Renate Garrett knows what it feels like for her hands to become numb while she is in the middle of making banana pudding for a family business known as Freakin’ Sweet Jars.

“Our number one seller is banana pudding. My mother, Vivian Stanley, taught me how to make that,” Garrett said.

Garrett’s family and close friends step in to keep the business running when her body hurts and she feels tired. Managing a lupus condition did not stop the Garrett family from holding a grand opening in Annapolis Mall, on May 13, 2023.

“Since we’ve been here in Annapolis, we’ve transitioned into other things such as cookies, cake pops, brownies and things of that nature, but primarily we make premium layered desserts,” Jaheel Garrett said.

Renate and Jaheel are Baltimore County residents who have faced extreme obstacles while running a family dessert business. The husband and wife refused to throw in the towel, even when Renate was diagnosed with lupus in 2021. Jaheel, the owner of Freakin’ Sweet Jars, sticks by his determined creative partner and wife.

Renate—who worked at Lowe’s for 23 years— founded the business with her husband in 2014 after she tried someone else’s dessert in a jar. They decided to try a business making their own version using Jaheel’s grandmother’s sweet potato pie and pound cake recipes.

“We started off with just cheesecakes, pies and pie puddings,” Renate said.

(L-R) Renate Garrett, Keeyanna Kentish and Teshara Stanley build Freakin’ Sweet Jars, make cookies and prepare cake pops.
Photo credit: Genita Edmonds

It was a rough time during the pandemic. In 2019, Freakin’ Sweet Jars had a presence in Arundel Mills and Columbia. There was rent and employees to pay although the mall traffic was slow. Additionally, Renate worked in the business while she was sick for a year. Initially, the cause of how she felt was unknown to doctors.

Muscle and joint pain, prolonged or extreme fatigue and memory problems are just some of the symptoms Renate endures.

“Lupus can affect almost any organ in your body. The symptoms of lupus also differ from person to person,” according to information provided by the CDC.

Renate often looks fine if an individual looks at her, but pain may be seizing her body. It can mean going home early and letting a member of her tribe step up to lend a hand. Renate finds ways to stay involved in Freakin’ Sweet Jars operation, even if it is running their social media accounts from home. Building the tasty enterprise is a passion that she can talk about for hours.

“The lupus is really trying to get me, but I’m working through it. It’s going to be fine because my kids have my back,” Renate said confidently. “Running our family business has come with trials and tribulations, but at the end of the day, we’re all still together and we all still try to work together as a family.”

Jaheel is a strong arm of support who fills in where he is needed whether it is sitting next to his wife in a hospital bed or making ends meet by working someplace else to help them stay afloat.

When Renate got sick, Jaheel’s involvement in the business increased, along with her daughters. Renate’s daughters know that her mother cannot run the business by herself. Renate shows up at the mall a few days a week. Family members head to farmer markets on the weekends.        

“I’m here to help them. I believe in their vision. I feel like the business can go a long way,” Keeyanna Kentish said.

Teshara Stanley, Renate’s other daughter, works as  Freakin’ Sweet Jars’ full time store manager.

“It’s important to me that we have something to pass down to future generations. Independence is also a huge factor. Being your own boss and setting your own tone is a different feeling,” Stanley said.

Renate’s mother has been Freakin’ Sweet Jar’s biggest contributor.

“We literally would not be operating if it wasn’t for her. She’s contributed to us majorly both financially and physically. We love her dearly and she’s motivation for us to continue,” Teshera said.

It is easy to want the Garrett family to succeed in achieving a piece of the American dream. They remain unafraid of hard work. Even when it hurts, Renate remains relentless to earn the reward of building a successful business, one dessert recipe at a time.

“I honestly don’t know how she’s been able to persevere through her consistent pain, but she does every day,” Stanley said, reminding that empathy and a helping hand goes a long way.

Freakin’ Sweet Jars is located at 2002 Annapolis Mall Road in Annapolis, Maryland. Visit to learn more about the business.

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