YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — A Midstate businesswoman has been serving up recipes along with her special sauce for years. Now, she is ready to take on a whole new challenge, one that is really coming out of the left field.
Jennifer Heasley knows her way around a kitchen. She came to the Midstate to teach in the York City School District, but cooking has always been her passion.
“I would invite my teacher friends over and try recipes on them. That’s how things started to build and I started to build a body of recipes,” Heasley said.
She used those skills to write a blog and eventually a cookbook. Heasley often combined her love of food with her other love: sports.
“There are no cooking shows with professional athletes. So, I did produce my own cooking show called ‘Cooking with the Pros'”, Heasely said.
In 2016, she made the ultimate leap, giving up her 23-year teaching career to follow her dreams, starting with launching her own catering company.
“We started with the catering and in your mind, you think we’re going to go out there and the world is going to embrace you, it’s going to be awesome and I’m just going to be this champion. You have to work at it. The grind is real,” Heasely said.
That grind led to even more opportunities. A sauce she created for her catering jobs was becoming hot, so much so that she decided to bottle it and sell it.
“We’ve gained a name, we’ve gained a reputation..it takes time…that first festival I was blown away by the response that we got from it,” Heasely said.
Sweet Mama’s Mambo Sauce was born. It had blossomed into a full-blown business. The cause is sold online and in grocery stores. Heasely even has her own stand at York Central Market. It has been a long journey.
“I’ve put a lot of work into it and I’ve put a lot of work into what we’ve done,” Heasely said. I’m proud of myself. I walked away from something that I could have done 35 years and retired and kept it moving, but I took a chance on myself.”
Now, she is taking another chance in a whole new field: a ball field.
Heasley and her daughter Paige are now part owners of the York Revolution.
“For me, this is a big deal just to say that we are owners and be part of that community and hopefully help grow and bring other exciting events to the stadium itself,” Heasely said.
Jennifer used to take her daughters to the games at PeoplesBank Park and is now excited to help the organization grow.
“I do have a list, chart paper, with a list of ideas they could potentially try. I may not push it on them right away. Give me time,” Heasely said while laughing.
Eric Menzer is the president of the York Revolution. He said the team has an ownership group, made up of people from the community, which is something you don’t usually see.
“We made a very intentional effort to reach out to folks who were not the usual suspects, not the people who already owned all of the businesses in York to invite them to become investors and we created some programs to make it possible for them to do so. And, I will tell you it’s the best thing we’ve ever done,” Menzer said.
“As a black female owner, I have a different lens. We’re all going to have a different lens. I would encourage other women of color to come to enjoy a baseball game if they’ve never done that,” Heasley.
But this is much more than baseball. Heasly said she is now in a better position to help others like her.
“My school family has been very supportive of me, and the black community has been supportive. I think the more we celebrate and champion one another and help network..and give referrals. That’s how we’re all gonna grow,” Heasley said.
Being a Black woman in this field is extremely rare. Heasley is used to busting stereotypes and looks forward to breaking even more.
“I’m doing a job that I think at this point is equal to all my peers regardless of race and regardless of gender. So that’s what I want people to understand. There’s no barrier for me, that’s how I see myself,” Heasley said.