Meet Carolyn Gainey Ballard, the entrepreneur behind A’Jar Sweet Cream Factory, a pudding dessert in a jar made with love and a nod to classic flavors. She’s one of the culinary vendors at the new American Dream mega mall, a venture that’s helping her prove her concept and grow her own version of the American dream. Here’s her story.
Warm childhood memories and smiles shared at family gatherings form the core of A’Jar Sweet Cream Factory, a family-run business. Carolyn keeps these joyful feelings in mind as she layers baked goods, fresh fruit and sweet cream to make her signature desserts.
One of her most popular flavors, a banana pudding her sister-friend Pat taught her to make, holds extra-special meaning. Not only did her kids love it growing up, a close friend of hers asked for it while she was fighting a terminal illness. When Carolyn, a life-long baker, brought dinner and banana pudding, her friend told her “it’s too good for the whole world not to taste.”
“It was very comforting to her,” says Carolyn, who was then chief of staff at a health and wellness company. “I think it brought back things she knew as a child growing up. She said ‘I love it’ and told me ‘you need to do something with this’.”
Encouraged by her friend, Carolyn started to bring desserts to coworkers and ask them for feedback on her flavors. She kept commuting into the city until she encountered a health scare of her own. Her recovery would prove to be a turning point.
“Going through the process of getting better and working on my health, I decided to let all that other stress go and to pursue what I love,” Carolyn says. “I said ‘let me just do this. Let me really work on it now’.” In 2018, she left her senior corporate position and funneled 30 years of experience into starting her own business.
Today, Carolyn runs A’Jar Sweet Cream Factory with family by her side, a strategic move to keep future generations involved and to build a legacy. Carolyn’s son Alexander Ballard covers the business side as CEO along with daughter in-law Jazlyn Ballard who heads operations. Her daughter Alexis Ballard handles social media and leads baking efforts in the kitchen.
Together, they test new recipes and prep for days selling at their cart in the American Dream. Filling enough jars for the mall – two or three times what they did in the past – pushed them to quickly figure out how to work efficiently within a faster turnaround time.
Banana pudding remains a best seller, along with strawberry shortcake and cookies and cream. “Just try it,” Carolyn says she tells her customers as they approach her cart. “One taste is all takes, and they are in love with it.”
A’Jar Sweet Cream Factory will be at American Dream at least until mid-March, and Carolyn hopes to extend. “It’s been thrilling,” she says noting that her Instagram numbers are up. “We have definitely made our mark here.”
She’s using learnings from this initial retail experience to improve and strategize on expansion. “This gives me the opportunity to really look at the industry and see where we want to position ourselves,” Carolyn says. She plans to move into a store of her own and eventually make her way onto the shelves of specialty retailers across the country – or beyond. “I don’t want to be a mom and pop thing,” she adds, “I want the world to know what A’Jar has to offer.”