"She then joined the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, which she considers an invaluable tool for networking and becoming a part of the life of the community."
Dandalia – the sweet taste of success
By Katherine E. McDonald
SANFORD – Blow on a dandelion and make a wish – then work really hard to make that wish come true.
That’s what Mykal Harp, owner and manager of Dandalia Bakery & Coffee House, did.
Wishing on the dandelion as a child and starting her own business after a successful career in management occurred years apart but, for Harp, the same magic was there.
“I define the word ‘dandalia’ (pronounced dan-da-LEE-ah) as the act of making a wish,” Harp said. “For me, a dandelion isn’t just a resilient weed; it’s a reminder that, even in the strongest adversity, people can not only bloom but even make dreams come true. I moved to Sanford just a few years ago and I identify with the dandelion’s ability to grow and bloom wherever it lands.”
For 25 years, Harp had a very successful career in corporate management in Portland, Ore., working in both banking and manufacturing. Then a dandelion seed fell into her life and grew into a beautiful flower: she reconnected with a high school sweetheart on Classmates.com 28 years after they had last seen each other.
Harp moved to North Carolina and she and John were married five years ago. He works at Fort Bragg, so they lived briefly in Fayetteville before moving to Sanford, where they love the small city life. Harp found a job in Apex, but was laid off in January 2011.
That was an opportunity to plant another dandelion seed.
“I decided to create a job of my own,” she said. “My mom was a great baker at home and I always worked with her as a child. I love the precision of baking balanced with the creativity that I can add with different flavors and decorations.”
Though experienced in the corporate world, Harp had never started a small business before, so she came to the Small Business Center at Central Carolina Community College’s Lee County Campus.
“Dale Fey, the Small Business Center director, was a valuable resource with the information in one place that I needed to set up my business,” Harp said. “He also connected me with the North Carolina Growing America Through Entrepreneurship (GATE) program, which provided training specific to my business.”
Harp also enrolled in the college’s Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (REAL) program.
“REAL helped me focus on the elementary criteria that were necessary to achieve the goals I had,” she said.
She then joined the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, which she considers an invaluable tool for networking and becoming a part of the life of the community.
Harp had her home kitchen certified as a commercial kitchen and went to work. She launched a web site, www.dandalia.com, to showcase her mouth-watering baked goods, and orders started coming in.
The business grew so well that she decided to open her own shop.
“I noticed that Sanford didn’t have a coffee house like I was accustomed to in Portland, so I decided to open a combination bakery and coffee house where people could come and relax and enjoy some good baked goods,” she said.
Harp found the ideal location at 1907 Bragg St., the busy intersection of Horner Boulevard and Bragg Street, in Sanford. The location and the delicious cupcakes, cakes and coffee she serves up are a winning combination.
“My goal was to become part of the community,” she said, “and to offer something unique and high quality. If you do something really, really well, people will find you.”
They have, and Dandalia Bakery & Coffee House is thriving – just like a field full of sunny dandelions.