Brenda Lord's second career is sugar-coated, sometimes topped with sprinkles.
Lord and daughter Heather Allen own and operate SweetCakes cupcake shop in downtown Cornelius, across from the new Antiquity development.
Lord is originally from Savannah, Ga.; after marrying her husband, Bill, they moved across the Southeast and Midwest for his job. When they landed in Huntersville 19 years ago, Lord took a job as the childhood development director at First Baptist of Huntersville. She retired after 17 years and took some time before figuring out what to do next.
"It was a busy time for us with family obligations, but in the back of my mind I was thinking of starting a business at some point," said Lord.
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With her daughter, Lord considered the idea of opening a restaurant.
"There's no boxed anything in our house - everything my family ate was made from scratch," said Lord. At first she and Allen considered a family-style restaurant modeled after one of their favorites in Savannah.
"I think I liked the idea of a family-style restaurant because so many families don't take the time to sit down and have dinner together anymore. That was so much a part of our family life when we were raising the kids, but it isn't something you see very much anymore," said Lord.
Lord focused instead on something related to baking, which she had done quite a bit of from scratch for her family. Lord and her daughter traveled to Dallas, Texas, in 2008 to visit Sprinkles, a cupcake eatery based in Beverly Hills, Calif., to get an idea of what a cupcake shop was like.
"We'd never stepped foot in a cupcake shop, but I knew it was important to figure out what the experience should feel like for a customer," said Lord.
Of course, by then, the economy was beginning to slump and the notion of opening a business grew a bit more daunting.
"I was worried at first about opening up a business during this recession; it was definitely something I struggled with," said Lord.
But Lord heeded her husband's advice: "If it doesn't work, we'll pack up and go home."
"I really believe everything is rooted in faith, so looking back on this process, I really see God in everything that happened," said Lord.
Things fell into place with a location on North Main Street, and then the real work began.
Lord and Allen took their cupcake business that began as a vendor at the Davidson Farmer's Market on weekends and turned it into a walk-in business in Cornelius in October. Drawing on their beginnings at the market, Lord tries to buy local ingredients such as eggs and strawberries. Lord values quality and isn't willing to skimp on ingredients.
Lord discovered something important about herself during the past few years that she brings to the shop each day.
"I really discovered that my gift to give others is hospitality," she said. "I love greeting people and making them feel welcome. The best part is that I'm able to share my gift with all of our customers."
They may not have opened a family-style restaurant, but Lord still believes SweetCakes is all about family. Bill Lord made the display cases, trays, cabinets and counters in the shop. You'll find Lord and Allen behind the counter serving customers or frosting cupcakes, and sometimes Lord's son, Matthew, helps too.
"I'm often asked if I mind the early mornings and long workdays, but I really don't," said Lord. "I'm not at a point in my life where I have family obligations that keep me at home, but I'm lucky enough to still have family time when I come to work."
Then she laughs. "It is hard to have a bad day working at a cupcake shop; every customer that comes in is happy."