By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
This Roane State alumnus made herself one sweet business.
Nicole Cravens is the owner of Sweet Cravings, a business that specializes in dozens of flavors of homemade cupcakes.
She launched the bakery at the urging of her mother, Lisa Hargis, in late February in the same building that houses Clarkrange Drug Center on U.S. Highway 127. The address is 6404 South York Highway.
Cravens donated 40 of her cupcakes to Roane State for the first-ever drive-through graduate celebration held May 12. The event, where college officials including President Chris Whaley handed out yard signs congratulating new Roane State graduates, complied with social distancing guidelines and other safety precautions in effect because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cravens’ generous donation paid tasty dividends. Roane State purchased several dozen of her cupcakes to hand out at similar drive-through graduation events on the community college’s other campuses. College officials, meanwhile, have plans in the works to later bring students together safely for an in-person graduation ceremony.
For more than two years, Cravens had been baking at her home in Grimsley, Tennessee – about five miles away from what would become her bakery – and word of her cakes and cupcakes spread throughout communities south of Jamestown.
Encouraged by her mom, Cravens made a special cake and posted a photo of it on Facebook. “It blew up,” she said, describing the rapidly spreading popularity of her creation.
Her fresh-baked products would sell out when she took them to “barn sales” where vendors peddle their wares, she said.
Cravens said she was offered a great location – part of the Clarkrange Drug Center for her bakery – and things were going well until late March, when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders.
Cravens reopened, but only for curbside pickup orders, on Mother’s Day. “I hope to open completely in June,” she said.
The secret of her cupcakes? “It’s all in the baking,” Cravens said. “I do it in a way that they stay moist.” They’re also topped with her homemade buttercream frosting.
Cravens graduated from Clarkrange High School in 2004 and enrolled that fall at Roane State. “I liked it,” she said of her collegiate experiences. “It’s a small community college, and that’s what got me through.”
She took paralegal studies and one of her instructors was Dr. Whaley, who would be named president of Roane State in 2012. “I loved his classes,” Cravens said. “He was down to earth and one of those teachers you always remember.”
She worked for a local law firm for several years and then was hired as the bookkeeper for her alma mater, Clarkrange High School.
Now, when school gets back in session, Cravens’ mother will help manage the storefront while she keeps the school’s books.
Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit www.roanestate.edu.
Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.