Photos by Lisa Williams

Sweet LaLa’s: Making Life Sweeter One Cookie at a Time

Everyone makes mistakes. You, your neighbor, and even me, but should that hold you back from all the great things you can accomplish? I think we can all agree that our answer would be no. Sweet LaLa’s Bakery is giving that second chance to kids from the juvenile intervention facility, JIFF, by helping them get back on their feet and deliver delicious cookies along the way. 

Memphis native Lauren Young is the brain behind this operation. She began baking out of her kitchen with her parents from a young age and continued to stay connected with sweets her whole life. Even though she went to college to be a school teacher, the idea of creating her own bakery was always in the back of her mind. Working in a Nashville bakery while in college planted a seed for her love of bakeries. She then began developing recipes and started a small business from her own house in 2001.

Lauren Young, founder of Sweet LaLa’s Bakery

Young began serving on the board of JIFF and kept leaving meetings hearing that the kids needed jobs. Her home bakery was growing quickly, and she didn’t have time to do orders. That’s when her two worlds intertwined.

She brought her recipes to JIFF’s kitchen and started training the kids. She imagines the cookie making process as a metaphor of what the kids are going through, “beaten down, been through a lot of pressure, and have been put through the fire.”

John Young (no relation to Lauren), a JIFF graduate and lead cook for Sweet LaLa's

“They are just young kids who had some trouble and needed an opportunity to make change happen in their lives,” Young said.

That is what brings us here today. Her degree might not be in baking, but it is her passion for cookies and for the juvenile justice system that “makes life sweeter” for everyone around. Each cookie can tell a story, and she uses people’s love of these irresistible treats to shine a light on juvenile justice.

Young has made an impact on over 80 kids’ lives and given them a fundamental training ground for their next job. After completing the program and working with Sweet LaLa’s, they’ll receive a certification to work restaurant jobs.

“They made some mistakes, but these kids are awesome,” said Young. “They served their time, and they are ready to go out and do more meaningful things.”

Young can finally cross off her dream of brick and mortar. Sweet LaLa’s storefront will be a space where you can network by using their community table or sit at one of their small tables and have great conversations. Customers can also take advantage of the event center upstairs for your next “girls night out” or birthday party.

“The concept is to make life sweeter, not for just yourself, but for everyone around you,” said Young. “We hope this feels like a family store and a bakery you can come in and feel like it is the best place on earth.”

Sweet LaLa’s is not just helping to bring awareness to the juvenile justice system but also helping out other local nonprofits. It will bring in mission-driven companies like Thistle & Bee and Shepherd’s Haven pottery to sell their products and share their story as well.

“We all have a place in this world to do our part, and you can at least make the day a little bit brighter and sweeter for somebody every day,” Young said.

Be sure to stop by their grand opening on March 21. The ribbon cutting is at 10:00 a.m., then stick around to taste these delicious treats yourself. Follow Sweet LaLa’s on Instagram and Facebook for a peek at new additions to the menu. 

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