Jobs They Love: Pie Entrepreneur
Lucky are they who look forward to Mondays with joy in their hearts! Meet the folks whose talents and passions are happily matched to the jobs they have.
JOYE B. MOORE
With a joyful enthusiasm that she can barely contain, the elegant lady in the video sings out an invitation to anybody within earshot, “…Joyebells smooth, creamy, Southern, backwoods country DELICIOUSNESS…!”
And you think, whatever it is she’s selling, I’m BUYING!
You quickly find out that the woman is Joye B. Moore in a video promo touting her locally famous Joyebells Sweet Potato Pies that had just become available for purchase at selected Sam’s Clubs (they have since become available nationwide). The footage pans over luscious looking golden pies at her Richmond, Virginia, bakery kitchens. The video cuts to a little boy gobbling up a sample slice, scenes from an NBC “Today Show” segment about her pie business, and an animated Joye throwing us her trademark kiss – “Muah!”
Moore’s pie bakery business is just the latest endeavor in a life dedicated to helping others and creating joyful connections with everyone along the way. A naturally talented singer-songwriter, she wowed judges twice for wins on “Showtime at the Apollo,” the syndicated TV talent show recorded at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater. She’s performed on Black Entertainment Television (BET), TVOne, and The Word Network, and recorded three inspirational albums. Her first song, “Project Butterfly,” written and performed in 1997, was inspired by a dream.
Life wasn’t always dreamy for Moore. She survived a harrowing childhood in Dallas, Texas, at the hands of a schizophrenic mother by running away from home at age 14 and living on the streets. She credits a compassionate woman who worked at a local YMCA after-school program for helping keep her alive and in school. Moore graduated high school with a 3.79 grade point average.
It’s no surprise that as an adult, Joye Moore worked for five years for a nonprofit organization that provided equal access to quality after-school learning opportunities for teens in Richmond, helping others in the same way she was helped. When she was laid off from her job in 2019, Moore decided it was time to start baking pies.
Moore was already known far and wide for the delicious sweet potato pies that friends and family begged her to make at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The tried-and-true recipe she used came from her great-great-great grandmother. So, turning pie-making into a business seemed like a good bet.
With the help of her husband and other family members, Joyebells output expanded from a few hundred pies sold each month to local markets and restaurants a little over two years ago, to 1,800 pies by the end of 2021 -- “Yes, It’s THAT good!” as the company slogan goes.
Joye’s fame spread quickly. Richmond magazine named her one of “Five Fav Female Entrepreneurs.” Her pies made Virginia Living magazine’s best “Made in Virginia” picks, and the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo’s “best new food product” nomination. Then came her pie baking demo on NBC’s “Today Show” in 2020.
As of this month, Joyebells popular sweet potato and peach pies are available nationwide at all 600 Sam’s Clubs. And a new array of fresh homemade side dishes and desserts is being taste-tested, for release later this year, and in 2023. Whatever the final selection of family favorite recipes is, you can bet that every item will be made with love.
In terms of a small business startup, Joyebells has taken off like wildfire. Were you prepared for the sudden success? Do you get to take a day off?
Well, I am learning, I am working, I am actively working on trying to figure out, you know, some normalcy where I'm not working every day from the time I get up till I go to sleep, which is usually midnight, one o'clock. Then I'm right back up and at it again. But at the same time, it's what I asked for, it's what I pray for, to be successful. I have learned the saying first-hand that once you think you've reached where you're going, and you think you’ve got to the top of the mountain, it's just the beginning of the next one!
And yes, it's been an amazing two years and nine months since we began. I can't believe how fast we've moved. I had a four-year plan in place before we would see a net, you know, see the light of day. So, uh, God's plan was two, two and a half years, so far – way faster than mine! So, I'm deciding to ride on his plan (laughs)!
Did you consider trying to pitch your pie business idea on TV’s “Shark Tank”?
Well yes, I did. They had a big search going on and Joyebells was chosen. There’s this whole big onboarding process you have to go through -- it's a whole lot of work to qualify to be on the show. And so, we get to the end of step one, which that took us like two and a half months. And right about that same time, we were approached to get our product into Sam's Club, even though it would still take some time to get our products on the shelf.
