Mike & Mike’s Desserts, a Lakeland company, is debuting its vegan cupcakes in Publix GreenWise  Markets next week, according to one of its co-founders, Nathaniel Kendrick, 31, of Lakeland.

The cupcakes should be available in all eight Publix GreenWise Market stores by May 13, but the Lakeland store already has a few on its shelves, company officials said. GreenWise Markets will carry the company’s six-count Vanilla Beanie Cupcake and its six-count Chocolate Delight Cupcakes.

The minority-owned company held a launch party April 7 at Catapult to celebrate the launch in Publix GreenWise Markets.

“It’s very, very hard to get into Publix. We originally pitched to them in September of last year and we’re just now getting into their stores,” Kendrick said. “For us to do what we did, being based out of Lakeland is an astronomical feat. We had very little money and resources to be able to do it. “

Known for its chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and “milk”-and-cookies vegan cupcakes, Mike and Mike’s Desserts already has its product in 30 other locations, including Chamberlin’s Natural Foods. The main ingredients of the cupcakes are almond milk, powdered sugar, baking powder, baking soda, vegan butter, vanilla extract and wheat flour.

Kendrick, Mike Mitchell, 32, Viviana Henrich, 35, Mike Belcher, 45, and Brent Powers founded Mike & Mike’s Desserts LLC in 2018, according to state records. Operating out of Catapult, the company’s focus is mass distribution of vegan desserts to grocery stores, according to Kendrick.

The business was the brainchild of Mitchell, who previously sold cupcakes based on his mother’s recipe out of his car, Kendrick explained. He eventually decided to scale and sold the cupcakes to caterers and then began pursuing Circle K, visiting one of their regional corporate offices daily for more than a month to request a meeting.

From left, Viviana Henrich, Digital Marketing Director Maria Parra, Nate Kendrick and Mike Mitchell.

Mitchell eventually met with the company’s buyers and embarked on a deal to have the cupcakes sold in 400 Circle K locations throughout Tampa Bay, but the deal fell through due to a non-compete legal issue, Kendrick said.

“It fell through because of some clause that they had with some other large organization to not sell products or something like that,” Kendrick said. “But during that time,  when Mike did that, I said, ‘Okay, even though that fell through, there’s obviously something here.’ So that’s what really started piquing my interest and when I started coming more to the table and said, ‘Mike, how can I help?’ ”

Kendrick said that’s when he joined the business. Kendrick and Mitchell attended Lakeland High School together. They both are former Publix employees.

Mitchell met Henrich while visiting Miami. She was working for a caterer whose clients were celebrities. She inspired Mitchell to create plant-based cupcakes and joined the company as a food engineer to focus on research and development, essentially creating the company’s recipes.

“Viviana came to the table, created some recipes, launched those recipes simultaneously into some markets in Miami and it just took off. It took off like a rocket ship. It took off so much so that Mike came back to Lakeland and we’re just kind’ve brainstorming and trying to figure out how can we scale this new concept; there’s obviously market validation for what we’re doing; there’s obviously a need for this,” Kendrick said.

With the help of an initial investor, Mitchell and Kendrick searched for co-packers to mass produce the cupcakes.

Nathaniel Kendrick discusses his entrepreneurial journey on LkldNow in View.

“That was the biggest challenge at first. We’re calling all these co-packers and their minimums [were] like $500,000 … vs. finding a smaller co-packer whose minimum is  like $3,000, $4,000, or $5,000,” Kendrick said.

The cupcakes launched in Chamberlin’s Natural Foods in September 2021. That’s the same time the company pitched to Publix, hoping to secure a spot in all eight of its GreenWise Market stores.

“We approached them and pitched [to] them but it takes a very long time to go through the process of them vetting your company making sure you’re legit and can service your stores,” Kendrick said.

Eventually, they convinced the Publix GreenWise Market buyers to work with them.

Kendrick said they’re developing another plant-based dessert recipe and hope to release the product in the future.

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Stephanie Claytor has been a broadcast and digital journalist in Lakeland since 2016, covering Polk County for Bay News 9 and currently free-lancing for LkldNow. She is an author of travel and children's books.

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