Jackie Knowles felt called to work in culinary arts from a very young age. Growing up, she would watch her mother bake bread in their home kitchen, eager to lend a hand. At 8-years-old, her mother pulled up a chair and invited Knowles to assist. That was the beginning of her lifelong love affair with cooking.
“My mom allowed me to stand in a chair and help her knead the dough because she noticed I was curious and really wanted to learn how to bake,” Knowles recalls. “My bakery was born years later, but even as a little girl, I knew that I would not get what I deserved if I worked for other people, and over time, my gift of baking and cooking made room for me.”
In 2013, Knowles realized her childhood dream by opening Jackie’s Bakery in Grand Bahama. The pastry shop offers an assortment of wholesale and retail baked goods, including bread, pastries, donuts, and patties. Jackie’s Bakery has supplied eight of the leading supermarkets in Grand Bahama with baked goods for almost ten years, including Kross Town, CostRight, Stop N’ Shop, Express Mart, and two Solomon’s and Sawyer’s Fresh Market locations.
“At first, I focused on catering and treated baking as a side gig,” Knowles stated. However, goaded by her son, who pointed out the daily demand for items such as bread, Knowles decided to double down on providing baked goods.
“My son told me that every household needs bread, whereas they probably won’t ask for catering as often. That’s how my baked goods became more popular than my catering services.”
Knowles said her dinner rolls and hot cross buns were especially popular, and pretty soon, she realized that her baked goods were proving to be her “Bread of Life.”
“I love baking loaves of bread,” Knowles shared. “My slogan is ‘God’s Blessing In Every Batch’ because I pray over my goods. That is the most important ingredient, and I think that’s what makes my products so delicious. Everybody always tells me my bread has a unique flavor, and I always tell them, ‘The only thing I do differently is pray for God to bless each item sold from my bakery.’ My bread has a long shelf-life, and that isn’t by chance. That’s because I prayed for it to last long.”
Encouraged by her husband to apply for the Access Accelerator program, Knowles signed up in 2018. She said that decision proved to be wise because she would not have understood the theory behind running a business without Access Accelerator.
“My husband heard about Access Accelerator on the news and told me to try it out because he thought it would be worthwhile,” she said. “In one class, I learned about the growth wheel, which shows you how to develop your business in stages. I also learned how to budget responsibly and valuable marketing techniques that showed me the best ways to promote my product and build my clientele.”
After completing the program, Knowles received a $90,000 grant. While the sum enabled her to purchase more equipment and appliances for her bakery, she said the most significant gift Access Accelerator gave her was a second chance to keep her doors open.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Dorian, we fell behind on rent and got evicted, but Access Accelerator got us back in our shop within two weeks,” Knowles explained. “After the hurricane, many people lost their jobs, and because of the high unemployment rate, many were not able to afford to buy bread which caused our sales to plummet. When COVID-19 came, the lockdown restrictions also affected us greatly. We tried our best to pay our staff and the electricity bill, and other bills, like our rent, got knocked behind. Luckily, Access Accelerator stepped in and helped us get our rent up to date.”
Knowles said after her Bakery reopened, “sales started coming from all directions.”
“It was like God opened the windows, and new business started trickling in,” she stated. “I’m grateful the government has a programme like Access Accelerator in place to help small businesses because many of us would not be around without them.”
Ten years from now, Knowles said she hopes Jackie’s Bakery will have a donut shop that features Caribbean-inspired fillings made with native fruits like dillies, mangos, and guavas. In terms of wholesale items, she also said she wants to sell her mini patties, pastries, and garlic bread in stores – goals she insists she would not be able to even imagine without the assistance of Access Accelerator.
“An entrepreneur in this country shouldn’t even think about going into business without enrolling in Access Accelerator,” Knowles said. “This programme is so important because it ensures you develop a solid business plan and teaches you the best way to operate a successful business.”
About The Access Accelerator
The Access Accelerator is the product of a tripartite arrangement between the Government, through the Ministry of Finance, University of The Bahamas (UB), and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC). The Centre works to guide the development, funding, growth, and evolution of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (“MSMEs”) in The Bahamas. Visit us at www.accessaccelerator.org.
Assistant Director of Marketing
Bahamas Small Business Development Centre