While coming of age in New Jersey entrepreneur Craig Watson didn’t see many examples of Black business ownership. His stepfather—who owned a television repair shop—was the lone African American entrepreneur on Paterson’s Main Street during the 70s and 80s. Witnessing his stepfather break barriers within his community inspired Watson to step into entrepreneurship. Now, Watson is redefining the baking industry through his Harlem-based business Baked Cravings.
Watson began his entrepreneurial journey straight out of high school at the age of 19 when he opened a barbershop. He says establishing his own business was his way of controlling his own destiny. As his business evolved Watson—whose background is in accounting—began to venture out into other spaces like real estate. His business acumen led him to financier roles for posh places like Sotheby’s and Bulgari. While serving as the CFO for a New York City-based bakery, he fell in love with the creation of baked goods. After the company dissolved, Watson decided to merge his love for baked goods and entrepreneurship and build a business of his own within the industry.
In 2017, Baked Cravings was born. The bakery—nestled in the heart of East Harlem—is known for its fresh-baked nut-free treats. According to a study released by AJMC, peanut allergies affect approximately 1.2 percent of the U.S. population. The food allergy—which is the most common one among children—has tripled in the past 20 years. Watson, who has a daughter with food allergies, wanted to use his business as an avenue to fill a void in the food industry. “Some of the kids that come into the bakery have never had a cupcake in their life because their food allergies are so severe,” Watson told NewsOne.
Among the most popular menu items are “Cupcakes in a Jar” and liquor-infused sweets. Despite the staggering statistics surrounding Black-owned businesses in New York City, Watson’s bakery is thriving. His clientele includes everyone from hip-hop moguls to sports organizations like the New York Yankees. Baked Cravings has also been featured in commercials for Yahoo and Shopify. The bakery was the recipient of the 2019 “Best of Manhattan Award;” an accolade given by the Manhattan Award Program to businesses that have a positive influence in their local communities and beyond. A percentage of the eatery’s sales are donated to charity. “It felt great to receive the award and be recognized for my work,” said Watson. “The thrill of seeing my business grow inspires me. We planted something special and I’m looking forward to seeing how far we can take it.”
Opening a business in an inner-city community is something that Watson is proud of. Through Baked Cravings he strives to be the representation of Black ownership for individuals in the neighborhood that he rarely saw growing up. “My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs would be to simply start,” he said. “You’re going to have failures and wins but you have to keep pushing forward.”
As far as what’s on the horizon for Baked Cravings, Watson is eyeing new locations for expansion. There is also a reality show in the works dubbed The Making of Baked Cravings which will highlight the bakery’s day-to-day operations.