Yvonne’s Southern Sweets has been a staple of the Bayview neighborhood since its inception in Yvonne Hines’ home kitchen in 2002. In the 14 years since, Hines has opened a storefront, created wholesale connections with numerous other local venders, and catered hundreds of events across the City, including a project with Super Bowl 50. As part of First Republic Bank’s Minority-Owned Small Business Spotlight, we sat down with Hines to learn more about her experiences as a small business owner in San Francisco.
How did Yvonne’s Southern Sweets get its start?
I started my business out of my home in 2002 and was just making pralines, because I needed extra money to pay for childcare expenses for my newborn daughter. I did a lot of street festivals, and at festivals people would ask if I had a store; I said no, but they could call me and I could ship it. Years went on, and when they put the Muni T line here in the Bayview where I live, I needed to find a spot where I could open up a shop. So I noticed this storefront, approached the owners of the property, and opened up in 2006.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in opening up your store?
Capital is the biggest. I had saved up money to purchase a home, but it was during a time where home prices were astronomical. I had to decide, do I want to purchase a home or do I want to start a business? The money wasn’t enough for a down payment on a home, so I ended up investing into my business. On top of that, I was a single parent raising my daughter while trying to run a small business, paying two rents.
I also have to do other events to bring people to my shop. If I was just here doing this in my store, I wouldn’t survive. So I go out to festivals all over the Bay Area, pair up with other businesses, and get my stuff out there to drive people here and to make something out of it.
What resources helped you succeed as a small business owner?
Once I opened up, I ran into a staff member from the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center from their Bayview office. She noticed I had a brochure but without any pictures, and that I had a business card but it was just black and white, and that I didn’t even have a website. So I worked with a consultant and received two grants from Renaissance that allowed me to work with a professional photographer, get my website developed, and have those photos uploaded to my website. It also paid for the printing of business cards as well as brochures.
I am also grateful to the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development. When I opened up my business, I didn’t have the money to outfit this place. Through the OEWD’s SF Shines program, I received one grant where they revamped my logo and my signage and redid my walkway where the tile had chipped. I also received a tenant improvement grant from the city where they came into the shop, and I could get new equipment; the display case is brand new, the lighting fixtures were swapped out, and they added new bookcases.
You have to take advantage of the resources, and you have to be ready for it. Some people don’t want to divulge their information or feel like people are prying. And then people come here and think I have a million dollars, but as I just told you, it’s all about finding the resources and taking advantage of them.
How have you worked with the Bayview community to grow your business?
Different community organizations have supported my business. For example, I have been doing catered desserts for events and meetings for organizations such as the San Francisco Housing Development Center (SFHDC). I am an ongoing vendor for the Bayview Opera House for their monthly events and other special projects. There’s a consulting firm called Andrea Baker Consulting where I’ve been brought in for several catering projects. I also have wholesale accounts along the 3rd Street corridor; my products are available at four businesses on 3rd Street where patrons can buy my goods anytime, even when my store is closed. In this way, we all try to help each other.
The community supports me; it may not be someone walking in the store right now, but they’re buying goods somewhere else. Along 3rd Street, we don’t have people bustling around all of the time. We often get slighted because people tend not to come out this way. It’s important for us as business owners on this corridor to stand up and make sure we’re seen and are maximizing every opportunity.
What are some of the best experiences you’ve had owning your business?
There have been so many recognitions throughout the years that have been special. Landing the Super Bowl, that was big. I made 800 snack boxes, and I couldn’t tell anyone. It was top secret; I couldn’t post anything on social media.
It was also great because my family was here; we didn’t go to a secret location and knock it out. We packaged everything here, and we utilized the commercial kitchen that I used to bake out of, so it was a collective effort. I had people from the community coming in and telling me how they saw me on TV, I had a lot of interviews, I had national news coverage, and people kept coming in telling me how they saw me.
About the Minority-Owned Small Business Partner Spotlight … Powered by First Republic Bank
The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and First Republic Bank have partnered up to highlight the extraordinary work of minority-owned small businesses in San Francisco. Each quarter, the partnership will spotlight a business and showcase the unique product or service that business is providing to strengthen the fabric of the San Francisco community. The spotlight recipient, nominated by a nonprofit partner, will also be provided with an Influencer Level ($5,000 value) membership for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, powered by First Republic Bank. Over the years, First Republic’s focus on exceptional, relationship-based service and its client-centered culture has led to long-term relationships with its clients. First Republic is proud to support nonprofit organizations within its communities, particularly those focused on affordable housing, the arts, economic development, and financial education for underserved populations.