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A little extra help at the shop.
These Black-owned businesses delight their customers every day. Storefront kits from Nest and Pixel gave them a few more tools to make it happen.

The idea for a bakery started when Michelle “Chef Shelli” McInnis’s daughter started staying up late at night as a toddler.

Sleep problems are common for people with autism like her daughter. McInnis, a trained pastry chef, quickly realized that baking could be a good fit for her daughter’s schedule, since bakers often begin their work in the wee hours of the morning, or overnight. 

The bakery McInnis opened, Sweet Spot and Urban Lounge, is now a cornerstone of the Black community in Jacksonville, Florida. For more than a decade, McInnis has offered up delicious food and helped train people with intellectual and physical disabilities – including her daughter, who works at the shop – in the art of baking.

Just before the pandemic, Sweet Spot had landed its first physical location in Jacksonville, opening in February 2020. Not long after, McInnis got a call from the Jacksonville Urban League letting her know she’d be receiving a storefront kit with products from Google to help her with her business. The kit included three Nest Cams, a Nest Hub Max, a Nest Mini, and a Nest Thermostat.

McInnis was among the more than 550 Black business owners who received such kits during the pandemic. In 2020, Google partnered with the National Urban League and OnTech to donate devices and services to help Black businesses thrive in the pandemic and scale for the future. In 2021, the program grew to cover more than 700 additional Black-owned businesses. The aim was to help them become more efficient and organized, and to give owners a better way to connect with employees.

Help supporting customers and employees alike

During the pandemic, a regular customer at Sweet Spot once asked what he might do with his leftover turkey sandwich. McInnis turned to her Nest Hub to get the Rachael Ray recipe for turkey chili that she makes at home. 

McInnis says the Nest Cams have been particularly helpful with her staff, who work independently, but sometimes need help with complex tasks or unexpected situations – like when someone new has come to the delivery door. With the Nest Cams installed around the shop, McInnis can be a supportive leader to her team through the Nest app on her Google Pixel even if she has stepped away.1

“If my daughter sees someone she doesn’t know come to the door while I’m out, she can call me and ask for help,” McInnis says.2 “Then all I have to do is look at the app and tell her to let them in.”

Most people are familiar with how Nest products can help connect your home. But a growing number of business owners have realized that these tools can provide convenience, safety, and more in their storefronts and home offices. For McInnis, the storefront kit has made life a bit easier around the bakery. For nutritionist Dr. Jennifer Jackson, who spends a lot of time away from her office, the Nest Cams have proven even more helpful.

Keeping an eye on the (home) office

Jackson, a nutritionist for prisons and youth support centers, travels often to correctional facilities around the country, where she crafts custom menus for those with dietary restrictions. “I’m licensed in 11 states, which means I travel a lot,” Jackson says. “Nest has been amazing because it helps me keep an eye on my home office while I’m gone.”

Jackson applied for a storefront kit through her local Urban League in Lafayette, Louisiana, and a technician installed the cameras, as well as a Nest Hub and Nest Thermostat. Now Jackson can take longer trips to facilities around the country, knowing that she can automate her home from anywhere (not to mention, check in on her kitty while she’s away).

Planning for a Nest-connected shop

McInnis expects to find a new location for her business soon, and she’s already planning where to put the Nest devices. “I love them,” she says of her smart home products. “Every time we go look at a new spot, I’m thinking about where I’m going to put them back up.”

Google sent storefront kits with Nest products to more than 500 Black-owned businesses in 2020 to support them during the pandemic and scale for the futureThe program has continued through March 2022, and 1200 kits have been donatedBusiness owners who received the kits, like baker Chef Shelli and nutrition expert Dr. Jennifer Jackson, found smart home tech helped them be successful
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  1. Some features, including mobile notifications, remote control, video streaming, and video recording, require working internet and Wi-Fi.

  2. Familiar face alerts require a Nest Aware subscription. Familiar face alerts not available on cameras used in Illinois.