Lori Anna Hollingsworth always wanted to run her own bakery. Baking since she was 13, she learned to bake from scratch not from her mother but from a mentor named Jeannie. By the time she was 18, Lori Anna knew she wanted someday to open her bakery, and she already knew what she wanted to call it. Then, on April 1st, 2012, Lori Anna took a chance on her dream and opened the doors of her shop. Ever since, it’s been growing by leaps and bounds and Lori Anna and her shop are known all over town for their cakes, cupcakes, and the name: Sweetlife Bakery.
What is her secret? It’s love (of course), but it is also using real ingredients and no shortening. The bakery itself is clearly a labor of love. A grey space with nothing in it, it is a humming bakery, serving Mocha Moments coffee, with walls painted the owner’s favorite color: pink. As Lori Anna says, “this whole place has been a miracle. I got no bucket of money anywhere” and she credits her success to support of the community, which has embraced this nurse turned baker.
Another reason for the success has clearly been having a great location at 459 Randall Avenue, between Craig High School and one of the most famous local restaurants: “Italian House”. The location has been a familiar one to Lori Anna since she grew up in the neighborhood, and rode her bicycle to the nearby gas station and the Dairy Queen.
A nurse with a college degree, Lori Anna plunged herself head first into running a rapidly expanding business, forcing herself to learn a lot of lessons over the past year. Still, the main lesson was that “it’s easy to bake but it’s really hard to run a business” and she considers getting an accountant and QuickBooks software to be some of the best decisions she’s made.
Harboring ambitious expansion plans Lori Anna just hired her 6th employee explaining her aggressive hiring this way: “I am just going to keep hiring people until I have to work 75 or 80 hours a week instead of 100 or 120.” Bursting at the seams, Sweetlife is already outgrowing the original location, which can only sit 12 people inside, with the owner hoping for now to expand the outdoor sitting area.
One thing that Sweetlife customers may not know is that Lori Anna takes requests. Using these as an opportunity to try out a new product, Lori Anna constantly tries out new recipes to see what her other customer may like.
It’s hard to tell what the future will bring for this busy local bakery, but it appears that the savory items are next on the menu. Already making delicious pinwheels with fresh basil, tomato, caramelized onion and bacon, Lori Anna hopes to get into pasta soon. In the meantime, her custom cakes are gaining in popularity, as the shows such as “Cake Boss” introduced all of us to the possibilities of what can happen when an artist meets a baker. Lori Anna is excited about getting into the custom cake business, and has recently made a cake in the shape of a diaper bag, per customer request.
Her loyal customer base stretches as far as Madison, Rockton, Williams Bay and Rockford with many loyal customers who live in Janesville but go out of town for work or to visit friends. On their way out, they stop to pick up treats and the word about this delicious Janesville gem continues to spread.