AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF)- A new business is opening at the Augusta Mall thanks to a program aimed at minority business owners.

Partner to Empower creates opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch their businesses in malls across the country by paying build out costs for their space.

“I was so excited. I was so surprised, because actually this was the first thing I actually won trying to apply for, like, grants and stuff to start my business,” said Alice Garner, Owner of Garner’s Sweet Dreams.

Garner is realizing a dream. Monday she will open her bakery, Garner’s Sweet Dreams, in the Augusta Mall. But, this wasn’t always what she wanted to do.

“I did 10 1/2 years in the military. In 2014 I got diagnosed with cervical cancer and I had some complications with that, so I had to end up getting out of the Military. They medically retired me,” Garner explained. “And then after that, because my dream was doing 20 years, I had to come up with something else to do. Since I love baking, I decided to start my business in baking.”

Garner heard about a grant through Brookfield Properties, the company that owns the Augusta Mall, that was aimed at minority small business owners. It covers the cost of building out a kiosk for entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the mall.

Michelle Isabel, Vice President of Development with Brookfield Properties, said the program, Partner to Empower, began after the murder of George Floyd.

“The intent of this program is to make sure people are successful, that they’re growing with us, expanding with us, and again, have those opportunities to create generational wealth, to have something of their own making,” said Isabel.

Garner, who is a wife and mother of 8, was the first person to put in an application for the grant. Isabel said she is inspired by Garner’s story.

“She’s a veteran, an Army veteran. She’s a mom of 8. But, most importantly, she stuck with it. She didn’t just sit back and wait. She bettered herself. She went to culinary school and graduated during that time. So now, she’s even better at her craft.”

Garner’s Sweet Dreams grand opening was delayed because of supply chain issues, but Garner said now she is ready to dig in. She said she is a little nervous, but her family is supportive, especially with the attention she has recently received.

“They’re so excited. It’s like ‘Look at mom. She’s famous,” smiled Garner.
“Are you a cool mom now?” asked NewsChannel 6’s Kim Vickers.
“I am,” Garner laughed.

Garners Sweet Dreams opens for the first time Monday morning at 11 a.m. It’s on the lower level of the Augusta Mall near Bath and Body Works. There will be giveaways and free samples of some of her homemade confections.