Favor Desserts

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | January 16th, 2018
Keijuane Hester (Photo by Still Shots Photography)

Keijuane Hester (Photo by Still Shots Photography)

The website, Dictionary.com, defines the word ‘recipe’ as a set of instructions for making or preparing something. It also explains it as a method to attain a desired end. The selected ingredients, ideas, and concepts are key to creating either a recipe for disaster or a recipe for success. Keijuane Hester, owner and operator of two bakeries, has experience in both.

In the spring of 1996, Keijuane was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison for selling and distributing narcotics. While serving time, another inmate, who was a baker in the kitchen, befriended then persuaded him to learn how to bake. Keijuane wasn’t interested at all, but in his stubbornness, he couldn’t help but notice how popular his friend’s cakes were.

“The other inmates would line up around the corner just to get a slice of whatever he baked that day. And I realized there might be something to this,” Keijuane remembers. After he took notice, Keijuane asked his friend if he could get him a job in the bakery, and he did, right alongside him. The mentor hoped that Keijuane would have a trade upon his release so he wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of many others and run back to his criminal behavior. According to statistics, more than 50% of offenders return to prison within 5 years of their original release date. It seems that Keijuane’s mentor was trying to be preemptive and discourage that idea.

Though baking was the last thing he wanted to do, Keijuane learned how to make everything from cookies, cakes, and pies, to cheesecake and bread, all from scratch. Since selling products is what put him behind bars, it’s not surprising that Keijuane’s main goal was to earn a few dollars, pushing his goods to anyone who would buy them.

“Out of all the things I learned how to make, I only wrote the recipe down for one thing, and that was carrot cake. It was so good that I said I was going to make it for my family when I got home.” Keijuane spent almost four years away from his loved ones and the life he knew prior to his conviction. As soon as he returned home, a friend helped him land a job as a lab technician and he hit the ground running. He would occasionally pull the popular recipe out for company potlucks and special occasions, and noticed that every crumb would be gone within a few minutes of the first bite. His co-workers were amazed at his skills and began making requests. A relative took notice and urged him to consider it as a ‘side hustle.’

“Before, I was hustling cocaine in the street but had converted to selling cakes. I felt like it was corny. So I shrugged it off and didn’t consider it.”
Soon, Keijuane fell back into old habits and resumed his life of crime when he reunited with some old friends from prison. On June 5, 2001, the former drug dealer was spared during an operation that could’ve cost him more years behind bars. His best friend was busted by federal agents, during a drug deal, with Keijuane sitting in a car one block away awaiting his return. His friend was sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison – more than five times the amount Keijuane was sentenced just a few years prior. He knows that could’ve easily been him. It didn’t take long for the street hustler to hang up his illegal desires and commit to a more stable lifestyle. Unfortunately, a job lay-off followed, as did a rejection from a potential employer.

“After I didn’t get the job I was hoping for, something on the inside of me said step out and use your gift.”

That gift was baking. The self-taught business man found himself staring at the carrot cake recipe once again. With $30 in his pocket and a small kitchen to utilize, Keijuane started visiting every open-door establishment he could find. He was nervous and still unsure, but forged ahead. Barbershops, beauty salons, and nail salons were his first stops. With each slice he sold, he would reinvest the money to purchase new ingredients, pots, pans, and eventually a business license. His new product created a buzz around town and in 2012, he opened Favor Desserts in Durham, NC.

“I really believe that I had to go to prison to find the gift of baking and be that beacon of hope. I feel like I’m just an instrument God used to show other black males that they can turn their lives around and be something positive,” Keijuane explains.

This past spring, Favor Desserts 2 had its grand opening in Greensboro and Keijuane is currently perusing property in the Charlotte area to bring his mouth-watering sweets to the Queen City in the fall of 2018. His red velvet, five flavor pound, and carrot cakes are his specialties. Customers line up outside the door and around the corner for a taste. Although this seems very familiar, his clientele is much different and needless to say, so is he.

Currently, Keijuane not only has his hands in cake batter and icing, but he’s attending school at NC Central University, he volunteers his time and his previous misfortune to encourage those who are on the brink of giving up, and a host of other charitable efforts. While he was traveling this road to redemption God, his parents and a special best friend helped guide him and see him through. His four children are his ultimate motivation. He’s unsure of their interest in the family business just yet, but he plans on creating an empire for them just in case they are.

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