KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Monica Smith-Albright is a mom of two, but it took a while to get there.
"We had a stillbirth, we had a miscarriage, and then our son only lived for seven and a half weeks," she said. "Once we were able to have our daughter Ayanna, we felt that there was a divine blessing from God when we had her."
A divine blessing that lead to something delicious.
"Just during the course of taking care of her, I just got a divine revelation for an oatmeal cookie recipe."
That was 18 years ago. Over the years Smith-Albright has perfected her recipes, learning how to decorate cakes, incorporate more flavors and even make some gluten-free options.
"Some type of nut, some type of coconut, some type of berry in them just to enhance the flavor and the texture of the cookies," she said.
Smith-Albright made her sweets under the name D'Vyne Creations, mainly baking for family and friends.
Then COVID hit.
"I lost my job in December and it was a great opportunity for me to step out on faith and try to see where D'Vyne Creations could go by working it full time."
With no experience in the business world, Smith-Albright took a 10-week business class through the Knoxville Urban League.
She pitched D'Vyne Creations as part of the CO.STARTERS business pitch contest and came in second place.
She won a $1,000 grant to grow her new business.
"It goes a long way, especially when you need to upgrade technology, when you need to develop a strong and secure website," she said.
It's that boost that helped Smith-Albright push her hobby into a career as a local business owner.
"When we're able to grow a local business, people get jobs, you are pumping resources right back in and I enjoy doing that," she said.
With a push for more diversity in local business, Smith-Albright hopes she can bring something new to the table in Knoxville's maker community.
"Whether you're Black or white or Asian or whoever, there have been so many people that have poured into my life. Now that I have a business that means it's my turn now to pour back into somebody else," she said.
Most importantly, Smith-Alright is working to leave a legacy for her two girls.
"What better way to do that to start a business," she said. "So that when they grow up, or even if I'm still here and they just need a little extra boost, then I'll have enough to be able to bless my children so that they can realize their dreams," she said.
Taking the loss of past children and the loss of a job, Smith-Albright is adding a little sugar and following her sweet tooth into a new chapter.
You can find her on Facebook here and set up at the Grooves in the Garden music festival July 17 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens.