How a chef in The Bahamas empowers others

2 photos of chef drizzling frosting on pastry and posing with baked goods (© Chelsea Eldon)
Chef Chanté Basden, an alumna of the U.S. State Department’s Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, rebuilt her bakery and supported her community after Hurricane Dorian in 2019. (© Chelsea Eldon)

Chef Chanté Basden serves mouthwatering guava cream cheese Danish pastries at her Bahamas Tastiest Bakery. But yummy pastries are far from her only passion. The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) alumna also uses her cooking and entrepreneurial skills to support her community of Abaco, an island in The Bahamas.

While Basden has fond childhood memories of learning to cook with her grandma, her passion for helping others was born out of crisis. In 2019, as Hurricane Dorian approached, she baked and distributed bread until the storm hit Abaco.

Dorian destroyed much of the island, including her family bakery. Yet Basden says she resolved to turn the setback into an opportunity. “Instead of allowing that to defeat me,” Basden says, she felt resilient. “I thought, ‘Chanté, you’re bigger than this storm.’”

Chanté Basden posing for photo while holding her blazer (© Darrington Ricardo)
Basden, seen at her Bahamas Tastiest Bakery, is one of more than 280 women who have participated in AWE in The Bahamas. (© Darrington Ricardo)

Now she uses her cooking skills, as well as the business strategies she learned through the U.S. State Department’s AWE program, to help those around her. She started a fund to feed the hungry and teaches simple, cost-effective recipes that help others produce their own bread or other food — important skills when COVID-19 supply chain disruptions mean rising food prices.

At her Chef Store, a second business Basden launched to provide restaurants with ingredients and other supplies, she instructs her female staff on how to run a business. “If you don’t have a plan, you plan to fail,” she says.

Basden learned to instruct others on entrepreneurship in part through AWE, which gives women the knowledge, networks and access they need to launch and scale successful businesses. More than 16,000 women in 80 countries have participated, including over 280 in The Bahamas.

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau also has forged partnerships with local institutions to support long-term female entrepreneurship. The Small Business Development Centre, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, and the Bahamas Development Bank have all supported the AWE program in The Bahamas.

Chocolate cupcakes with blackberries (Courtesy of Chanté Basden)
These chocolate cupcakes with blackberry compote helped get Bahamas Tastiest Bakery back on its feet after Hurricane Dorian. (Courtesy of Chanté Basden)

As Basden works confidently toward selling her products internationally, she says her AWE experience and network has prepared her to grow her business and other passions. “Once you’ve completed the AWE program, it’s like you’re set for life,” Basden says. “It’s an investment in you.”

This article was written by freelance writer Allie Dalola. A version of this article was previously published by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.