17-year-old Elizabeth Kizito was bright-eyed and beaming with dreams. Suffering from war and drought, Uganda was not the best place for an aspiring business owner. Kizito left in 1975 with her father. Learning English in American high school, Kizito worked in restaurants to help her father pay rent.
As Kizito was beginning her second year of business school at Eastern New Mexico University, she tasted her first cookie.
“I liked them so much that I said to myself, ‘I will make some of these for myself one day,’” Kizito said.
Kizito gathered her ingredients one Sunday night. She measured the flour and the sugar and grabbed the eggs. Following a simple recipe, that would later be perfected and reimagined into the famous cookie recipe she uses today, she baked through most of the night.
“I made so many that night that I took them to my coworkers and shared them,” Kizito said. The number of cookies started to dwindle and her coworkers asked when they would get more, encouraging Kizito to continue to make cookies.
More recently, Elizabeth was a recipient of the MOSAIC Award from the Jewish Family and Career Services. She earned the title of “Most Admired Woman” in Today’s Woman in 2002, and was the first inductee into its hall of fame. In 2003, she was named “Woman Business Owner of the Year” by Louisville Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
“I love owning my own business because I can meet all types of people around Louisville,” Kizito said.
Coming from one of the poorest countries in the world, Kizito describes her immigration as “going to heaven.”
“Here in America, there is everything: electricity, running water and good schools,” Kizito said.
African-American history means a lot to Elizabeth. “This month is a celebration about Africa, and our roots. It’s about our independence as a race and as a people,” Kizito said.
Her husband, Todd Bartlett, said that “it’s giving them the recognition that they deserve. They helped to build this country and that should be celebrated.”
Since 1989, Elizabeth and her husband have been successfully running Kizito Cookies, where they sell Elizabeth’s famous cookies, various baked goods and African crafts her family and friends send to her storefront.