WCCA honors Cool Mama Bakery owner

Published 9:49 pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Martha Graber delivers bread and cookies to the Polk Fresh Farm Store. (photo by Samantha Hurst)

Martha Graber found her way to independence by opening Cool Mama Bakery two years ago. This year she was named Western Carolina Community Action’s self-sufficiency client of the year.

“I had this anticipation that this is what I was going to do,” Graber said. “I had goals in mind and I felt like I could do it. But WCCA – they have helped me a lot. Their support and their encouragement really helped me along.”

This includes helping her through financial literacy courses, as well as ServSafe sanitation and food storage classes. WCCA even assisted in purchasing a wheat grinder for Graber.  Graber also managed to jumpstart her business through WCCA’s Individual Development Account program. WCCA offered Graber $2,000 if she could save $1,000, which she did. She took this seed money and purchased a large mixer and proofer for her breads.

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Graber said she is proud of where she has gotten with the bakery, which supplies fresh-baked loaf bread around Polk County and Landrum.

“I might still be selling some bread but I don’t think my business would be where it is now if they hadn’t helped me out,” Graber said.
Western Carolina Community Action (WCCA) assists low income and underserved people in Henderson, Transylvania and Polk counties in achieving their full potential through quality services and advocacy.

Graber and her family moved to Polk County in 2004.

At the time, she sold loaf bread out of her home on Red Fox Road. Eventually, Graber said she and her husband lost their property and then separated. This left Graber and her 11 kids on their own and Graber in need of a profession.

She spent much of her time cleaning homes to support her family but her son’s entrepreneurial spirit encouraged her to try for her dream.

“I always wanted to do it myself,” she said. “But it was my son who set up beside the road with his little candy stand. I did baking at the house and he talked with the people at the stand about us selling the bread there too.”

The baking business soon took off more. Graber baked bread out of her apartment to sell at the farmers market and then the Polk Fresh Farm store in the Mill Spring Agricultural Center. Now Graber has been able to forgo cleaning houses to support her family and instead can rely on the income she makes through her passion.

“I like to always do my best when I bake bread so people will truly enjoy it,” she said.

Editor’s note: To learn more about Graber, grab the January edition of Life In Our Foothills at the end of December to see a feature on the entrepreneur.