FLORENCE, S.C. – Karen Dawkins had a good job and good benefits, but in April she took a risk and left her secure job to open her own business.

At 55 years of age, Dawkins put her faith in God and opened Sweet Tooth bakery, which is located inside Jack’s Place restaurant.

“It is never too late” to follow your dreams, she said.

As the mother of four and grandmother of nine children, Dawkins said she did a lot of baking.

“I was always baking,” she said. “But it was about five years ago that I made my first decorated cake for a grandchild.”

She discovered she was good at it. Baking became a passion. She said she like seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they tasted her baked goods.

Three years ago she started baking from her home for money, she said.

“I got on social media and by word of mouth the business grew,” she said.

Dawkins had worked at The Manor in Florence for six years and suddenly found the demands of baking taking up more and more of her time. She started taking Fridays off to keep up with the demand for her sweet treats.

“I had a very secure job in accounts receivable at The Manor with good benefits,” she said. “I never intended to have a brick-and-mortar business, but the opportunity came my way and I grabbed it.”

Dawkins said she is the type of person who likes to have “all the information on the table.”

“This was stepping into the unknown,” she said. “I had no business background. It was a risk in every direction.”

She said the Lord paved the way and everything fell into place rather quickly.

Every Sunday after attending church at Lake Swamp Baptist, Dawkins said, she and her husband eat at Jack’s. One Sunday she saw that the building adjoining the restaurant was for rent and decided to investigate.

She said the rent was more than she could afford, but in talking with the owner of Jack’s he wanted to know what she could afford in rent. Restaurant owner Jack Holt suggested an unused portion of his restaurant for her business. She said the rent was in her ballpark.

They talked again on Tuesday and on Thursday. She and her husband looked at the space on Friday and by Monday she was giving her two-month notice at her job.

She said it took about two months to train someone for her job and to get the space for her new business ready for operation.

“I have had a peace about the decision ever since,” she said. “It is what the Lord has blessed me with. My faith is the biggest part of my life.”

She said business has been really good. In fact, she has already expanded her space inside the restaurant.

“Jack Holt has been very kind and helpful every step of the way,” she said.

Dawkins said opening her business was truly a leap of faith.

“There are no guarantees,” she said. “I stepped away from a lot. This is my heart and my passion.”

Dawkins said she has learned a lot since starting her business.

“I am completely self-taught,” Dawkins said. “It has taken a lot of work.”

With the help of her sister-in-law, Robin Dawkins, she makes cupcakes, cakes, cookies, brownies and pound cake and specialty cakes to order.

“I couldn’t do it without Robin,” she said.

The bakery sells cakes – whole , half and by the slice; cookies – chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal raisin cookies; cupcakes in a variety of flavors; brownies; pecan blondies; cake pops; truffles; and lemon and coconut bars.

They also make specialty cakes for birthdays, weddings, baby and wedding showers, anniversaries and other special occasions.

Dawkins said some of the customer favorites are her red velvet and lemon blueberry cakes and cupcakes, brownies, pecan blondies and butter pound cake.

Dawkins said she uses only real butter in her butter cream frosting. And she said everyone comments on how moist her baked goods taste.

“Everything is baked here,” she said.

The Sweet Tooth is at 1520 American Drive. Hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The bakery is closed on Sunday.

“I still eat every Sunday at Jack’s,” she said.

For more information, call 843-245-7697.

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