Bittersweet Success

By Najah Allouch

When UK alum Nicole Sloan’s niece Natalie Wynn Carter died after sustaining a blocked coronary at 23 months, Sloan decided to turn her heartache and grief into something positive.

Thus, “Naticakes” was created. Named after her niece’s nickname, the newest frozen yogurt shop has opened near campus offering an abundance of varieties and flavors.

But dessert is not what “Naticakes” is about. When Sloan speaks of her reason for creating “Naticakes,” her face lights up with excitement.

Sloan described the overwhelming response her sister received after her daughter’s death in Franklin, Tenn. Between food and monetary donations, she said her sister’s family did not have to cook for a year.

The Natalie Wynn Carter Foundation was created to house all of the donated funds, which go to various charities. The focus of the foundation is making children’s lives better worldwide.

That is when Sloan had her “aha” moment.

“I’ve got to do something for Natalie’s foundation, I’ve got to raise a million dollars,” she said.

So the journey began to open the perfect place to raise money. After months of research, Sloan opened her first Naticakes shop in Franklin in 2009, with cupcakes as the main product. She thought a sweets shop was the perfect tribute to Natalie because she loved sweets and was always in search of her next treat. Sloan pledged 10 percent of the profits from Naticakes to go to the foundation.

So far the biggest project the foundation has funded is a playground for an orphanage in China. Sloan hopes to be able to help more as funding becomes available. She said the cost of the playground was about $30,000.

Sloan earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and advertising at UK. She said she never left Lexington completely, keeping strong ties and coming “home” whenever she got the chance.

So when the opportunity for Sloan to open a Naticakes on campus arose, she embraced it.

The main product of the Lexington store is “Nati*Crème,” which is frozen yogurt and a fast-growing trend across the country. Self-serve frozen yogurt shops originated on the west coast and have slowly made their way here, Sloan said.

The atmosphere of the shop is reminiscent of a little girl’s dream place. From the sparkly crystal chandeliers to the powder-blue colored walls, the intricate, fancy décor, the overall ambiance lends to the perception of being in a fancy, elegant shop. Yet the overall feel of the place is relaxed.

When Sloan thought of how to decorate, she said she wanted “to appeal to a child’s heart even if you’re 87 years old. We wanted to capture the heart and essence of a princess, because that is what Nati was to us.”

Sloan chose to open the shop on campus because she thought it was a strategic location that health-conscious students would enjoy. She said the healthy side of the low or nonfat frozen yogurt has between 80 and 140 calories.

Sloan said the most important reason for opening on campus is because she loves college students. She said she loves to share her story because she thinks they genuinely care.

“I think there is a growing trend among college students to care beyond themselves,” Sloan said. “They like that philanthropic piece of it.”

With six different flavors of frozen yogurt, which are rotated weekly, and more than 30 different toppings ranging from grains, cereal, nuts, fruits and candy, customers can choose to make their treats any way they please.

“It’s all about you crafting your own dessert,” Sloan said.

Although she gives 10 percent of her company’s profits, Sloan said she also gets something out of Naticakes.

“It’s really a selfish thing because I’m getting so much out of it,” she said. “You know it’s long hours and it’s hard work, and I love advocating something, and what better thing to advocate than the life of my niece whose life was very short and having an avenue to help kids? I mean who wouldn’t be inspired by that?”