Young Entrepreneur Utilizes SBA Resources to Navigate Pandemic and Strategize for the Future

Jessica Atkinson

Jessica Atkinson’s small business journey began in 2011 when she was 14 years old. Joining her mother Sally Winfrey, and her original business partner, Judy, they decided to sell cupcakes at a local antique and craft fair. Bringing 300 cupcakes to the event, they were met with overwhelming demand and completely sold out during the first day. When they returned the following day and sold out of 300 cupcakes again, they all knew they had an opportunity on their hands. The partners opened their first location later that year in downtown Spokane. With a focus on quality ingredients, Sweet Frostings built upon its reputation for cupcakes to include cookies and cakes and offers customization and specialty orders. By 2017 Atkinson had already worked in the business in various roles, including baking, sales and marketing, and executive assistant. When the original business partner was ready to step away from the business, Atkinson and Winfrey knew they wanted to join forces.

In 2017, with funding from an SBA 7(a) small business loan, Atkinson and Winfrey were able to become full owners of the business and make important investments in its growth. They expanded the square footage of the kitchen and retail store, added new offerings to their product lines, including coffee and espresso drinks, and hired additional staff.

By making the necessary investments to expand their business, Sweet Frostings increased revenues by 40%. Business growth and consumer demand continued to grow year after year, and by 2020 Sweet Frostings supported a staff of 40 employees. When the COVID pandemic began, like so many small businesses, Sweet Frostings was faced with enormous challenges. Atkinson, now CEO, navigated these difficulties by utilizing funding from the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RFF) to retain her employees, cover the fluctuating costs of ingredients, and adapt to health and safety protocol. With eyes on the future, Atkinson also enrolled in SBA’s Emerging Leaders, an SBA program that provides free entrepreneurship and training for executives of small, poised-for-growth companies. “As a program, Emerging Leaders was such a great experience,” Atkinson said. “I gained knowledge in HR practices, money management, and connections to a larger network of other business owners while fine-tuning our plans for the coming years.”

In May 2022, Jessica Atkinson was awarded the SBA Seattle District Young Entrepreneur of the Year for demonstrating leadership, business acumen, and a commitment to investing in employee wellbeing and the local community.

"One thing I would like other small business owners to know is that SBA has so many resources that can help small business owners start and grow their business," Atkinson said. "Some of the resources I have access to now, I wish I had years ago."

This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the SBA of any opinions, products, or services of any private individual or entity.