CHICAGO — Mouthwatering caramel, chocolate covered potato chips, mint meltaways and turtles, and then there’s the “to die for” cake specialties including lemon, rainbow and a Chicago favorite, “The Obama,” featuring moist and buttery layers of yellow and dark chocolate cake.
All of this is the brainchild and creativity of Chicago’s own entrepreneur, Stephanie Hart, one of the very few African American women producing chocolate in Chicago on a large scale.
She founded I Hart Corporation, which includes the Brown Sugar Bakery and Life is Sweet candy brands. The inspiration for her dreams came from her mom and grandmother who showed their love by baking delicious memories for her; she says her desserts “reflect my African American upbringing.”
Chicago was once the mecca of chocolate production but that changed with an exodus of chocolate factories. In an effort to expand her “sweet” business and make sure jobs stayed in her hometown, Stephanie purchased the Cupid Candies factory which was closing in 2019. It had been a big part of the South Side landscape since 1956. The name “Life is Sweet” describes Stephanie’s experience living on Chicago’s South Side.
Stephanie has big plans to update the factory and expand the business in her African American community, which will also mean her tasty treats will get national exposure. You can already find “Life is Sweet” candies in Macy’s and other retail stores and they are now available in airports across the country. Her delicious cakes are also shipped nationwide.
Stephanie reflects that “the business serves as an opportunity for a little girl to walk by and can see somebody who actually started with nothing, followed her dream, and created something.”
Her final words of advice: “If they don’t have a chair at the table for you, bring your own, squeeze in, figure it out!”
To order, go to brownsugarbakerychicago.com.