Hustle Mindset

Jatee Kearsley Made ‘Elevated Foods’ Accessible To Her Community By Opening A Pastry Shop That Also Allows Customers To Pay With EBT Cards

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Jatee Kearsley refers to herself as a “generational starter.”

The Queens, NY, raised pastry chef is the owner of Je T’aime Patisserie, a business located in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The naming of the restaurant was intentional as her love for cooking was born in her teenage years while hosting weekly bake sales in front of a building she used to reside in.

“You’re a kid and you want money. So what do you do when you want money? You do what you’re good at. And I was always good at baking cakes and cupcakes for my family,” she tells AFROTECH™ during the Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit. “I would invite my friends over and they’ll come and eat cupcakes. I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m going to make money.’ So I took a table outside and just started selling these cupcakes that I was making. Then it just elevated into a passion.”

Kearsley would continue to opt for self-teaching even as she pursued culinary education, honing her skills in baking intricate pastries such as macarons and croissants. She shared that the feat, which took at least two years to master, was inspired by a visit to Paris, France.

“Once I discovered macarons and learned how to make them after failing a lot of times, then I wanted to move on to the next thing that was going to make it difficult until I solved it,” Kearsley explained. “So the French technique, the French pastries, they’re very technical, but beautiful. So I just fell in love with them.”

Through Je T’aime Patisserie, she is breaking down barriers by standing behind the first Black woman-owned patisserie shop. What’s more, it is driven by her heartfelt mission to introduce “elevated foods” to a community that is not typically given access.

“These are foods that we’re not able to access in our neighborhoods that we immediately have to go to other neighborhoods that are more influenced by other cultures to receive a fresh croissant or any fresh fruit at least,” she said. “It wasn’t until I went to college that I actually had a versatile palette. So I was like, ‘I want to go home on my spring breaks and still experience this,’ but I couldn’t because I’m living in the ‘hood,’ and none of these foods are available there. I never left [the hood]. I just wanted to bring the things that I like to the people that I love, and that’s basically what I did.”

Kearsley’s storefront opened its doors in 2022, according to Madame Noire. Within the first four months, there were hardly any customers. However, the business would see an uptick when Kearsley made her presence known as the owner of the shop.

“It wasn’t until I said, ‘Hey guys, I’m the owner. A Black woman is the owner,’ that people actually started to come in,” she said. “But then after that, the community, once I let my own guard down and actually introduced myself to people, they were receptive of me. They supported me.”

The endearment toward Je T’aime Patisserie can also be credited to its mission, which is to ensure customers can afford its food offerings. Customers can opt to pay with Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT).

“We have a lot of moms who come in and they’re so excited that they can get things at their budget on their dime — the thing that they can afford,” Kearsley expressed. “They could use the food stamps. They could use whatever form of payment that they have to get their kid a snack or get themselves something. So it’s really, really beautiful.”

Je T’aime Patisserie gained even more visibility after it went viral in April 2024. Now, Kearsley says the shop is selling out in a matter of hours and locals are also lending their time to help her run the shop to keep up with the demand.

“This is our new normal. Going viral has created an influx of people that we’ve never experienced before…So now we’re learning how to make bigger batches of things, because before we went viral, we were selling like six chocolate croissants a day, and now we sell almost 40 a day,” Kearsley told AFROTECH™. “It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s also a beautiful process to just push myself more and see the beauty — that people actually want to try my pastries.”

Kearsley’s diligence in entrepreneurship has not only garnered her recognition within her community and on social media but has also brought new opportunities.

On May 11, 2024, Je T’aime Patisserie was one of the Black-owned businesses present at the Pepsi Dig In Village during Mary J. Blige and Pepsi’s Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit. She was alongside fellow woman-owned restaurants such as Slutty Vegan, Melba’s, 2 Girls & A Cookshop, and Aunts Et Uncles. According to a press releasethe Pepsi x Mary J. Blige Strength of a Woman Community Fund was announced ahead of the event. The fund offers $100,000 in grants to local organizations whose work elevates and educates underserved women in Mary J. Blige’s hometown, the city of Yonkers, NY.

Courtesy of Fuse Marketing

“Listen, when they asked me to be a part of this event, I was shocked. I’m like, ‘First of all, how do y’all even know me?’ I wasn’t viral when they asked me,” she expressed. “This was in March. I just went viral three weeks ago… And I’m like, these people know me. That’s crazy. So, it was an overwhelming, beautiful feeling.”

Kearsley’s journey holds even greater significance when considering the obstacles she had to overcome as an entrepreneur. At one point, she told us the business was not be able to sustain itself over an eight-month period. She was also wearing various hats — she worked as the pastry chef, manager, dishwater, and more.

“That was a really low moment for me…During the pandemic I did apply for a loan and I was approved for the loan. And that’s kind of what started the funding,” Kearsley detailed. “But that was just to get the store up. Get it running, buying equipment and stuff. So maintaining the funds is where it’s really difficult, especially as a first-time entrepreneur with nobody in my family or friends having this background. I just had to learn.”

Despite this uneasy period in one chapter of Kearsley’s story, it is a reminder to chase purpose and never lose sight of the bigger picture.

“I just want to encourage anybody who’s having any doubts about starting anything new,” she explained. “Not even just the business, just maybe you as a woman, you’re restarting your life over from past mistakes. Just continue to go. Don’t give up. Stay in line with the path that God has for you, and it’s going to work out even when you don’t think it will. It will when you least expect it.”





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