What started out as a way to make money during the partial government shutdown earlier this year has turned into a major business for two women from Maryland.
Sisters Nikki Howard and Jaqui Wright were each employed by the federal government when they were furloughed in January. In what became the longest shutdown in American history at five weeks, President Donald Trump nearly shuttered the federal activity in the nation’s capital over his demands for Democrats to give him billions of dollars to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In an effort to make ends meet while they were temporarily laid off from their respective jobs at the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Justice, Howard and Wright began “The Furlough Cheesecake.” The company sells 8-inch cakes in original and sweet potato flavors.
“We had bills due and no paychecks coming in, including college tuition,” Wright tells ABC 7, which reported on their situation. “So we had to think fast.”
The company began five months ago with the sisters selling 10 cheesecakes in about 24 hours; some orders got shipped to Indiana. Perhaps one of the biggest moments of their viral fame came when talk show host Ellen DeGeneres gave them $20,000 for one of their cheesecakes.
“Almost instantly, we had thousands of orders,” Wright said of her and Howard’s appearance on “The Ellen Degeneres Show.” “I was trying to think how we were going to make a hundred, and then we got requests for thousands.”
The sisters were soon able to quit their government jobs for good and they began renting space in an industrial kitchen to make way to fill more orders.
And now the sisters have even bigger news to share.
“We’re so very excited we’re able to share a little slice of smile,” Howard says. “Walmart! The Walmart! Our cheesecakes will be there in August!”
August 18, to be exact. That’s when their cheesecakes will be available on the shelves of 100 Walmart stores near Washington.
“These are small personal size, three-inch size, not our full-size cheesecakes,” said Wright. “So those who’ve been asking for individual serving sizes, you can go to Walmart and get that.”
For anyone living outside the Washington-Maryland-Northern Virginia area, however, they can still get their cheesecake fix by ordering one from The Furlough Cheesecake website.
Howard and Wright also shared the Walmart news on their Instagram page last week, and cheesecake aficionados have been flooding the sisters’ company Instagram account with congratulatory messages.
“Congratulations ladies! That is such a blessing! So proud of you all!”
“It’s so good to see this. Congrats!!!!”
“Congratulations!Much Success! I cant wait until the cheesecakes are in Walmart!”