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National Entrepreneurship Week: Q&A with Jasmyn Reddicks (BSA ’18)

Jasmyn Reddicks (BSA ’18) is the owner and founder of VTasteCakes, an Atlanta-based vegan bakery. While studying food industry marketing and administration at the University of Georgia, Jasmyn won the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ 2018 Food and AgriBusiness Entrepreneurial Initiative (FABricate). After graduating, Jasmyn launched her business and has been baking made-to-order cakes, cookies, cupcakes and muffins ever since.

In commemoration of National Entrepreneurship Week (Feb. 13-20), Jasmyn shares how her passion for baking with her family led her to launch a business that has a dessert for every Bulldog.

Before entering the FABricate Entrepreneurship Initiative, did you plan to launch a business after graduation?

Not exactly. I always knew I wanted to start a bakery one day, but I never thought it would be so early in life. I didn’t realize that I was limiting my own abilities by thinking too small until the opportunity to start a bakery presented itself. After my mentor, family and friends convinced me that I had a good enough idea to participate in the FABricate project, I decided to go for it. It ended up being one of the best decisions of my life.

What led you to combine your passion for baking with a vegan diet?

I was inspired by my friends who have food allergies. I grew up baking, but the older I got, the more I realized that many people have allergies to baked goods. After learning about the limited options that existed and consuming a few, I realized there was a big opportunity for improvement. I wanted to create a dessert that is delicious, beautiful and that anyone can eat!

 

Jasmyn Reddicks in front of a VTasteCakes banner

How did FABricate and other UGA programs prepare you to start and operate VTasteCakes?

The FABricate competition sparked my motivation that anything is possible no matter who you are. I transferred to UGA, and FABricate helped me find purpose at a large school. It also gave me many resources that I still use today. The UGA Small Business Development Center has helped me with funding and growing a small business. I also received funding from UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur competition in 2019.

You often cite the influence of your grandma on your passion for baking. Do you consider your business a way of honoring her?

In many ways, I do. I am thankful for my upbringing. Baking was always a way to bond with my family and build community, which are two things I value. This has helped cultivate my view on life and inspired me to bring people together, one dessert at a time.

Have you encountered any challenges as a Black woman owning a business?

I think the biggest challenge is being respected and taken seriously. I don’t get automatic validation without having to prove it. But I have learned to overcome these challenges with grace. When people go low, I do the opposite and go high!

 

Jasmyn Reddicks holds a cake

 

Since graduating, leaving Athens and launching your business, what have you learned?

The biggest lesson I have learned is to enjoy every moment, even the tough ones. As an entrepreneur, there are highs and lows, but it is a beautiful thing to look back on how far you have come and how much you have grown as an individual. It still amazes me all the support I received over the years.

Do you have a preference for baking cakes or cupcakes?

Surprisingly, I am learning that I love to do cakes more. I feel like I am able to express my creative edge in my designs.

Can you share advice for Bulldogs who want to start their own businesses?

My advice would be to go for it and to choose passion over money. This is the perfect time to research an idea, test it out and not be afraid to ask for help. If you put in the hard work, avoid shortcuts and be consistent, it will pay off.

Your support today will help prepare tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and innovators.


DONATE TO THE FABRICATE ENTREPRENEURSHIP FUND

LEARN MORE ABOUT UGA’S INNOVATION DISTRICT


SUPPORT THE SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CENTER

Gifts from UGA alumni create CAES Rural Scholars Program

A new scholarship program funded by University of Georgia alumni and benefitting qualified students from rural areas of Georgia who seek to earn degrees from UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) is now recruiting students for its first cohort to begin in fall 2021.

Gifts and pledges totaling $500,000 from UGA Foundation trustee and CAES alumnus Keith Kelly (BSA ’80) and his wife, Pam Kelly (BSHE ’80), and CAES alumnus Robert Varnedoe (BSA ’83) will endow two CAES Rural Scholars Scholarship Funds and create two non-endowed CAES Rural Scholars Scholarship Funds, which will provide renewable yearly scholarships for a cohort of four to six students every fall.

The annual academic scholarship of $7,000 per year will assist in recruiting the most qualified students from rural communities in the state of Georgia who have excelled academically, have shown strong leadership abilities and community service, and seek a degree at CAES.

“The Rural Scholars Program will offer students from rural areas of Georgia a first-class undergraduate experience at UGA. Modeled after the University’s most prestigious fellowships and scholarships, the Rural Scholars Program is designed to give exceptional students from rural communities unique learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom,” said Josef Broder, associate dean for academic affairs at CAES.

Building on the success of similar UGA merit scholarship programs, the Rural Scholars Program will provide support for participating students through the cohort model, staff support and co-curricular programming. Scholars may have the opportunity to participate in additional activities to enhance the college experience, such as the Freshman College Summer Experience and experiential learning opportunities, supported by grants, that allow students to learn outside the classroom.

