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Letha Pugh: Black Voices Project

"I will say, Emma, we are all kind of in this together. We all contribute to the betterment of people. I say to Wendy all the time, I'm just gonna do the best that I can. I'm just one person. So that's kind of been my mantra this year, I'll put forth my best effort." - Letha Pugh

Letha Pugh is the GOAT. This driven entrepreneur has managed to not only build one successful business, Bake Me Happy, but also connect the community. She has dreams and hopes for the future. In a world that can be so chaotic, I believe it is important to take time and celebrate #BlackJoy and hear more about how Letha, in particular, stays balanced and inspired.

Letha Pugh, an entrepreneur, and co-owner of Bake Me Happy, a gluten-free bakery, first came into the studio to be a part of the Black Voices portrait series a couple of years ago, a portrait fundraiser for Brown Girls Mentoring. You can find our previous blog here. The bakery's goal is to provide a sense of community for customers, making it easier for people with gluten intolerance to enjoy delicious baked goods.

"She is active in the community with two non-profits: Service! A relief effort for hospitality workers displaced during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black, Out and Proud, an organization that advocates, inspires, and educates the Columbus Black LGBTQ+ community. Letha is also a Commissioner for the City of Columbus Department of Parks and Recreation, Secretary of Board for The Women's Fund of Central Ohio, and an Ambassador for the Goldman Sachs 10k Small Voices Advocacy Group" (

Letha, the last time that we did a highlight on you was in 2021 and that was a tough time in our society. So now we're in 2023, and there are a lot of changes that have been made. Can you update me a little bit on where you're at?

You know 2021 was heavy, but you're absolutely right. I personally think a lot of good came out of it. I love Columbus. We can't fix all of our problems, but we can do these little things to make it better here for us now and you know, I hope the future forward because I have a kid out here in the world.

And so there's kind of two tracks to changing the laws. You either are, you know, in a representative or public service and then there are people that help guide those people in those spaces. And through a lot of the advocacy work that I have taken on over the last three years. That's my lane.

I see the advocacy and my small business work. Bake Me Happy expand. I think since the last time we met we're now in Dublin. Preston's has come to life--[Preston's is] moving to Clintonville. Oh, you know, Cafe Overlook came to life, which is a workforce development project and it's in the county courthouse.

With the numerous boards, businesses, and life events you're involved in, how do you stay grounded?

It ebbs and flows. But I have a good team behind me. Lori Guth comes to the house every Friday and puts me back together. I have therapists, I have a business coach. I have a fractional CFO that you meet with and they kinda guide you on business stuff. So I feel like all the pieces are there. All the pieces are there for all of us. We just need as humans some guidance on how to put it together.

Who inspired you when you were young to think and dream big?

I feel like I have this memory of this guy that used to work at this rec center. This was back when I was like ten. His hair was locked up. He didn't wear deodorant. He had this nappy-ass beard. Mr. Ness loved us though. And he would tell us, "you can do anything!" He taught us about Kwanzaa and the principles, and we were just some little hoodrats, right? And he was like there [for us] every day. He was a good guy.

I had a school counselor in seventh grade. She brought me in and she said, "I want to get you speech therapy." I used to have a really bad lisp. She said, "I think you could go far in life, and if we can work on this now..." and I took speech therapy from junior high to almost 10th grade. And it was a tough impediment to walk through. I think when you turn 50, you do kind of do this look-back, right? And it's a look back of like, appreciation and reality and forgiveness. And then you kind of get some peace hopefully.

I'm really thankful for all that you've done for the LGBTQ community, for the Black community, and even just for the people who need a little bit of guidance. Are there any parting words that you have that you'd like for us to share or is there an intention that you've set for yourself for 2023?

I will say, Emma, we are all kind of in this together. We all contribute to the betterment of people. I say to Wendy all the time, I'm just gonna do the best that I can. I'm just one person. So that's kind of been my mantra this year, I'll put forth my best effort.

All photos are taken by Emma Parker Photography

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