She's an entrepreneur, former massage therapist, mother and wife. But 48-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills resident Tina Damon says her biggest goal is still to make her mother proud.
Damon owns Something Sweet, a bakery operated out of Chandler with an Ahwatukee clientele. The Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce recently honored her bakery with its New Business of 2011 Award. Comparing taking home the award to "winning a beauty contest," Damon said it was a "shock" as she was loaded up with medals, certificates and plaques.
"Quite frankly I was very surprised. I was just so overwhelmed," said Damon, who has lived in Ahwatukee for the past seven years. She opened her bakery in July 2010, making her lifelong dream come true. Baking for her family of 11 since she was 8 years old, Damon always had a passion for dessert. Winning the chamber award is just what the bakery needs to get business going, Damon said.
"I'm hoping it will give me the credibility to say ‘I'm here! I'm just a hometown girl. I'm just trying to put out a good product," Damon said.
The bakery's goal is to get customers to steer clear of the mass-produced, economy cakes and to get that one fresh, consistent dessert, she said.
Damon has been married for 21 years and has two children. They have all been "a support system" from the start, she said. Once a stay-at-home mom doing freelance massage therapy, Damon finds herself in new territory by starting her own business.
"I bow down to working women. I always have. It's hard; it's a lot of work. I always thought it was hard enough as it was just being a mom," she said.
Damon is on the cusp of opening a retail location in Ahwatukee for her baked goods this summer. She plans to create a small, café-like place where desserts, as well as coffee and her own Belgium hot chocolate, will be served for dine-in and to-go orders. Desserts like muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, breakfast pastries and, eventually, savory puff pastries are all menu options, Damon said, adding that she will also use the location to sell her custom-made cakes.
"My biggest thing is I want to build strong community ties and just have that mom-and-pop shop, having the best quality. Just that place you want to go to get that dessert and where you can kind of stay if you want," Damon said of her hopes for her retail location.
Homemaker and substitute teacher Sue Mullarkey has lived in Ahwatukee for 14 years and is a friend turned customer of Damon. She has helped her with word of mouth promotion.
"I know that Tina worked toward her dream of owning a bakery for many years and I absolutely think she is deserving," Mullarkey said. "She persevered and she creates a terrific product."
Chris Hamel, event coordinator for the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce, helped organize the annual Chamber Day of Champions Breakfast where Damon was honored last month with the award by her peers.
"I think she deserved to win. It was based on nominations and then voted on by her community and personal merits. I can't wait for her to open a store," Hamel said.
Lindy Cash, co-owner of one of Ahwatukee Foothills' local Ace Hardware stores and an eight-year resident of Ahwatukee, said she is also a customer and staunch supporter of Damon's.
"Being a local small business owner myself, I am all about supporting local business, especially of the caliber Tina has created," Cash said. "Small businesses owned by people who also live here in the community are more likely to give back to the community and also get involved to help ensure this remains a fantastic place to live."
Damon says she hopes to effectively balance the business and production side of her bakery. Although it may be difficult, her mission to provide her business to the people of the community outweighs the risks, she said.
"Professionally, Tina does amazing, creative work with her bakery items," Cash added. "In both her personal and professional life, Tina is warm, caring, positive and professional. Tina is totally deserving of this award."
• Jessica Mayer is a student at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.