“I am grateful to these generous alumni, who are opening doors for students from rural areas of our state,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “The CAES Rural Scholars Program will help students achieve their educational and professional goals while supporting Georgia’s number one industry.”

Kelly, who earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from CAES in 1980, was inspired to support a scholarship program at CAES for rural students because he has observed and deeply understands the challenges rural families and students face when planning for the future.

“Part of our goal is to get young people to understand the need to go back to their communities and start something that will benefit those communities,” Kelly said. “We are excited about our students who are participating in entrepreneurship competitions, like FABricate, that allow them to formulate business plans they want to pursue. The opportunities within the agricultural industry are very diverse.”

While students from rural areas may be equally qualified, they may not have access to some of the resources available to students in larger school districts. With this in mind, Kelly committed himself to providing qualified rural students with a pathway to exceptional educational experiences, and the CAES Rural Scholars Program began to take shape.

He enlisted the participation of friend and 1983 CAES graduate Robert Varnedoe to endow the first scholarship funds. Varnedoe, who earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science, grew up in Barney, a town of about 150 people in south Georgia’s Brooks County.

“Personally, I feel a strong desire to help students in agriculture. I think that it is still a great opportunity for young people to continue in a field that is near and dear to my heart and that is changing with the times,” said Varnedoe, CEO of Lee Container. “We don’t focus enough of our resources on rural areas, and I am proud to be able to offer more opportunities for rural students to succeed. These students are the future of agriculture and agribusinesses in our state and beyond, and this will provide them with a strong education to carry them and the industry forward.”

Information on the scholarship and an application timeline is available at caes.uga.edu/students/scholarships/rural-scholars.html.

Down to Earth: How one alumnus found his passion in soil research

Frank Henning (PHD ’10) currently works as a senior scientist in the Duluth, Georgia, office of Woodard & Curran, an integrated engineering, science and operations company. Dr. Henning graduated from the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences with a Ph.D. in horticulture. He coordinates environmental field studies, scientific investigations, Clean Water Act permitting, environmental policy studies, restoration projects and environmental construction management.

Dr. Henning says he chose to study soil because “soil is the ultimate recycling bin; it has the most amazing capacity to transform wastes into life.”

While many think of soil as critical in the agricultural realm, he said it is important to study soil for conservation as well.

His appreciation for soil grows with every project. These projects include restoring native vegetation along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, developing geospatial tools to reduce erosion in fire stricken areas of California, and monitoring changes in salinity along the Georgia coast.

He also has worked on preventative projects to protect water resources from erosion during development and has designed urban landscapes that treat pollutants and infiltrate runoff.

If you’re interested in joining Dr. Henning in solving grand challenges that face our agricultural and environmental futures, please consider giving to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Fund.

40 Under 40 reflections: Sam Watson

The 40 Under 40 program began in 2011, and celebrates the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of young UGA graduates. To continue our 40 Under 40 coverage, we caught up with three agriculture professionals–Sam Watson, Travis Moore and Amelia Dortch–from the 2017 honoree class to learn about their career journeys and the wisdom they’ve gained along the way. 

Meet Sam Watson

  • 40 Under 40 Class of 2017
  • BSA ’02
  • Farmer at Chill C Farms and Georgia state representative

Sam Watson, 2017 40 Under 40 honoree

Sam Watson balances being a Georgia farmer and state representative by taking things one day at a time. As a farmer, he grows, ships and packs bell peppers, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, cabbage and tomatoes. He also raises cattle. As a state representative, he represents District 172 and serves on the rural caucus. We caught up with Watson to discuss how the 40 Under 40 program has impacted him a year later and about the value of a UGA education.

Nailing his dream job

“A career in agriculture is what I’ve always wanted to do. My first job out of college was with a large vegetable operation which led to my interest in produce. I grew up as a livestock kid so vegetable production was a big change for me.”

Being named 40 Under 40

“I am very appreciative. One of the driving forces behind my decision to run for the State House was to try to be a voice for rural Georgia and agriculture. It’s an essential part of our state’s economy, but there are only a few people in state government who have a solid understanding of the challenges facing communities like mine. Being recognized with 40 Under 40 gives me another opportunity to share the importance of my industry–and to advocate for, not just agriculture, but for rural communities across our state.”

Sam Watson, 2017 40 Under 40 honoree

Greatest risk–an even better reward

“In December of 2012, I quit my ‘real’ job to run for State Representative for House District 172 and farm full time. There were no guarantees that I would be successful at either, but I prayed about it and took a giant leap of faith, and here I am. Some months are certainly more stressful than others, but I remind myself to do the duty that lies nearest.”

Lessons from UGA

“UGA provided me with a quality education, but also forced me outside my comfort zone. If that didn’t happen I wouldn’t have ever left the farm and been able to help make an impact today.”

Words of wisdom

“Work hard – no amount of education can make up for a poor work ethic.”

Career destination

“My career goals are to grow my farming operation, help feed the world and continue to make our state a great place to live and to work and raise a family on the farm.”