Recipe For Success

Cheesecake maven gives destitute women a second chance.

By all accounts, Twainland Cheesecake Co. is no ordinary eatery. Consider the owner,?2-year-old Lynn Carr, who went from homelessness to entrepreneurial success. Even her employees break the mold--most are high school dropouts and welfare moms. But perhaps what sets her business apart most is an enduring commitment to the impoverished women of her Hannibal, Missouri, community.

"Cheesecake is just a product; what we're really in is the people-growing business," says Carr, who employs 10 women and has helped three others learn and move on to other jobs.

They bake--sometimes as many as 200 cheesecakes per week, in any one of the 116 varieties Carr has perfected. And it's obvious there's more to Twainland than just desserts; think more along the lines of persistent encouragement. In the back kitchen, TV monitors blare inspirational messages from such motivational speakers as Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar. And as part of an employment agreement, two of her workers dedicate part of each day to studying for their GEDs--and get paid for it, too.

Carr's goal is a targeted one: to help as many women as possible leave welfare behind. "The welfare system is just like a child and [his or her] security blanket," she says. "You take that blanket away, and there's going to be a lot of anxiety." Although it's no piece of cake, Carr teaches her employees to cope with their fears and learn financial independence--all the while building a successful business.

Next on Carr's agenda? Several things: to be the number-one cheesecake company in the nation, employ at least 50 destitute women, offer on-site day care, and establish a learning center. Looks like she could just take the cake.

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Recipe For Success.

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