A Gainesville entrepreneur turns her love of baking into a thriving business
A childhood passion for chocolate chip cookies led Tiara Johnson to become the owner of her own bakery in Gainesville.
Growing up, the cookie was her favorite treat sold at a chain bakery in a local mall enjoyed by her family. When it closed, she spent years in her kitchen trying to come up with a recipe ― and others ― of her own to remind her of those happy family times.
“My vision is to share the tastes of my childhood with everyone by specializing in the desserts I grew up loving,” she said.
Johnson has been baking for her family her entire life and started selling her confections to friends and customers in 2016 when she officially opened Honey, Rose & Company.
She comes from a family of bakers. Her maternal and paternal grandmothers were respected and wellknown bakers. Her paternal grandmother had considered opening a bakery of her own, but ultimately decided to only bake for for family, church, and those who might ask. Johnson said her grandmother didn’t want the responsibility of running a business especially after she retired. It would have taken her away from what she loved most ― her family.
“Her joy was family first and then baking. Although I carry the same values, I feel strongly that everything I am doing to establish this business is for my family. I feel like it’s my destiny to carry out what they were unable to do in their time.”
Today, her bakery produces cookies, cupcakes, and cheesecakes weekly in her residential kitchen. Home-style desserts and red velvet cakes are her specialties.
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, Iced Bourbon Snickerdoodle, Bourbon Chocolate Chunk cookies; Blue Velvet and Red Velvet cakes and cupcakes covered with cream cheese frosting and crushed pecans; cakes covered with frosting roses in a variety of colors are some of the favorites of her growing customer base.
They are all “made the Honey Way” and are exclusive home-style recipes Johnson says she makes with love and attention to detail.
A self-professed perfectionist, Johnson says her family tells her appearance doesn’t have to be perfect if her product tastes good. But that’s not good enough for the confectionary artist.
“If I don’t like how it looks, I will remake it until I am satisfied.”
Johnson’s baked goods are available on social media, made from scratch and baked to order using fresh fruit and other ingredients. Her bakery offers pick-up and delivery service.
She has the help of her two daughters, Aubri, 14, and Taliyah, 9, and the support of her entire family in her venture. “All of my family is local and they are my biggest supporters. Part of the reason I started baking in more of a public setting is because of their encouragement and support. They help as much as they can.”
The fact that her daughters are learning about running a bakery business is an added bonus to the mother-daughter bonding provided by the endeavor. “We spend a lot of time in the kitchen baking, experimenting, and taste-testing together.” Her bakery has given her the freedom to not only develop her own recipes, but to build a legacy and wealth for her children.
Johnson, who has a background in pharmaceutics, operates the bakery while holding down a full-time job as a clinical research coordinator at the University of Florida, working on liver research studies including liver cancer and Hepatitis C.
She is also a full-time student at Santa Fe College pursuing a degree in Business Administration with the goal to ultimately obtain a Master’s Degree in the same.
Due to her limited hours, the bakery is run on weeknights and on Saturdays until she can make the transition into a full-time operation.
These efforts add to the challenges that naturally come with running a business, not to mention the bakery is a self-funded venture.
“I know there are grants and programs out there for me. But my biggest focus now is making sure I have everything in place before I make that step.”
One of her biggest challenges in 2020 was COVID-19 which derailed her plans to rent space in a local commercial kitchen The commercial kitchen stopped renting space, so Tiara had to shift gears and modify her plan.
“But now that step in my plan has been put aside and I am more focused on going from home to storefront by doing everything I can to save, build my business credit, and hopefully find the funding I need.”
Johnson will continue to work from her home kitchen, making do with what she has until she is able to get her own storefront. 2020 showed her the value of not putting off until tomorrow what can be done today due to how quickly life-changing events can happen. “It has pushed me to pursue full-time entrepreneurship that much more in order for me to leave the corporate arena sooner.”
Managing a family, school, and two jobs requires diligence with goal setting – something Johnson says has allowed her to advance to places she never thought possible. “I don’t have the time to get lazy or fall behind because as a leader my failures or shortfalls just don’t affect just me.”
Johnson considers the personal growth and maturity she has gained from running her own business as her greatest accomplishment. Her advice to others who seek to become leaders in their community is to learn as much as possible about those you wish to lead.
“Don’t be power hungry. Lead with humility, compassion, and empathy.”