When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Pound Cake
Alum combines family recipe and Brockport education to launch a sweet business.
Many believe in the mantra: “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” SUNY Brockport alum Brittany Jones ’16 chose to make lemon pound cake instead.
Jones was employed by Amazon until COVID put the world on pause in 2020. Like many, Jones became temporarily unemployed as she prioritized the health of herself and her grandparents. With her newfound free time, she began to explore selling her rendition of her grandmother’s signature dessert. Ultimately, she created a business plan and launched Mama J’s Southern Lemon Pound Cakes.
The cakes were originally sold during church fundraisers, but the delicacy gained in popularity through social media. Made in a Bundt pan, the cake packs a dense amount of flavor from real butter and a jilt of zing from lemon zest. Jones tweaked her grandmother’s original recipe by adding an extra lemon twist in the form of a sweet and tart icing that is now drizzled on top of the cake.
This attracted the attention of several Rochester media personalities on social media, including Norma Holland (former 13 WHAM News Anchor), Wendy Mills (Spectrum News), Alexis Arnold (Fox Rochester), Al Parisi (lawyer and radio personality), and Tracy Schuhmacher (Democrat & Chronicle).
“It was supernatural seeing the people in person that I saw on TV growing up in Mama J’s household,” said Jones. “I can’t even describe it. Everything that has happened…I’m just in awe.”
Mama J’s now operates out of the Commissary as part of Mercantile on Main in downtown Rochester. The cakes cost $35 and continue to assist her church’s efforts to help those in need, both locally and globally. Ten percent of the proceeds support hot weekly meals offered at her church, food ministry to Rwanda, and Stem of Faith Ministries International in Ghana.
“Faith is just so important to me because it has shaped me, even throughout my college years,” shared Jones. “Having my grandmother by my side and my grandfather throughout my college years, they really instilled in me good values and believing in God and having faith in God, not giving up, just being persistent in what we’re called to do. Without my grandparents I wouldn’t have finished college. They pushed me through, even when I felt like giving up.”
Jones used a combination of her grandparents’ faith, her business education, and things she learned from failure to propel her forward. Gaining confidence was one of the biggest takeaways from her favorite business course at Brockport.
“Going back to being a student in Dr. (Jack) Cook’s course, it taught me a lot,” said Jones of one of her professors in the Department of Business Administration. “It still teaches me a lot about PowerPoint, how to present a business plan, marketing, marketing a product, and just having confidence. His class really helped me along the way.”
She transferred to Brockport from MCC and was appreciative of the Education Opportunity Program (EOP), its director Gary Owens and her academic advisor Gary Johnson. Their support helped her cross the finish line to graduation.
“Have child-like faith. Don’t be set and stuck in your ways. Learn how to have faith in yourself, and your ideas, and you’ll go far.”
The School of Business and Management graduate offered advice to current students that resonated with her experiences:
“Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams. Don’t be hard on yourself when you fail. If you fail, just get back up and try again. Just keep trying and believe. Have child-like faith. Don’t be set and stuck in your ways. Learn how to have faith in yourself, and your ideas, and you’ll go far.”