We had the good fortune of connecting with Brenley Fouse and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Brenley, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Four years ago, I received an invitation to travel on a study trip abroad to England and Ireland. I was fascinated by the literary focus and the opportunity to see the world! However, this trip came with a significant financial obligation. My mom and I had recently taken a cookie decorating class, and although I started baking cookies for fun, I quickly realized that it could be a lucrative fundraising option for my trip. I immediately began researching state and local laws and policies for bake sales.

After working to obtain business licenses with my local city officials and the Georgia Department of Agriculture, I took a leap of faith and started Love & Sugar, my very own bakery! I began selling cookies, cheeses straws, cinnamon rolls, and other baked goods at our local farmers market and through my social media page. Our community was so supportive, and my trip was quickly funded. Since then, I have used my earnings to fund another study abroad trip, provide financial donations and baked good donations to local charities, and even pay my initial college expenses!

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I’m from Perry, a small town in middle Georgia. Drive downtown on any given afternoon in my small town of Perry and you’ll see a bustling small business mecca. From boutiques to restaurants to local services, you will see local owners who know the names of almost every customer or client walking by.

Every Saturday, people take their reusable bags and mill around town sipping on coffee and shopping local merchants and our Perry Farmers’ Market vendors. Business transactions end with a handshake or a hug, and everyone you see asks about “your mom and them” – just like in a southern movie written by not-southern screenwriters. When someone is in need or there is an issue of concern, our small-town community leaps into action. I have witnessed firsthand how people come from every direction to help others and growing up in a community with that as a steadfast priority has helped shape my character.

As a graduating high school senior, I am ready to see the world and be in a larger place, but I know that my heart will always seek out those people like the ones that helped me grow up in Perry. Love & Sugar has given me the opportunity to learn many financial lessons that most teenagers haven’t had to think about! I have to figure profit, loss, and budget for upcoming promotions to ensure I have enough money to buy supplies. I have to figure in the cost of operating expenses like my city business license, state business license, liability insurance, and more. It was hard to start and work that hard while only breaking even for a period of time! However, it soon paid off as I learned to be more efficient, search for cost-effective products, and increase my sales.

Over the four years I have worked to build my small business, I have certainly learned many lessons! The success I have experienced with my brand is because of three critical things: quality, consistency, and community. My products are all made with the highest quality ingredients, and I use as many locally sourced, organic ingredients as I possibly can. You wouldn’t believe how much of a difference it makes to the local economy when you keep dollars in your community! Consistency is also something I’ve worked diligently to ensure, both in my baked goods and also in my communication with customers. My prices have remained the same, although costs of ingredients have consistently increased over the last four years. Butter alone has increased over $1.25 a pound! That may not make much of a ripple in one person’s grocery bill, but when you buy butter 100 pounds at a time, it makes a huge difference! I use my Facebook business page as my main hub for communication with my customers, and I prioritize timely communication and clear ordering information. Finally, and most importantly, my community has been the driving force behind my success. From friends sharing or commenting on social media posts to community members who faithfully shop our local farmers market, our community has made this brand work.

Looking forward to my future, I will use all of the tenacity, determination, and problem solving it took to build that business and apply that to my college education as a biochemical engineer. Understanding the value of money and how much work it takes to earn it has made me take a critical look at aspects of college that I probably would not have otherwise. The financial realities of a college education are significant, especially when looking at both an undergraduate degree and medical school. Balancing the cost of each institution with the opportunities they offer has been my focus. Paying special attention to the employment rates of students once they complete degree programs at each school has been important to me. It is incredibly important that I do everything in my power to finish my undergraduate degree debt free, or with as little debt as possible. If my plans come to fruition and I continue to medical school as planned, I would like to start that work without the weight of student loans.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Our town and surrounding communities have so much to offer for fun! Driving around Perry and taking the self-guided historic tour is a great way to “start from the beginning.”

The community has embraced the history of so many landmarks, from homes to buildings, and has done such incredible work keeping Perry beautiful and inviting. Our City Government has been an integral part of creating many ways for community members to find a “sense of place” in our town. From Food Truck Fridays that fill our downtown area with incredible choices and an exciting vibe to Saturday morning Yoga in the Park to the New Year’s Eve Buzzard Drop (yes, you read that right… a buzzard…), our city event planners always have something going on to engage people of all ages and backgrounds. Aside from scheduled events, our downtown area is a bustling area full of shops, food, and churches. A perfect day would start with a coffee and breakfast from Bodega Brew, a locally owned coffee shop specializing in locally sourced options.

Then, we would take a stroll down historic Carroll Street for shopping! I’m certain that my best friend and I would be able to find the perfect outfit for each day of her visit from boutiques like Kollier & Co. and Ashley Marie’s. Home décor choices are abundant at Cossart Designs, and Mr. Cory always has just the right gift for anyone at Jones & Company. Initial Reaction has so many options for monogrammed items, and ViviAn’s antiques is full of exquisite treasures! Mossy Creek Naturals has soaps and candles that will make you dream of relaxation, and Gottwalls Books has the perfect read for your spa day. Lunch would have to be at The Perfect Pear, a downtown bistro with creative flair. An afternoon snack at Hazard’s on the Deck would definitely be a refreshing respite from our shopping marathon. The outdoor seating and friendly conversation with passersby make it a prime spot for hanging out and relaxing! And, nothing beats a traditional southern fare dinner at The Swanson, a restaurant in a historic home with a sweeping, wrap around porch that begs for sweet tea and conversation.

Taking a short drive up the highway to Lane’s Packing would be a fun adventure in the summer, watching the peaches get picked, packed, and purchased by people from all over who come to visit. A little farther up the road in Macon, there are endless possibilities from visiting the Museum of Arts and Sciences to the Allman Brothers Museum. Macon has such a rich musical heritage to explore! Even with a jam-packed week, I know that my friend would leave already making plans to return for more. There’s no way to take it all in, and anyone who visits feels at home. Come see for yourself! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to thank my parents for their steadfast support of all of my crazy ideas and dreams! I would also like to thank the vendors of the Perry Farmers Market who have been cheerleaders from my first market until now. From farmers to bakers to growers, this community is tight knit and part of the heartbeat of our community!

Instagram: @loveand.sugar
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/perrycookiegirl

Image Credits
Alicia McDonald Photography, USA Southern Moments, LLC

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutAtlana is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.