An entrepreneur’s journey from the commercial sex industry to the food industry

Story by Anna Tabet

Photos by Audrey La

Always smiling and ready to give anyone a hug, Shamica Evans has a personality that radiates through every room she enters. An optimistic and kind-hearted woman, Evans prides herself on spreading love and positivity to every person she encounters. Being the owner and creator of Waffle Chic, a food truck serving different versions of chicken and waffles, is just another way for her to bring joy and unity into the Waco community.

“I always wear a smile on my face,” Evans said. “That’s to be able to bless the next person, whoever comes in my place.”

While Evans does have a positive outlook on life, her journey to get to this point was anything but simple. After losing her mother at the age of 16, Evans and her grandmother had to take on the caretaker role for her six sisters and one brother. This new role included having to get a job in order to help financially support her family. 

The mounting pressure, coupled with the hardship of losing a mother, pushed Evans to get involved with the wrong crowd. Between the ages of 17 and 20, she began stripping in Waco; after some time, she moved to Dallas to continue down the same path. However, her situation became more serious when she involved herself with human trafficking. While in the human trafficking industry, she dealt with continual abuse and mistreatment, which eventually led her to run away in search of a better life.

One of her initial attempts to better her life came through attending McLennan Community College and meeting her first mentor, Jim Rambo. Rambo, an attendee of Antioch Community Church, persuaded her to come with him to church. Although a seemingly simple suggestion, this push allowed her to slowly start opening up about her past and start trusting God. 

Antioch Community Church brought many pivotal people into her life, including Courtney Rogers. Evans met Rogers through one of the pastors at Antioch, allowing her to secure a job at Co-Town Crepes, a food trailer in Magnolia Market at the Silos owned by Rogers. Working within Magnolia allowed her to come in contact with many supportive people, including Jerry and Nan Stevens, parents of HGTV “Fixer Upper” star Joanna Gaines. The couple was very kind to Evans and were always quick to offer up words of reassurance.

“I got two words from two wonderful people,” Evans said. “First, Mrs. Stevens gave me ‘warrior;’ then Mr. Stevens gave me ‘encourager.’ So I put the two together: ‘encouraging warrior.’ Those were the two words that stuck in my mind and my heart.”

Working at Co-Town Crepes gave Evans the boost of confidence she craved. For the first time in her life, she was able to live without government assistance. She additionally got a taste of what it was like to operate a business, making her passionate to one day open her own. 

While beginning to feel in control and happy with her life, she met Summer Shine, the creator of Luna Juice Bar, who has a similar background to her own. Shine spoke to Evans about Jesus Said Love, an organization that helps women who are leaving the commercial sex industry to transition into the next phase of their life. Because of her background and desire to give back to the community, Evans began to volunteer with Jesus Said Love to help other women who had faced the same struggles she had.

Although things seemed to be settling into place in Evans’ life, old memories of her past began to resurface, causing her to plummet into a downward spiral. During that time, she lost her job at Co-Town Crepes and soon after, Rogers sold the business. Evans was left unemployed and lacking the community she once felt so secure and loved in. This low point in her life drove her to get connected with Emily and Brett Mills, the founders and CEOs of Jesus Said Love, not as a volunteer, but as a woman in need of guidance and another chance to fulfill her dreams.

“After Courtney sold Co-Town and I lost my job, I felt defeated,” Evans said. “I was sad for a long time — a long time. And then because of Emily and Brett, I got empowered and they lit my fire again.”

As a member of Jesus Said Love, she applied for Access One — an eight-week holistic job training program. The main purpose of the program is to help women transition from their former life in the commercial sex industry into their next job or to obtain higher education. During the program, Evans learned about job skills, life skills, mental health, physical health and spiritual health. While procuring all of this valuable information, Evans and all members of Access One received an educational grant that allows them to participate in the program without fear of not being able to support themselves or their families.

Many women go through Access One and choose to carry on with their life, applying the information they have learned. However, women have the choice to apply to Access Two — a self-paced, entrepreneurial program that helps women in the early stages of developing and executing their own ideas for a business endeavor. Mills emphasizes that no matter how outlandish the ideas may seem, they are there to help foster and encourage these women to achieve whatever they deem as a meaningful and attainable goal.

“Survivors of sexual violence have had a lack of autonomy,” Mills said. “Because they’ve had that lack of choice or very limited opportunity, we really put them in that seat of power to choose for themselves what they believe they want.” 

