How a class assignment inspired a Lynchburg woman’s baking career featuring multiple Food Network appearances

“I don’t have that fear button that most people have.”

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Mrs. Joy's Absolutely Fabulous Treats

Tarsha Joyner loves bringing joy to her customers with her sweet treats!

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Tarsha Joyner, affectionately referred to as Mrs. Joy, said it was never a dream of hers to own her own business. Rather, it was something that just happened.

“I don’t have that fear button that most people have. I fear spiders and critters and snakes, but everything else I’m good,” she said.

The University of Lynchburg graduate (’13) has successfully run Mrs. Joy’s Absolutely Fabulous Treats for nearly a decade.

Not only is her bakery a community staple in downtown Lynchburg, but both she and her bakery have also been recognized on a national level on the Food Network and even Food Network Canada.

If you would’ve told her in college that she would eventually own her bakery, she surely wouldn’t have believed you.

She initially wanted to be a computer programmer; however, after graduating from Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) with her associate degree in computer programming, she realized that the University of Lynchburg, where she wanted to attend, didn’t have computer programming courses.

That’s when the university’s graphic design program caught her eye.

“When I saw the program and read down the course list I was like, ‘Oh God, this is what I was meant to do,’” she said. “So I took graphic design classes and those professors taught me so much. Not just about art and about graphic design, but about me and about what I was able to accomplish and about life in general.”

In fact, one of her courses, in particular, helped bring her bakery to fruition. Joyner said it was something that actually started out as make-believe.

She was tasked with branding a product line from start to finish.

Being the hardworking individual that she is, Joyner decided to go the extra mile. For her assignment, she designed a website and taught herself to bake so that she could make tasty treats that would ultimately be packaged with a logo and sold at the local farmers’ market.

This wasn’t an easy feat; however, given that she didn’t know much about baking at the time. She didn’t let that stop her and watched countless videos to learn how to make shortbread and eventually cake pops and other goodies.

“I wanted it to be something real because I felt as if it were real I could be more passionate about it and then I would get a better grade. Professor Bryant was very hard to get A’s from and I wanted an A,” she said while laughing.

It wasn’t long before what started out as a mere class assignment manifested into Joyner’s reality.

In July 2012, she officially opened her business and would continue selling her products at the farmers market, and then in 2015, she won the Food Network Christmas Cookie Challenge and received $10,000 to go toward her storefront in downtown Lynchburg.

She would appear on Food Network again in 2017 for “Dessert Games,” in 2019 for the “Haunted Gingerbread Showdown” and then once more on the Food Network in Canada for the first episode of “Project Bakeover,” a show that you can also catch on Hulu.

“The first time I was like a deer in headlights. But after I realized what to expect, like intensity and pressure, I started to love it. I’m a competitor,” she said regarding her involvement in the shows.

Despite how far she’s come, Joyner doesn’t feel like she’s reached success quite yet.

“I don’t really feel successful because I’m still in debt. When I am debt free and I don’t have to worry about my bills being paid, I will feel like a success,” she explained.

When asked what she would tell aspiring entrepreneurs who may be afraid to take the leap of faith, the proud Latter-Day Saint responded with:

“Fear is of the devil and that is not something that you should let guide you in that decision. Fear is something that you should have to turn off and just think about what your ability is. If you have the ability to work hard. You have to have a good work ethic and be willing to sacrifice a lot.”

Joyner said one thing she is the proudest of when it comes to her business is the safe work environment she’s created for her employees. She explained that she often hires young people in an effort to help equip them with the skills needed for the professional world. She added that they are like her children.

Overall, though, Joyner hopes to continue bringing joy to her customers with her tasty treats and infectious personality.

Here’s an interview 10 News did with Joyner in Oct. 2019 regarding her appearance on Food Network:

About the Author:

Jazmine Otey joined the 10 News team in February 2021.