In today’s Member Spotlight we’re featuring ALX Community member Erinn Roth, who wears many impressive hats: she’s founder and CEO of Ms. Jo’s Petite Sweets, an Alexandria-based dessert business, and also has an impressive military resume, having served in the US Army for 24 years before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. Her assignments included locations in Texas, South Korea, Missouri, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, and deployments to Afghanistan and Kuwait. Erinn has been a Flex Member at ALX Community since May 2019.
Why did you join a coworking space, generally speaking?
I joined because of the all-in-one conveniences: 24/7 access; work area; printing, faxing, and shredding capabilities; meeting rooms; and location.
Why did you choose ALX over other coworking spaces in the area?
Its staff and customer service. Plus, the pricing is unbeatable.
What’s your favorite part about working out of ALX Community?
It’s dog friendly, the location, and parking.
Tell us about your business, Ms. Jo’s Petite Sweets:
Baking desserts is my passion, and I was the dessert person in my family and amongst my friends. Before I retired from the US Army, I called my parents to tell them my plans—that I would start a dessert business to keep busy. My mother, Mrs. Jo Hardaway, told me that whatever I decided to do, I would be successful. About three weeks later, while on vacation with my dad, she passed suddenly. I named my business after her as an eternal tribute to her memory and legacy.
How has working at ALX Community positively impacted your business and/or life?
Two words: Kelly Grant. Kelly is my mentor and her common sense approach to business and life are invaluable.
How did you learn to bake?
Before the term “master chef” was as popular as it is now, I was surrounded by numerous master chefs and grill masters: my mom, dad, grandmothers, aunts, great-aunts, uncles, and so on. I would watch my mother create these elaborate desserts and candies for the holidays and wonder at the sheer volume of food. I was able to see how some chefs used cookbooks and others would not. It was simply amazing to watch them in action.
How did your military experience guide your transition to opening Ms. Jo’s?
Creating a strategy to open my business was largely due to my military experience. Looking at the pros/cons/environmental factors were key. Adaptability is another experience that has sustained me and my business.
How did the pandemic impact your business?
The pandemic has severely impacted my business. In March 2020, I lost four corporate events; in April, three; in May, one; and a wedding in June. Before the pandemic, we were on our way to having a four-fold revenue increase compared to 2019. The commercial kitchen that I leased is now going out of business. So I’m currently looking for another location.
What are your goals for 2021?
To get back what 2020 took away and become better than ever. Increase our online dessert package offerings. Launch our jellies and jams as well as our kitchen apparel line.
Tell us about your pup!
His name is Hannibal and he’s a Maltese. He’s currently five months old and is the apple of my eye. He’s a fierce protector of our house and his Mommy.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.