She stocks an assortment of her colorful gourmet creations at two storefronts and cranks them out for a steady stream of weddings, corporate events, birthday parties, proms and theatrical gatherings.
And it all started with a whim and a text in 2014.
Brown – a mother of three who had recently graduated summa cum laude from Morgan State University – was waiting to hear about a job offer. She turned down two related to her sociology degree but was interested in a third, contract position. Bored and waiting to see if to see if the contract would be approved, she decided to whip up and sell some chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day.
“I just sent out a text message to friends and they forwarded it to their friends and family. And I started selling them,” she said. “After Valentine’s it was Easter and I just kept going.”
That was 2014. Brown is still at it. Berries by Quicha now has two locations filled with flavors like butter nut, sundae, bacon berry and Ciroc berry.
A couple employees help make those. Custom orders fall to Brown, who has no formal culinary training but an apparent knack for out-of-the-box creations.
The berry business isn’t what she set out to do. But Brown said it is where she is meant to be. Too many things have lined up for her to think otherwise.
Consider the movie “Apple Mortgage Cake” in which a woman in danger of losing her home turns to baking and is offered space in a hotel.
Right around the time that Brown was starting to set up tables to market at bridal shows, the first lady at Brown’s church watched that movie. Brown said that woman knew a general manager of the Best Western Plus Hotel and Conference Center and decided to have a chat.
“She told him, ‘I have a girl in my church and I know you can help her because there’s this movie,’” Brown said. “So he cracked up.”
Brown took a meeting and was offered the spot.
“The crazy part is, I wasn’t even looking for space. I was making them out of my home. I was comfortable,” said Brown, who was reluctant to take on such overhead.
“(The GM) said, ‘I don’t know if this will make a difference, but The Baltimore Comedy Factory is coming in,’ ” Brown said. “Well, I had prayed for God to show me a sign and I thought, ‘That’s the sign.’ ”
Berries by Quicha’s location near the Comedy Factory can draw huge weekend crowds, but not necessarily every day foot traffic and visibility, said Brown, who was hoping to balance the business.
“I truly am lead by the Spirit. I feel it when it’s right. Even though I knew we needed a second location, I never went toward it,” she said. “I said when it’s time, He will open the door. And He did.”
Brown didn’t mention the second location idea to many but did to a friend who had a real estate connection. Brown soon had a list in her hand of available spaces and asked to see one in Federal Hill.
“I didn’t even step foot in any other place,” Brown said. “It was the first one I looked at and I loved it.”
Berries by Quicha in Federal Hill opened late last year and celebrated its official opening in February. Brown said she is learning the tastes of the Federal Hill crowd.
“In Federal Hill they want things to be new and fresh and ever changing,” Brown said, adding that her Comedy Factory Crowd tends to stick to their favorites.
“Let’s just say they are white chocolate or cheesecake fans,” she said. “They come in and get that white chocolate or cheesecake. They aren’t as interested in new flavors that we introduce for the month.”
Brown puts her business decisions to prayer and urges others to do the same.
“Opening your own business is not an easy path. The thought of the unknown can be fearful. But with God on your side, He gives you comfort,” she said. “He gives you comfort with your bills, with your family, with your staff and being able to trust people.”
Brown said the best decision she made for her business came before that business was ever conceived — going back to school and getting her degree.
“A lot of people, when I tell them that my degree is in sociology with a minor in criminal justice, they laugh because it’s not connected,” she said. “But my degree prepared me for this. The assignments. The deadlines. Being on top of my work and working with people. All of that prepared me for Berries by Quicha.”
Brown said attention to quality has helped her reputation.
“Our berries are always big. They are always juicy. And our chocolate is very unique,” she said. She donates a lot, which isn’t always good for the immediate bottom line. But stretching strawberries’ shelf life isn’t worth it in the long run, she said.
“Some weeks we may lose money on strawberries, but I’d rather donate them while they are still enjoyable and start over,” she said.
Brown is now contemplating adding custom smoothies and is always on the hunt for the next winning topping.
“I want to do a mocha berry … I’ve tried so many things and they just aren’t turning out right,” Brown said. “But I want a mocha berry. I’m going to get it.”