Beloved Ohio bakery named recipient of national LGBTQ+ business preservation funds

The funding is a way to uplift small businesses that focus on LGBTQ+ people of color, women and the transgender community impacted by COVID.

Bake Me Happy  a women, minority and LGBTQ-owned bakery in Columbus — has been named a recipient of the “Queer to Stay: An LGBTQ+ Business Preservation Initiative” small business grant funding provided by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Showtime. 

The funding emerged as a way to support and uplift small businesses that focus on LGBTQ+ people of color, women and the transgender community that continue to be impacted by the financial setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Letha Pugh (left) and Wendy Pugh-Miller

Bake Me Happy is a wholesale and retail gluten free bakery owned and operated by Letha Pugh and her wife Wendy Miller Pugh. Open since 2013, the beloved destination for sweet-tooths now has two locations in Columbus and Dublin

But while the treats on display at Bake Me Happy are certainly show-stopping, the space is far more than just a bakery. Since their early days, the owners have emphasized the importance of ensuring their business is embedded in the community. 

“We do the best we can at trying to spread the resources we have,” said Pugh, reflecting on their various community initiatives from collecting winter coats to shoe drives. “We’ve really tried to be involved as much as we can.”

Bake Me Happy also has a signature cookie they sell every year in the month of June, with the proceeds going to local organizations like Motherful, Black, Out and Proud and the Kaleidoscope Youth Center in Columbus.

“A lot of times it’s a two-way street. Black-owned businesses and minority-owned businesses in general need the support of the community to survive just because they don’t have the resources or access to capital,” Pugh said. “On the flip side, you’ll tend to see those businesses be more entrenched in the community and giving back. It’s a positive relationship and Wendy and I are very appreciative of the support we receive from the City of Columbus.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Queer to Stay” initiative awarded funds to 10 LGBTQ+ businesses across the country. Since then, it’s been reported that LGBTQ+ businesses were less likely to receive COVID relief funds.

Bake Me Happy

At the same time, some LGBTQ+ small businesses have been the target of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and attacks. With many LGBTQ+ businesses continuing to struggle in the economic aftermath of the global pandemic, HRC and SHOWTIME scaled up the initiative to include 25 businesses this year – five more than in 2021 – with a funding pool of $250,000.

After they recently moved locations and faced expenses and delays due to construction, Pugh said they really could benefit from receiving the funds. So she filled out the application and sent in all the information. Shortly after, Bake Me Happy was named a grant recipient.

Although the funds haven’t hit their account quite yet, Pugh said they already have plans for the money once it does arrive. 

“Our use for the funds is going to be centered around a couple pieces of equipment,” Pugh said. “Commercial equipment is pretty expensive, so we’re trying to look at ways to make our processes more efficient.”

On the larger scale outside of leveling up production with the grant funding, the Letha and Wendy have goals of working to incorporate gluten-free options into restaurants in a way that supports the restaurants bottom line. Thy also operate a sister business, Preston’s: A Burger Joint, which has a strong gluten free component. 

“We want to expand on that and give folks an opportunity where everyone can go out and eat together and it’s safe and enjoyable and everybody’s needs are met,” Pugh said. “We can’t meet everyone’s needs, we’re not vegan, but in this little niche of the food industry we want to make an impact.”

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