Niles business wins 2021 distinction, given green light to build kitchen

NILES – On May 7, a Niles business founded on flavor was announced as SCORE Kalamazoo/Southwest Michigan’s 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year.

Sticky Spoons Jam, LLC, was awarded the distinction out of 17 nominations. Founder and owner Aiye Akhigbe was proud to add it to her list of accomplishments this year. In April, Sticky Spoons Jam, LLC was voted “crowd favorite” as part of the Rice Business Veterans Business Battle, and the business was approved to build a licensed kitchen and storefront in Niles.

“I was in shock. I’m still in shock. I’m really surprised that people recognize what we do,” Akhigbe said of learning about the 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year award. “Part of my application was not just about what I make or what I sell, it was also about our giveback programs.”

She said Sticky Spoons Jam, LLC, hosts fundraisers, birthday and coat drives, and is expanding its efforts to look into collecting school supplies for students.

“That’s one thing that the [SCORE Kalamazoo/Southwest Michigan] volunteer who called me spoke about, was that we were well rounded,” Akhigbe said. “It’s definitely an honor, and an honor to be selected as ‘crowd favorite’ with the Veterans Business Battle. I’m grateful. Our

customers hold that up for us.”

The competition was fully remote this year. Akhigbe said after competing and participating in multiple business organization events, she has learned how present professionally on Zoom.

Throughout 2020, the events that Akhigbe relied on to bring her array of jams to sell were limited by pandemic mandates. The challenge inspired her to look into expanding her business I a way she has more control over.

“I need to raise funding to put up my licensed kitchen. Without being a technology company that can go to a venture capitalist, I am doing the best I can do,” she said.

She is also seeking out the guidance of business resources throughout the southwest Michigan region, including SCORE Kalamazoo/Southwest Michigan and the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance in Benton Harbor

“I’m great at making jam, but I have no idea about making a marketing strategy,” she said. “There’s a lot of resources.”

As she continues to work toward scaling Sticky Spoons Jam, LLC, she will be working with an architect and contractors to build her 4,000 square foot licensed kitchen and storefront. The timeline, however, is unknown with the demand for construction and materials at a premium for the time being.

“We cannot build until there are supplies,” she said. “There will be a big announcement when we dig a hole in the ground.”

For updates on Sticky Spoons Jam, LLC, Akhigbe said to visit the company’s Facebook page to find jam flavors until the storefront is built.

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