Junita bakes cookies to break down barriers, start conversations about domestic violence and spark hope for women everywhere.

Hope. It’s what’s imbued in Junita Flowers and the delicious cookies she sells at Junita’s Jar, her business that works to end domestic violence and create conversations that lead to positive change.

Junita grew up in a close-knit family where she knew life was good. She watched her parents, and from their example, believed that secret formula to living a good life consisted of being kind, working hard, and praying. But over time as the pressures of life increased, the formula fell short. Junita was experiencing domestic violence and facing the challenges that come with change. But through the cracks of despair and fear around the future, hope emerged. 

Tell us about Junita’s Jar and why it exists.

Junita’s Jar is a mission-driven cookie company creating conversations to educated and eliminate relationship violence against women. Food naturally disarms and connects us. I use cookies to deal with a topic that can carry a lot of shame and embarrassment to bring people together.

When we saw your TED Talk, we were stuck by the secret formula your parents lived by. Can you tell us about the secret formula?

My parents had eight children. So I think they had to pray a lot, stay organized, and work hard, and have fun. Those early family relationships really shape how we all work in the world. In my case, when there are so many people in one family, with so many personalities, so many ways to do things, there has to be a grounding faith or belief that pulls everyone together.

Beyond believing in something greater, they taught us that accountability was the way to live in community. Everybody had a job and worked hard. If you didn’t do the dishes, then someone else couldn’t cook the meal. My parents taught us to carry that into the work world.

For a long time, these rules worked for you. But after finding yourself in a challenging marriage, how did these rules play out for you during that time?

I questioned them. This was the first time where I felt like I was doing the things I was taught to do, and they weren’t working.

I was married, and committed to the marriage, my children, and being the best mom I knew how to be. But my marriage was not only not working, it was getting worse.

In tough times, I would often lean into those rules more, thinking that things would get better. But all it did was silence my voice. And I lost sight of the fact that the rules themselves work, people don’t always follow them. It took living in that situation to realize that it wasn’t the rules that went wrong, it was that I was with someone who didn’t play by those rules.

What happened that made you want to change your life?

One day, my car had stopped on the side of the highway, and I was having a nervous breakdown. My body froze and I couldn’t move. Maybe it was because I could feel that we were going to step into a hard season, and I didn’t want to do it, but whatever the reason, that moment stuck with me. Sitting on the highway next to an entrance ramp with no shoulder—I didn’t realize the danger until I was out of it.

After that experience, I thought, “Junita, if you continue this, you’re teaching your children that this is how family works, that this is how life works, and you know that’s not true.” That’s what made me decide I had to do something different.

During these tough times, you discovered baking. What is it about baking that helped you?

As a child in a big family, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom and grandmother. As an adult, I couldn’t wait to have Hamburger Helper and get out of there, but that’s where all of my best memories of childhood were shaped, formed, and experienced. And the memories were mine.

When I was looking for something that belonged to me, I started baking again. The more I baked, the more memories came up. It was a happy place in the midst of chaos. And then, I started doing it for other people, and eventually they started requesting it. It’s just what I knew. Baking helped me connect with those memories and find an escape that allowed me to cope.

“When I was looking for something that belonged to me, I started baking again.”

How did you evolve your passion into a business?

When I was 12 years old, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was naive, but intrigued by the idea that if something didn’t exist, entrepreneurs could create it. It was like magic. That drive guided me.

When I was going through divorce, the one thing I knew was that I didn’t want another woman to feel the way I felt. I didn’t want anyone to feel like they were in it by themselves. And in the cracks of depression and feeling so lost, I saw the sliver of hope that caused me to question what was out there for me.

I only had a little bit of hope, but I clung to it. Hope took me from one thing to the next; to speaking, finding opportunities, and realizing my role as a founder.

In 2015 when I began the divorce process, I imagined my rock bottom where I saw us losing everything. But I also asked, what could happen if I pursue this business and it fails? Could I deal with moving in with my mom? The answer was yes. That was the permission I needed to start pursuing my business. At that point, everything was on the table. I’d lost everything, and my mind was open. I launched Junita’s Jar in 2018.

“When I was going through divorce, the one thing I knew was that I didn’t want another woman to feel the way I felt. I didn’t want anyone to feel like they were in it by themselves.”

Once you’d started Junita’s Jar, when did you realize you had a great idea on your hands?

When I started volunteer blogging for James J. Hill library—which my family would’ve thought I was crazy for doing—I built an audience there that came along on my journey starting this business. They encouraged me, and I thought that maybe I should listen to what they were saying. I realized it was bigger than me and that I needed to just do it.

What advice do you have for women who are in survival mode?

When I was in that place, I didn’t know what I was good at anymore, and I had to set a goal that I had 100% control over the input and the outcome. Going back to the rule of working hard that my parents taught me, I wracked my brain and found something I could put my effort into and achieve: running a marathon. 

Whatever that thing is in your life, you can decide to get it. Set a goal!

How can someone who needs hope find that sliver of light?

We have to give ourselves permission to be sad, and eventually, to be open. Honor the feelings of not knowing how to make it work. There’s also therapy, and being ready for the things that could take you to a good space instead of a bad space. Be okay with childlike curiosity and ask “What if there’s something else. What if there’s more?”