Mama Crunk's Pies started in 2016 at the Chattanooga Market, where Brainerd resident Christine "Crunk" Nguyen debuted her pies for the first time. She sold out in under two hours.
Nguyen did not originally set out to be a baker. Her first passion was writing, but she worried about financial stability and instead chose to go to culinary school. She took several baking classes, but felt no immediate calling.
She graduated in 2011 and spent years in the food industry in various positions. In 2015, she became pregnant with her daughter, went on maternity leave and began making pies weekly.
"When I first started, they weren't necessarily the best pies," Nguyen said. "But for whatever reason, I really enjoyed doing it. It's a zen-like process to me."
The same year, she and her husband moved to Chattanooga for work. Nguyen, who had been working for Whole Foods, transferred stores but was not fully satisfied in her job.
"I had a girlfriend ask me what I wanted to do in Chattanooga," said Nguyen. "I told her I wanted to start a pie company."
She was unsure of how she would go about starting the business, but Nguyen said Chattanooga's cost of living and entrepreneurial spirit pushed her to act on her dreams.
After her initial success at the Chattanooga Market, she dove in head first with her new venture.
Deciding on a name was easy, Nguyen said. In college, her friends combined her name with popular slang term "crunk" and called her "Crunkstine." The nickname developed into "Mama Crunk," due to her nurturing nature, and the moniker stuck.
"I always knew, even in culinary school, if I had any business it would be called Mama Crunk's," Nguyen said.
She no longer sells at the Chattanooga Market, but said it helped her business by giving it exposure. She plans to open a brick-and-mortar store soon, but currently meets demand for her pies by selling them online and to local businesses such as Revelator, Velo Coffee, Weekly Fig, and Bread and Butter.
Between running a full-time business and caring for her 3-year-old daughter, she said she always has her hands full, but the hard work of balancing is rewarding.
"It's pretty cool because [my daughter] is into baking now, too," Nguyen said. "It's great because I didn't push her in that direction; she's just obsessed with baking and cooking now."
To purchase a pie from Mama Crunk's Pies, visit mamacrunkspies.com.