During the 2019 government shutdown, sisters Nikki Howard and Jaqi Wright were furloughed from their jobs without the ability to pay their bills or care for their families. But even though they felt the odds were against them, they took a leap of faith, started a business and named it The Furlough Cheesecake.
Faced with financial difficulties, they turned to family, friends and community members to support them. In fact, the idea of starting a business selling cheesecakes came from their mother, who was amazed at how delicious Nikki's sweet potato cheesecakes tasted. It took two days of planning to turn the business into a family affair.
With the launch of their first social media campaign, word spread and donations from family, friends and colleagues poured in. Within a few weeks, ABC 7 News, CNN, OWN television host Mahisha Dellinger and The Ellen Show picked up their story. It only took a few hours after their appearance with The Ellen Show to receive thousands of orders for The Furlough Cheesecake. The sisters and their immediate family members helped run the business and have been running it every day since.
Their family expanded to include GoDaddy, the company empowering everyday entrepreneurs by providing all the help and tools to succeed, online and in-person. The sisters were not web-savvy but were able to choose a domain name, publish their website, and make sales from their online store within two days of choosing the platform.
“It is very user-friendly. So, if you don’t know what you’re doing, like us…you can look like a pro and be a novice. And I love that,” said Wright.
“GoDaddy keeps pace with the business needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs, and it evolves with them…I’m just amazed every time I go look at the tools - how they evolve and they grow, and it’s exactly what you need,” said Howard.
As Historically Black College and University (HBCU) graduates, the sisters were always passionate about becoming entrepreneurs. Wright attended Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Howard attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. It was important for both sisters to attend universities that supported those who looked like them and were full of like-minded people. The teachers at their HBCUs prepared students for the real world and allowed them to explore entrepreneurship.
“The sense of self, determination and dedication that you learn going to an HBCU makes you want to represent your culture in a positive light,” said Howard.
The Furlough Cheesecake has been an advocate and supporter of HBCUs since its opening. In 2019, they teamed up with Southern University's Mardi Gras Ball to provide cheesecakes for the event. This year, they will be working with the University for its Founders’ Day. The company also supports people who attend HBCUs across the country. In 2021, their first summer scholarship awarded five students a total of $2,500. GoDaddy reflects the same beliefs by championing inclusive entrepreneurship and empowering small business owners everywhere - especially those in minority or underserved communities.
The sisters are determined to succeed and highlight their community positively. The Furlough Cheesecake works to uplift its community by partnering with several organizations, such as a women's and children's shelter and an elementary school, to ensure that families and children have coats, supplies and personal protective equipment for the winter and school year. One of their greatest goals is to "support those who sacrifice for others" through their One Million Slices campaign. Their lemonade cheesecake represents hope and shows how they made something sweet from sour circumstances. They plan to send a million slices to frontline workers across the country. To ensure that the sisters achieve their goals, you can donate to the campaign today.