NEW JERSEY – Sianni Dean may be only 20, but she’s the baker entrepreneur behind Cranky Granny’s Sweet Rolls.
Don’t let the name fool you though, the company was born out of hardwork of the 2017 Willingboro High School graduate, who now laughs with with Chef Margaret Harvey about how hard the culinary teacher pushed her to succeed in the classroom.
“She stayed on top of me,” Dean said. “She never let me make any type of excuse for myself, or anything like that.”
Dean works full time running Cranky Granny’s Sweet Rolls, the Willingboro-based business she started as a sophomore entrepreneurship student who was determined to make a career of baking and selling both standard cinnamon rolls, and rolls with unique flavors like caramel apple or mocha.
“We went through a lot of trials and tribulations, but she’s doing it,” Harvey said. “She’s doing it just the way she said she would. And I’m extremely proud of her.”
The company name is a tribute to her grandmothers, hoping it would make customers think of family memories, baking with their own grandmothers.
Dean, who grew up with a love of cooking, first stepped into Harvey’s kitchen as a freshman, to bake sweet rolls for a project for the school’s leadership and technical skills club.
“I started to practice at it. I was horrible at first,” Dean said. ”(My first cinnamon rolls) were stale, they were — they just weren’t good. At first I didn’t understand the patience of the technique or anything like that.”
With time and effort, Dean improved. She said Harvey helped her perfect the appearance, texture and taste of her product over time.
“I stayed on her case,” Harvey said. “Literally I am her worst critic, even today every so often I’ll say ‘bring me (a sweet roll)’ so I can see if it’s consistent with what she developed. Consistency is her key, and it has to be consistent in look and flavor. And it’s been consistent so far and I hope she keeps — I know she’ll keep it up.”
Dean hopes Cranky Granny’s will someday be a franchise rivaling national brand, Cinnabon. As for the more immediate future, Dean is working on getting the rolls into existing stores in Philadelphia, and to begin shipping orders, as well.
She now runs her business through online orders.
She said she’s an entrepreneur first and a baker second, although she loves both pursuits.
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Sometimes running a business means rising at 1 a.m. to prepare an order due at 6 a.m., or working through the night on a batch of sweet rolls. Sometimes it means Dean is serving customers in person at events, or speaking with students across New Jersey and Pennsylvania about her life as a young entrepreneur.
“Sometimes we don’t see too many good things coming out of certain places, and I feel like Willingboro’s one of those places where people say ‘Oh, nothing comes from Willingboro,’” she said. “But I’m a prime example that something successful does come out of Willingboro other than just being a sports player or in the entertainment industry. I feel as though as people, especially as black people, we feel like our only way out is entertainment. And that’s not our only way.”
She enjoys speaking with students about researching their industries of choice, setting themselves apart from the competition, and putting in the work to make their business idea a reality.
“I’m sharing my story as well as giving them advice, and letting them know you don’t have to wait to start your dreams or to become successful,” Dean said. “Success starts now.”