We just decided that Shark Tank wasn't for us, that even though it's a great platform, you know, great for brand awareness, it just wasn’t right for us. It wasn't a risk we wanted to take, and we didn't want to give up a minimum of 25 percent equity of the business. Besides, we told ourselves, "Hey, we got into Sam's Club. If we can get into Sam's Club, we can get it into all the places," you know? So, we just keep moving forward in our own way.
The sweet potato pie recipe you use is your Great-great-great grandmother Sarah-Mae Howell’s. Is there a secret ingredient or cooking method that you can reveal that makes your pies taste so good?
Oh no, I cannot. No, I cannot. (laughs).
But I will say this. All the very best cooks, bakers, chefs, and food entrepreneurs say they do it with love, and I believe them. And that’s one of the main reasons that we're doing so well. I mean, we just love what we're doing. The love is in the pie, the love is in the making of it.
Even during the research and development phase with our co-packer and manufacturer, it took us months to get everything just right. We kept pushing them. We said everything had to be done with love. We are making and selling food that you serve your family, you know? Not only the families of customers who are trusting us, but we have the responsibility to all my mothers before me, not to be going around being willy-nilly with something that was so valuable to them and that they passed on down to us.
You know, we were at the Fancy Food Show, our very first official trade show, this past January, and when one of the buyers tasted a sample of our sweet potato pie, they just started crying right there at the table and saying that it tasted so good -- just like the pies made by their grandmother who had recently passed away. To me that was like everything – that is our goal. We want you to feel at home. Joyebells is home.
Your company is truly a “family-run” enterprise. How do you manage to keep business life and family life separate, or is it all one big family adventure?
It IS one big family adventure! My husband Eric, my sister Cassandra, and children Adonis, Tylor and Lynden, run the business along with me, that’s our team. And they all volunteered to do it for free to get the company up and running and successful. We are truly blessed in that respect. I mean, everyone has the same goal and the same passion to change the trajectory of our family's history. We work together as business employees and we’ve learned the art of the roles, and who takes care of what -- we're getting pretty good at that, but it's always a family adventure, right? We're still at the job as mommy, auntie, you know, people looking at us hollering, "Auntie!"
So, it’s both a business AND a family adventure, 24/7!
Joyebells Sweet Potato Pies and Peach Pies are now available nationwide at Sam’s Clubs. What other products do you have in development that we can look forward to?
There are two sides of the house in Joyebells. So there's Joyebells Desserts and there's Joyebells Countrysides. On the desserts side, in addition to our sweet potato pie and peach pie, we are currently testing some incredibly delicious Southern family favorite dessert recipes that we’ll launch next year.
And then on the Countrysides side of the house, just in time for Thanksgiving this year, we’ll have collard greens, sweet potato casserole, and cornbread dressing, which is like regular stuffing, but it's made with cornbread, so it's got that soul Southern backwoods country goodness we smack up on it!
You grew up in an unstable household due to your mother’s untreated mental illness. What advice would you give to a young person living in the same situation today?
Wow. Yes. I would say, first and foremost, reach out to someone you can trust. It doesn't have to be a family member. It could be someone at school, someone in your after-school activities. Just don't sit in the dark with it.
You're strong, yes, you can figure it out. I figured it out, but in reflection, I didn't have to do all of that by myself, you know? Go online and Google organizations in your area that are set up to help you. On our website, we have a whole section with resources and tools, if you just want to look and see where you can start. But my main belief is that you are worth being saved from the situation that's going on, whatever it is. It’s OK to reach out and ask for help.
What’s one hope or dream you have for you and your family?
Generational wealth. Generational legacy. That's my wish -- that we are a strong family, a loving family, a tight-knit family that has, at this point in the journey, built enough to leave the next generation to build on and for that to keep. I want to be a photo on a wall in my family's house somewhere when they're saying, "That's your great, great, great, great grandmama Joye who started Joyebells, and that is why we are all here and doing OK!”
Sam's Club Announcement Video:
Photo: Kate Gibson; Joyebells
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