“I was born and raised in Mobile, except for a brief detour in East Africa. My parents helped an orphanage in Uganda, and we moved there from 2001 through 2004. Our family befriended an older teenage girl who started another orphanage in Uganda to help young children. We returned to Mobile, but I recruited and guided mission teams to help get the orphanage off the ground. After it was running on its own, I tried college a couple of times, but nothing felt right. I loved baking for my family, so I got a job at the Atlanta Bread Company. For 12 years, I baked bread at night after the store closed.
One night, I flipped the switch to start the ovens and moved a box – I didn’t see the cutting board hit the ground. I stepped on the board and fell. Suddenly, I was on the floor and alone in the bakery with a broken leg; I crawled to my phone to call for help.
My leg was fractured in two places and broken under my knee. Surgeons inserted a plate and seven screws and predicted my recovery would take two or three months. That seemed like a long time to be out of work and still. I didn’t know repairing my leg would become a three-year journey.
My knee refused to seal and heal, and the surgeons put my case in their education file. After a fifth surgery, I finally had a functioning leg. Towards the end of the last surgery, I woke up and couldn’t see out of my right eye. The doctors were uncertain what blurred my vision, but I had eight eye surgeries over the next year and a half to fix it.
My tattoos became a part of my story. Before I broke my leg, I got Mother Teresa on my arm because she was a real woman helping and loving people every day. During my leg and eye problems, I sat in many waiting rooms with older people, and my tattoo was an icebreaker. One man told me I needed to cover it up because Mother Teresa was staring at him and reminding him about the things he needed to confess. Another man asked if he could touch my tattoo for good luck. It was good to have a little laughter and connection during anxious times.
I got used to things going wrong. During that time, lightning struck the roof of our house and my room caught on fire. I was safe but tired of God giving me chances to be strong.
I learned that life can change overnight. There was no time to heal and process the trauma of loss, so I am doing that now. Knowing something else can go wrong is always in the back of my mind, and I still worry about what’s next.
Physical therapy helped me walk again, and The Alabama Department of Vocational Rehab guided me through vision loss, showing me that people with limitations can work through them and become employed. I have permanent vision loss, but I can walk and see okay most days.
I started new routines with hobbies that bring me joy: playing music and baking. One weekend, I baked bread for friends and family. That went so well that I baked bread and chocolate chip cookies the next weekend. People told me that I should start a bakery. I didn’t want to start a business, but I needed to eat and pay down my growing pile of medical bills. Baking became a rewarding, creative outlet that provided the social contact I missed when I was stuck in the house.
My second tattoo is the skyline of Mobile. It is based on the Bible verse, Jeremiah 26:7, that says, ‘seek the good of your city. If it prospers, you will prosper’. When we seek the good of those around us, we rise together.
Mobile is a supportive community of artists, musicians, and the service industry. The Blind Mule made room for me and helped me feel safe when I couldn’t see. I worked at Serda’s Coffee part-time before I broke my leg, and my co-workers were my first bakery customers and got me started making king cakes.
Atlanta Bread Company had some of the best king cakes in town, and I learned a lot from making thousands of them. The owners retired in 2021 and closed the restaurant, leaving a gap in the king cake market and a chance to try out my bakery. I worked out my own recipe with trial and error and taste-testing from friends and family. I sold 850 king cakes this year – most to people I didn’t know. I worked non-stop in my kitchen, but it was fun to be involved in Mardi Gras in a different way. I want to put Mobile on the map for must-have king cakes, and I am the first baker to make one with a Mobile theme.
I named the bakery Bread by Beck. My motto is, ‘Let me be your carb dealer.’ I deliver boxes of cookies downtown and meet friends at back doors, alleys or parking lots, exchanging cookies for cash. It’s dealing carbs.
I keep experimenting with new things to bake. I make a jalapeno cheddar shortbread cookie that is subtly sweet. I want to add French baguettes and more specialty breads. My grandmother makes the world’s best cinnamon rolls, and she is going to teach me how to make them.
I found my purpose and created a business around what I can do. People tell me I should get a storefront. I am still learning what is possible and what my body can handle. I can’t let the past and the fear of ‘what if’ keep me from moving forward.
It’s still hard planning ahead, but I’m getting more comfortable being unsure. I’m pushing myself to dream. Maybe things won’t go according to that dream, but that’s okay. I will figure it out.”
Here is the link to Bread by Beck.