Sonequa Murray’s baking is nothing short of a miracle.
Murray started her company, Simply Sonequa Pound Cakes, as a fundraiser after she was laid off from her job following caring for her father.
Responses to job applications were slow, and she said she was running out of options. That’s when she heard something speak to her.
“I just heard the Holy Spirit say, ’Use your hands,’” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, use my hands?’ I do not cook food, so for somebody who never tapped into [cooking] really, that was a big faith walk for me.”
Look for Simply Sonequa Pound Cakes at Woodlawn Street Market!
Murray continued baking after her fundraiser and began vending at Woodlawn Street Market in 2016. There, she sells baked goods such as German chocolate cookies, red velvet cakes and key lime pound cakes.
She said she applied for the market after hearing about it through her cousin, another small business owner. Through Woodlawn Street Market, she found and grew a dependable customer base.
“It’s not one time that I’ve gone out there, that I have not sold out of my product,” she said. “Sometimes, I’ll just end up shopping with everybody else once I’m sold out. I thank God for the Woodlawn market because that gave me my start.”
“I thank God for the Woodlawn market because that gave me my start.”
Co-founder and organizer Bekah Fox said the market started out with the goal of getting people out in the neighborhood again.
“When the street market first began six years ago, it was an answer to one of the needs voiced during a merchants’ meeting of businesses residing in Woodlawn—we need foot traffic,” she said. “For a myriad of reasons, there had not been many visitors in the business district, even from residents within this community. We knew if we could plan something like a market, that would draw any attention, we could get more people out again. It has continued to grow with new people visiting Woodlawn each market.”
Murray, a Woodlawn native, says the market focuses on positive things going on in the community. It reminds her of a time when residents felt safe walking around the community.
“Anything that’s going to bring life back to Woodlawn…I’m all for it,” she said.
Before Woodlawn Street Market, she said she only considered her baking a side hustle. The market helped her view Simply Sonequa Pound Cakes as a real business.
“It’s caused me to step out of my comfort zone,” she said.
She said the promotion and experience that the market provides helped her hone her craft.
“I was very intimidated because everybody had packaging,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know how to do this. Maybe I need to go to school, maybe I need to do this or that.’ But it’s opened up so many doors that I could never imagine.”
Woodlawn Street Market has been consistent about reaching out to vendors and promoting them on social media, according to Murray. During market days, she’s been able to forge relationships with other vendors.
“I’m close to several of the ladies who are bakers, have their own companies and are with Woodlawn Street Market,” she said. “We interact, we do things together, we collaborate.”
Fox said that’s just the kind of atmosphere the market hopes to create.
“As early as the third market, we were thinking of different ways we could make their experience at a market fun but also informational, collaborative and a virtual investment into their business,” she said of Woodlawn Street Market’s early days. “We see how the market is now a space they can shape their thinking and process of promotion, marketing and sales. It’s even greater for me when I see and hear of the growth of Woodlawn residents, like Sonequa, who has been able to use the WSM as an additional tool for her own success.”
Murray said she sees the market as an extension of the loving residents of Woodlawn and a testimony for what’s possible in the neighborhood.
“That’s what’s going to help build Woodlawn up: bringing the small businesses and having a place where they can show their products, sell them and be successful at it,” she said. “It will be a testimony for somebody else. There might be a kid out there that wants to open up a store but doesn’t think they can. That’s not necessarily true. If we work together, we can make something magical happen. Just gotta get enough people to believe.”
It all started in 2005 when three urban designers went looking for “unscripted fragments” of space in San Francisco that could be used in a fun and engaging way.
Tim Hightower says that applying for Birmingham’s Shared Spaces permit and building out an outdoor seating area has allowed The Lumbar to double capacity for less than $1,000.