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Life & Work with Carlena Davis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carlena Davis.

Hi Carlena, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
My name is Carlena Mills Davis and I am wife, mom, food blogger and now author. In 2017, I started my food blog Spilling the Sweet Tea. As a Southern girl born and raised in Kinston, North Carolina, I wanted to “spill the sweet tea” on traditional Southern dishes and share quick and easy recipes for busy moms. Up until the pandemic, I just took pictures of my food and shared my recipes on my website and social media. I love to cook and enjoy sharing my recipes that were mainly taught to me by my mom with my Instagram followers. My content initially consisted of pictures of my food and the recipe. It wasn’t until I discovered TikTok that I started to share my recipes via videos. During the start of the pandemic, my stepdaughter showed me how to use the app and from there, I started posting cooking videos on my TikTok account. Due to the popularity I was gaining on the app, I decided to turn my food blog into a business in July of 2020.

As a kid, my mom and I use to make homemade peach and pear preserves. While we were in lockdown, I decided I would make some peach preserves for my family. I ended up making way too many jars and my husband said to me that I should sell them because the jam was just that good! So in August of 2020, I held a popup shop at the end of my driveway. I posted about the popup shop on my social media and I SOLD OUT within a few hours. Not only did people come in person, but I had people asking me to ship the jam. After getting my website upgraded to sell online, I launched my online store in late September of 2020. 

The sales over the past few months have been amazing and I owe a lot of that to the support that I received through TikTok and people sharing about my jam on social media. There are so many people who I have never met who have rooted me on and supported my business. In March of 2021, I launched my cookbook called “All About the Jam”. I wanted to write a cookbook to showcase the various ways that jam and preserves could be used in different dishes and provide alternatives to the traditional piece of toast. I self-published the cookbook and it is sold on my website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Walmart.com.

At one point, the cookbook was #13 in the category of Appetizer Cooking on Amazon. I had people share pictures of my cookbook, featured on their kitchen counters and I am extremely excited and proud of that. In August of 2021, I am launching my first children’s book. I got the idea to write a children’s book to empower young readers in the kitchen and teach them the ABC’s of Cooking from A-Z. The main character of the book is my six year old daughter Maya. She helps me in the kitchen all the time and this book was written through her eyes. Maya teaches young readers about various kitchen tools, cooking techniques and how to cook magic in the kitchen. I am so excited about the book because Maya shared her opinion on the characters and even came up with A is for Apron. The Maya’s World brand is not just about the book but a brand that I hope will empower future foodies across the country. My story is truly born out of living through a pandemic. I also had amazing parents who were entrepreneurs and I saw them build a brand that still lives on to this day. I grew up in a small business and I believe that the work ethic and business acumen that my parents displayed lives on through me. I am so glad that the time I spent in quarantine shifted my mindset and woke up my entrepreneurial spirit. I am so proud of everything that is happening with the Spilling the Sweet Tea brand and the Maya’s World brand. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road. There have been times that I created content and it flopped on social media. I also had some hiccups with my cookbook. As a first-time self-published author, I ran into some struggles along the way with formatting the book. I had a goal to launch the book by my birthday which was March 15th and in my haste to get it out…I made some mistakes. I am happy I went through those hiccups because the process for getting my children’s book published was a lot smoother.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I have been in sales since 2004 and I am currently a sales executive for a training solutions company. I have used my sales and marketing knowledge to market the brands that I am building. I am most proud of my drive to keep going to strive for the next level of greatness for myself and my brand. I have a MBA in Marketing and I love to come up with marketing ideas and ways to drive sales not only in my personal life but also for my sales career. I think what sets me apart from others is that I am truly living out the blueprint that my parents laid out for me. My parents were both business owners and I watched them build a brand over the last four decades. I tell people all the time that there would be NO “sweet tea to spill” if it wasn’t for my mom showing me how to cook and sharing with me her love for canning and jam making. My brand is built from things that my mother showed me in the kitchen and in life and I think that sets myself and my brand apart from others.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
I started my business during the pandemic and the COVID-19 crisis. The time I spent in quarantine and not on the road for work, sitting in ballet/gymnastic classes, going to birthday parties and playdates with my daughter gave me ample time to focus on something for ME. As a mom, we focus so much on our children and family that we sometimes lose focus on ourselves. Although I was a food blogger prior to the pandemic, I wasn’t going living up to my true potential as a blogger because I simply didn’t feel like I had the time to fully commit to making content that I was seeing other food creators make. The pandemic slowed my life completely down and gave me time to shift my mindset which has awoken my entrepreneurial spirit. 

Pricing:

  • Our jams – Peach, Raspberry and Blackberry are $8.00
  • All About the Jam Cookbook is $18.95
  • The ABC’s of Cooking in Maya’s World Children’s Book is $13.95 for the paperback and $21.95 for the hardcover
  • The ABC’s of Cooking in Maya’s World Coloring/Activity Book is $6.99

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Ebes Olumese is the photographer of the pictures

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