If you would have told a young Ani’a Walker that she would start a business at age 16, she would not have believed you. Little did she know what her future would hold years later.
The Fort Wayne native began baking at the age of 10 years old and was taught by her great-grandmother. Walker has always been family-oriented, and growing up, every Sunday Walker and her family would have dinner, and she would bring cupcakes as her contribution. Walker’s family always raved about her cupcakes. In fact, one Sunday a family friend offered to pay Walker for them.
“You don’t have to pay for them; I just do this for fun,” Walker responded.
However, the family friend insisted on paying her, and it was at that moment her road to entrepreneurship began.
“I fell into entrepreneurship on accident,” Walker said.
Breaking barriers seems to have always been a way of life for Walker. Growing up in Fort Wayne, it was not common for Walker to see young Black business owners; however, this did not stop her from achieving every goal that she set.
While attending Snider High School, Walker decided that she would attend Ball State University, where she would major in entrepreneurial management and minor in food and hospitality management. According to the Princeton Review and Entrepreneurship Magazine, Ball State University is ranked 12th in the country for its program.
During her four years at Ball State, Walker not only expanded her business but also left a mark on campus that will inspire many young aspiring Black business owners in the future. Throughout her college career, Walker’s business was featured inside of businesses and organizations across the Ball State campus, including the Black Student Association and the Delta Phi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Walker’s support did not stop there. Students across the campus also supported her single sale cupcake events, where there would be a featured cupcake flavor each week on her business’ Instagram and customers could purchase them individually instead of by the dozen.
Since her freshman year, Walker started to get recognized for her hard work toward her business, and in the spring of 2018, Walker received the “CEO of the Year Award” from the Black Student Association. Plus, along with being a dean’s list recipient and Ball State Top 100 Student, she also received one of two “Outstanding New Business Plan Ventures” awards for the class of 2022, where students had to pitch their business plans in front of a panel of judges chosen by the entrepreneurship program.
Walker graduated in May 2022 as the only person of color in her major. She not only received her Bachelor of Science in entrepreneurial management, but she was also awarded by Ball State’s president, Jefferey Mearns, the 2022 Jesse Nixon Award. The Jesse Nixon award, named after the first Black student to graduate from Ball State University in 1925, is given to a student of color who has “broken barriers on campus.”
Walker’s company name, Puff’s Pastries, was inspired by a family name given to her by her grandmother and aunt. Walker said she wanted to incorporate her family into her business and chose to with her company name.
Since graduation, Walker has launched the website for Puff’s Pastries and has goals down the line of getting a storefront in Fort Wayne and being on the catering list for companies in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis. She also has a long-term goal of being able to ship her products to people around the country. Walker’s passion goes beyond the oven, and, with a slogan of “it’s more than cupcakes,” Walker plans on using her platform to inspire and uplift people, with an emphasis on youth.
“I think God just gave me that gift to be the medium in which I am able to pursue my passion,” Walker said. “I went through a lot of things in life, and this platform has given me leeway to talk to the youth and people like me.”
Contact staff writer Timoria Cunningham at 317-762-7854. Follow her on Twitter @_timoriac.