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  • Tara Crutchfield

Mike & Mike’s Desserts

As a child, Mike & Mike’s Desserts Co-owner and CGO Mike Mitchell spent his time measuring and mixing with his mother in the kitchen – making her signature red velvet cupcakes. “He saw the love that his mom was passing along in every bite,” according to his story online.


From helping his mother early on, “I understood this from a deep level,” Mitchell said. He launched Mike & Mike’s Desserts in Miami while attending school for his Bachelor of Arts degree. He initially used his mom’s recipes but transitioned to dairy-, nut-, and egg-free cupcakes. He looked at the market and saw a need for ‘free-from’ desserts that tasted just as good – if not better – than traditional baked goods. “I flipped her recipes to make it inclusive for everybody to taste,” he said. These school-friendly cupcakes are the perfect choice for those with food allergies or dietary restrictions. They’re made with intentional ingredients like oats and plant-based derivatives. Mike & Mike’s initially started with 12 flavors but dialed it into the classics, their current flavors – Strawberry 2-Step, Vanilla Beanie, and Chocolate Delight. In the future, they plan to add limited-release and seasonal flavors. 


Mike Mitchell and Nate Kendrick

The branding stems from Mike’s alter ego, “Mike-Moji.” “As a Black founder, I find profound liberation and self-expression through my art,” he noted. “His life began with my pencil sketch, and my alter ego came to life. Through him I can explore emotions and narratives that deeply resonate with me.”


Baking out of a smaller kitchen, the launch was so successful that Mike & Mike’s Desserts made it into South Florida’s Milam’s Market. Demand grew, and Mitchell moved the operation to a commissary kitchen. Mitchell couldn’t keep up with the demand and took a year to put suitable infrastructure in place. That’s when he reached out to his childhood pal, Nate Kendrick. Kendrick, now the co-owner and CEO of Mike & Mike’s Desserts, went to Lakeland High School with Mitchell. The pair met in the lunchroom and became fast friends. 


Kendrick has been a serial entrepreneur since he was a kid selling cookies. He went on to attend school at the University of Central Florida and started several businesses, including a social media marketing company, and launched a product on Amazon before joining forces with Mitchell. 


“When Mike called me about a product, I thought I could take the skillset of social media and selling something from a product component and combine both of those resources,” said Kendrick. “The pitch Mike made to me was if we can make it taste just as good if not better than the artificial cupcakes, there’s something we have here.”


Baking thousands of cupcakes in a commissary kitchen became cost-prohibitive for the start-up. That’s when Mitchell stumbled upon the concept of co-manufacturing, in which a business signs over their recipe through a non-disclosure agreement to a small- or large-scale manufacturer whose purpose is to manufacture that recipe to scale. According to Kendrick, it took almost a year and some change to work out the kinks. “It’s hard to scale cupcakes. Almost impossible,” he said. 



Mitchell and Kendrick started working to secure a co-manufacturer daily at Catapult, Lakeland’s business development co-working space. A Catapult associate knew of a potential co-manufacturer, which became their first, helping them launch into Chamberlin’s Natural Foods. From there, Mike & Mike’s Desserts got into Publix GreenWise. 


In 2021, the friends pitched their sweet treats to Publix (where they had both worked at one time) and got into all their grocery stores. “It was a massive accomplishment,” said Kendrick. Mitchell added, “It was a full circle moment.” 


“No one in the market currently is making a product like that at scale with super high-quality ingredients, very intentional from top to bottom,” said Kendrick. “Traditionally, vegan or free-from doesn’t taste good. People feel like they’re compromising.” They’ve crafted a product everyone craves, not just ‘free-from’ consumers. 


Mike & Mike’s is currently the only company in the market using their own cupcake blend. “We were really intentional with making a blend that was unique to where it almost tastes like it was baked at home even though it’s at scale,” Kendrick said. “There’s nothing crazy in this. They’re just normal ingredients that are better for you.” 


Looking towards the future of their very tasty venture, Mitchell hopes to “push the boundaries of what people think of vegan or ‘free-from,’ what they can taste like, and make people feel like they’re not sacrificing for something that’s an alternative. Trying to push that to the limit.”


Kendrick called it an education process – changing the perspective on free-from foods.  

The pair hopes to disrupt the baking industry and inspire other minorities to follow their dreams. Find Mike & Mike’s Desserts in the Bakery freezer at all Publix locations. 

 

Photography by Amy Sexson

 

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