Evans elected to go through Access Two and because of the program and the mentorship of Jersey Schmidt, the director of social enterprise at Jesus Said Love, she was able to make her idea for opening a restaurant that serves chicken and waffles come to fruition.

While Co-Town Crepes did attract her more to opening her own business, the idea to open up Waffle Chic did not come from working at Co-Town Crepes. In fact, the entrepreneurial spirit Evans possesses comes straight from her own mother. Growing up, Evans watched her mother open up a taco shop and a jewelry business called Gold Rush. When Baylor used the words Gold Rush during its marketing campaigns, Evans took that as a sign God had put her in the right place to open up the business her mom would be proud of. 

Survivors of sexual violence have had a lack of autonomy.

Emily Mills
Founder of Jesus Said Love

“I’ve always been a fantastic cook and I grew up eating chicken and waffles with my mom,” Evans said. “I thought to myself, I can empower that and do the same thing. I can bring the love that my mom had in her kitchen and spread it to everyone else here in the community who gave me the same amount of love in return to help me build into the woman that I am becoming.”

Buying the equipment for Waffle Chic took all but 32 cents in her bank account. Jesus Said Love allowed her to rent out their retail space as a location for the business, setting virtually everything in place for her to open up. Through the direction of Carol Fergusson from Start Up Waco, a central hub of resources for entrepreneurs, Evans was encouraged to open Waffle Chic in 2019 during Waco Restaurant Week.

In addition to advising Evans on when to first launch her business, Start Up Waco provided her with many resources and connections to take her business in whatever direction she saw fit. That might have been enough for many small business owners, but Evans’ confidence and determination led her to walk straight up to Jon Passavant, the CEO of Start Up Waco, and ask him if he would be willing to speak to her about her plans for Waffle Chic. Her confidence allowed her to form a strong connection with Passavant, as well as others in the business community, creating a supportive and tactful team around her.

“No one can do it alone; it’s not set up for that,” Passavant said. “You can go fast and make it for a while, but you’re really dependent on your own connections and your own resources, unless you are bound together.”

The Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce additionally became an asset and a pivotal part of the community that Evans built for herself and her new business. Coincidentally, the vice president of economic development at the chamber, Rachel Pate, is Evans’ best friend. Right around the time Evans began wanting to open her business, Pate received a position in the chamber. This allowed Pate to share the resources, such as free counseling, with Evans. The chamber prides itself on acting as bridge builder for minorities — specifically anyone who has had their business underutilized. 

“There has not historically been adequate representation for businesses of color,” Pate said. “There is a need to have an African American Chamber of Commerce to assure that there is a platform where they know their business side and can be pushed and nurtured.”

This determination to be an asset to minority business owners is one that Evans additionally possesses. In fact, one of her aspirations beyond Waffle Chic is to open a nonprofit to financially support budding entrepreneurs. Through both her future aspirations and Waffle Chic, she aims to inspire minorities and to help them feel as empowered as she currently does.

A much more personal driving factor for Evans has been her children. Being a single mother is no simple feat. Through every challenge Evans has faced, her yearning to create a better life for her children, coupled with her trust in God, has allowed her to persevere and defy the odds. Through her new business, she hopes she has proven to her children that no obstacle is insurmountable.

“I wanted to show my kids that there is a better way in life when you work hard for it,” Evans said. “Even though I was a single parent, I always tried to make sure I made it for my kids. I wanted to let them know that they could do that same thing, they just had to want it.”

Waffle Chic is set to open permanently in Pinewood Coffee Roasters. It has continually grown and evolved since its first days in Jesus Said Love’s retail space, and Evans said she could not be more grateful. She prides herself on her customer service skills, aiming to make everyone who comes to eat her chicken and waffles feel welcomed and loved.

“I wanted everyone to feel like it was just like their own mom’s kitchen,” Evans said. “Because I’m a momma, and in my head I want to know that I’m feeding my babies right. Because that’s how I feel about my customers. Everyone is my family and I want to take good care of my family.”

Evans’ strength and the many people who lifted her up when she needed it allowed Waffle Chic to become an ever-improving fixture in Waco’s community. Because of this, Evans is able to focus on what the future holds for her and the many doors she will open through her unwavering dedication to helping those around her find their own new beginnings.

“For a long time, I felt like it was hopeless,” Evans said. “I felt unworthy of a good life. But God showed me how worthy I am by putting these giants into my life. And he made sure that these giants made sure that I prevailed. And now I feel like I’m invincible.”