Twelve-year-old Maya Ridgeway is running a brand-new baking business out of her home kitchen.
Writer: Karla Walsh
Each week in dsmWeekly, we’ll introduce you to a local food company owned by a person of color. Catch up on the previous editions: Street Eats DSM, G.G.’s Chicken & Waffles, Palm’s Caribbean Cuisine, Artis T’s Catering, Your Mom’s Bakery, Jazz It Up, Chellie’s Sugar Shack Bakery and Bess Kitchen.
When Nicole Ridgeway gave her daughter an American Girl cookbook for Christmas in 2018, she never could have guessed what might happen next. “I always enjoyed cooking with my Mom and Grandma on holidays,” says 12-year-old Maya Ridgeway. “So when I got that cookbook, I started baking from it and then turned to online recipes. Pinwheel icebox cookies or snickerdoodles were first up, then I kept experimenting.”
Things escalated this year when Maya was spending more time at home during the pandemic, and as a result, clocking more hours in the kitchen. As Maya’s passion grew for all things dough and batter, so did the community that showed up to support her. “My Mom has a friend, [Kiana Hines], who owns Kiana’s Cookie Creations [a local custom sugar cookie company], and she taught me everything I know about decorating cookies,” Maya says.
Hines came to the Ridgeway kitchen to share her tips and tricks, and believed so much in Maya’s blooming bakery skills that she took to Facebook to crowdfund a new KitchenAid mixer to outfit the kitchen of Maya’s official brand: Curly Girl Cakes and Cookies, which officially launched in June. “My Mom started posting what I was baking on Facebook, and many people started asking, ‘Can I order some?’ ” Maya says.
She and Nicole launched a Facebook and Instagram (@curly_girl_cakes_and_cookies) page to make her precocious business dreams a reality. Then they teamed up to create a menu, featuring Maya’s grandma’s beloved sugar cookies and buttermilk brownies, plus other cookies, cakes, barks and more. (Her sports and university logos and Black Lives Matter custom sugar cookies have been top-selling designs so far.)
Nicole helps out when orders come in fast and furious, but Maya is the real creative brains, main baker and decorator, Nicole adds. As for the future for this Curly Girl, “I want to get enough orders to be able to get some new appliances for our kitchen,” Maya says. “I never really thought that I would work in food, but now that I’m getting started, I’m enjoying it and would definitely consider it!”