MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Life is sweet for Sherronda Daye.
When her life fell apart 10 years ago, a South Florida mother of two let go and let God to show her the way. Now, she's enjoying success and sharing her story to inspire others.
"Ooh, I'm good. I am living my best life," Daye said.
She recently received the Citi Promise Award, putting her one step closer to opening up her own bake shop.
It's an amazing turnaround for Daye. A decade ago, she was a 30-year-old single mother of a 9-year-old and a newborn who had just lost her high-salary job with Miami-Dade County. She had no back up plan.
"So immediately as a mother first: 'What am I going to do about my kids?'" Daye asked herself.
But Daye didn't panic. She prayed.
And what did God say?
"Go in the house and bake."
And so she did. Although she never really baked before, she baked and baked: dozens of cookies and cupcakes and cobblers. Relying only on memories of her Southern family recipes and the comforting hymns she heard her mother sing in the kitchen.
She baked so much the day that she went back to her old job at the County Commission and she gave it all away. Her former co-workers were so floored with how delicious everything tasted. One of them gave her a tip that would forever change her life.
"You found what you were supposed to be doing. You found a way to take a bitter situation and make it sweet," the man told Daye.
On that day, Sweet Jalane's was born. Her friends started placing orders for Christmas. As word of mouth spread, business boomed. Daye soon outgrew her kitchen at home and started baking at her church.
"The church kitchen was a gift from God because it helped me," Daye said.
She became so popular that she was soon selling desserts at Jazz in the Gardens, where they lined up just for a slice of her famous bread pudding.
"That blew my mind. I was good, but I had no idea I was that good. And I didn't know that people had heard about me," Daye said.
But they had. Even the head chef at the home of the Dolphins had gotten a whiff.
"And overnight I had my picture on Page 20 of the Hard Rock Sweet Menu. Just me. Somebody who just started baking," she said.
And that's where Start Up FIU Food stepped in. An incubator program at Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, the program identifies exceptional local food entrepreneurs and gives them the tools and the commercial kitchen they need to take their businesses to the next level.
"So the goal is to grow as many of these businesses as possible. We want to help them thrive. We want to help them build wealth," said Emily Gresham, assistant vice president for economic development at FIU.
It's business boot camp, and Daye was a star soldier from day one.
"We did this. Just a little bit and in two years she's growing already. It's crazy," Gresham said.
Daye is raising also raising money on a GoFundMe page to open her shop and a hands on children's cooking school in Miami.
Sweet Jalane's so successful now that Daye is the first in her family to put a child through college. Her daughter, Daneesha, will soon be a junior at Florida A&M University.
"She's my role model. She's my hero. She's everything I want to be," her daughter said.
What a difference 10 years can make, especially when you let go and trust that life will show you the way.
"So had I never had that moment of losing that job, and never had that moment of desperation and loss, then I would never be the woman that I am now," Daye said.