When a fundraiser becomes a calling, and a calling becomes a business

Posted On May 28, 2023

April McClung was just looking for a way to raise enough money for her kids to travel overseas. What she ended up with was a business.

McClung, our guest in a recent episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” was perfectly content working in the corporate world, and expected to retire in that same role. But like several other reluctant entrepreneurs I’ve met, she felt a calling.

And that’s how Emily’s Heirloom Pound Cakes was born.

It started as an answer to a prayer about how to afford to give their sons the experience of school trips abroad. McClung and her husband dusted off his grandmother’s old pound cake recipe, a recipe he’d been making for years, and began selling the cakes to co-workers and, later, at farmer’s markets.

“It was never my intent to start a business,” she said. “I was already making a very good income. I was very good at what I did. So that was not my dream.”

But that dream became her reality anyway. McClung’s husband taught the rest of the family how to make the recipe, and McClung used her marketing skills to build sales. In nine months, they raised over $14,000 and paid for their sons’ trips.

But they weren’t done. Convinced the cakes had become a calling, McClung threw herself into the business full-time.

“This was a spiritual thing,” said McClung, whose business was featured recently in Business Alabama. “I was sitting at my desk, and I heard the spirit say to me: ‘The cake is good, but the anointing is in the story.’ It got to a point where I was so exhausted after one year of trying to be in corporate America and trying to do this thing … I threw my hands up and I said, ‘Lord, wherever you send me I’ll go.’”

They have now been in business for nearly nine years and are producing over 5,000 slices of pound cake a month. They ship all over the country. The cakes are available on Amazon, at Walmart.com, and, after a successful elevator pitch on MSNBC’s Your Business, at pop-up kiosks at Sam’s Club. It’s been sold on QVC, racking up over 1,000 orders in one day during the height of the pandemic. One of their sons now runs the kitchen.

“It’s so exciting to see your kid love what you love,” she said.

And whenever they sell a cake or give out a sample, McClung still tells the story of her husband’s grandmother and how Emily’s Heirloom Pound Cakes came to be. The story, she says, is part of the calling.

“I’ve seen grown men, 6-foot-2, stand there and boo-hoo cry. And then I start realizing, we’ve tapped into nostalgia,” she said. “I didn’t realize how emotional cake can be. And I don’t think it’s just cakes; I think it’s food in general. This cake reminds people of grandmothers and great-grandmothers, grandfathers — people who loved on them with something special like a cake.”


Categories: Blog, Entrepreneurship, Podcast, What's Working with Cam Marston