or kitchen staff, to cater to the surge in demand at first.

“We launched our online site a month before the COVID pandemic, so when the articles came out supporting Black businesses, it took some time to develop the systems and processes to create a sustainable business,” she explains.

But they responded quickly, with adjustments to their resources and their team. Ultimately, the surge in demand helped Southern Roots grow, Cara says. She notes: “We feel like the accelerated ride we experienced these last few months made us get better faster than we would have otherwise.

Marcus agrees. He adds: “The business is still prospering and, with the implementation of systems, it has allowed us time to develop new products.

The Holiday Cookie Bundle includes some of Southern Roots’ best-sellers. | Southern Roots Vegan Bakery

Wrapping Up The Year and Moving Forwards

For the holiday season, the bakery has plenty of plant-based sweet treats on offer. The Kid at Heart Bundle includes a slice of Mary Lee’s Lemon Cake, Fudge Brownie, six donuts (for fallophiles, Pumpkin Spice is an option), and 12 cookies. The Holiday Cookie Bundle comprises a variety of the bakery’s best-selling cookies, including Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, and Sprinkle Sugar.

The bakery was plunged into the spotlight due to external events (it also appeared on Tabitha Brown’s Very Good Mondays social media segment earlier this year). But, its sustained success is all down to hard work and consistent quality. Southern Roots Vegan Bakery’s products are loved by its customers, now, for the very same reason that Mary Lee and their local church community were won over initially: you would never guess they’re vegan, and they’re so tasty, you just can’t stop eating them.

“We use real pumpkin in the Pumpkin Spice donuts of course, but the spice is light, so they’re just moist yummy vegan donuts that go perfectly with a cup of coffee,” says Cara. “I also got to develop the recipe for our new Sprinkle Sugar cookies, which are part of the Holiday Cookie Bundle. Just like potato chips, no one can eat just one!”

Looking forward to 2021, the Pitts intend to offer even more bundles, as well as develop new mouth-watering products. A line of Southern Roots dry mixes will launch next year. And, there will be even more flavors of cakes, cookies, and baked goods. With their new capability to mass-produce, they even have their eyes on expanding into stores across the U.S.

But for now, it’s time to take stock of a rollercoaster year and cheer up everyone’s holiday season with their moreish sweets.

“Christmas is the time of year that we all want to indulge in our favorite holiday treats, and it brings us great joy to know that nobody has to sacrifice this year to maintain their commitment to the vegan lifestyle,” says Marcus. “It’s been a rough year for all of us, so we hope our new goodies can brighten everyone’s day.”

In the spirit of Christmas, Southern Roots is currently offering its biggest discount yet! By using the special discount code LIVEKINDLY you can receive $10 off its Holiday Cookie Bundle. And that should make Santa very happy.

To place an order, or find out more about the bakery, find Southern Roots’ website here.


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