For New Jersey-based baker and entrepreneur Erika Oldham, the creativity behind her innovative and delicious cakes can come from anywhere.
“I pull inspiration from just about everything and anything. From a designer handbag, cartoons, video games along with something [as] simple as a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich, my mind is always thinking about how I can turn it into cake,” she tells ESSENCE. Oldham is the mind behind Chic Sugars, a full-service bakery in Fort Lee, New Jersey that’s getting rave reviews and is set to expand to a second larger location in the Englewood area on May 21. Not only are there many devoted customers who’ve taken to her Google page to laud the flavors and the services received, but Oldham’s works of art have been consumed by the stars, too. Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z and Missy Elliott have all had cakes created by the Jersey native. It’s quite the feat when one considers that Oldham started baking “by accident” just 12 years ago when she attempted to make a cake for her daughter’s first birthday. It didn’t turn out the best, but a seed was planted that left her with the desire to not only get better but perfect her cake-baking skills and make money while doing it.
“Chic Sugars was born shortly after I failed at making my daughter’s first birthday cake, which was an epic flop,” she says. “While on my journey to entrepreneurship, I read an article in a magazine indicating that you can’t save money by turning off your cable or not eating out; you need a side hustle to generate additional income. I wanted to fine tune some elements for my future cake business and turn up the volume on my side hustle.”
The end result has been a success, allowing Oldham to leave behind her former role as a social worker to be a baker full-time. Chic Sugars continues to expand, not only into that second location but also into a partnership with American Dream Mall to make custom cakes for events at their entertainment complexes (DreamWorks Water Park, Nickelodeon Universe and Angry Birds Mini Golf Park).
As she prepares to cut the ribbon at her new 28 South Dean Street location, Oldham can’t help but look back with gratitude and thank the supporters who’ve helped her business flourish, even through the worst of times. That includes through personal and professional burnout before the pandemic, and the economic ups and downs many experienced once it began.
“When the pandemic occurred in 2020, we noticed a spike in our business. Our loyal customers reached out to us to not only make sure that we were keeping safe and healthy, but also ordered items to keep us employed and staying in business,” she says. “I get goosebumps even thinking about this because our valued customers are an extension of our family. It was at that moment I realized this is where I was supposed to be.”
Have yourself a visual cheat day and check out some of the cakes Oldham has crafted that have helped her to become one of the most sought-after bakers in the New York tri-state area.