Photos courtesy of Ellie Smith, Rose Rezaee, and Amelia Quinlen
When coronavirus hit early last spring, several St. Mary’s students took their spare time and started their very own businesses. From artisan jewelry making to extravagant baking and elaborate cake decorating, these students used their creative talents as an outlet to pursue their passions as well as make a little cash on the side.
Over the summer, Amelia Quinlen (11) created Moolie’s Cookie Cakes, a homemade cookie cake business. Quinlen had been throwing around the idea of a summer job but was struggling to figure out what to do. After making a cookie cake for one of her friends, the overwhelmingly positive feedback led her to decide to dive right into selling homemade cookie cakes. “This is my first experience with a self-made business,” Quinlen said.
While reflecting on what life lessons she has gained through these couple of months, she said, “It has taught me the importance of organization, time management, and communication. It has helped me not to be such a perfectionist. Also, it’s helped me learn how to handle money. I keep track of my revenue and expenses to calculate my profits … I’ve gotten so much better at all of this though. Now, I can decorate my largest size cake in 2-3 hours,” she said.
Quinlen’s company, also known as @mooliescookiecakes on Instagram, has been very successful with nearly 400 Instagram followers. Her account displays pictures and short videos of her cakes of various sizes, elaborately decorated for a wide range of occasions such as birthdays, college departures, welcomings, thank yous and movie premieres. She even offers a gluten free option which a recipient raved about in the comments and said they will order on every occasion from now on.
“I get more orders than I can accept, which I’m very grateful for, although I hate having to turn orders down. I also think it is successful because I really enjoy doing it, and it does not feel like work unless I’m in crunch time,” Quinlen said.
Ellie Smith (11) also started a small business during quarantine to tempt our taste buds with her homemade cinnamon rolls. She was inspired to start her own bakery after making a batch of rolls just for fun with her aunt over quarantine. Once they had finished the rolls and realized how tasty they turned out, her aunt encouraged her to sell them. Smith then posted a picture of her cinnamon rolls on her Instagram account and received numerous messages from prospective customers.
Like Quinlen, Smith also manages her own Instagram account dedicated to her business. Her account, @_bakedbyellie, displays her cinnamon roll batches in unique flavors such as oreo cheesecake, lemon blueberry, funfetti and red velvet, just to name a few.
Smith is straightforward about her biggest challenges. “The baking process is extremely messy and takes as long to clean up as it does to actually make the rolls,” she said.
“I think my business has been successful enough considering the amount of time I have put into it. Obviously I don’t make enough money off of this business to equal an average income, but I make a good amount for a teenager,” Smith said.
Another student who worked hard this quarantine is Rose Rezaee (12). She created her own fundraiser selling jewelry, handmade clothing, and tapestries, donating all profits to the Mid-South Covid-19 Regional Response Fund and Equal Justice Initiative.
“I felt like as an active citizen I had to help my community,” Rezaee said.
In the beginning, she used her own money to purchase materials for her products, and as soon as her business grew, she contributed all of her profits to the organizations she was fundraising for.
This is not Rezaee’s first experience with her own small business. “I had my own Etsy account and sold jewelry in 8th grade. I made more than $600 selling on Instagram and Etsy to my mom’s coworkers and family friends. I used many of the designs of the jewelry I made back then when making the jewelry for my fundraiser,” she said. Rezaee has been successful in both her business and citizenship, giving a helping hand to her community in times of uncertainty.
However, now that busy school schedules are back in full swing, balancing school work, after school activities, and a small business can be difficult and require adjustments. It now becomes crucial for students with small businesses to shift their focus towards schoolwork.
“Going from quarantine to school has forced me to go from making and decorating one or two cookie cakes a day to one or two a week because it’s all I have time for,” Quinlen said. Smith said, “Business has definitely slowed down recently, and I haven’t been able to post as much about my cinnamon rolls, so I guess it really is hard to run a business and be a full time student. I hope to figure out ways to stay active with my business as well as my studies and sports.”
For anyone interested in starting a small business, these young entrepreneurs offer their advice. “Do something you really enjoy and will not just be stressful for you. Also, just be very organized in terms of both keeping track of finances and keeping track of your time and availability. Communicate clearly and respectfully with customers and follow through with whatever you tell them that you are going to provide. I suggest looking at how other small businesses operate to get ideas for how to operate your own.” Quinlen said. Giving more tips on kick-starting a business, Smith said, “Try and think of something original and something that you enjoy. It’s so hard to stay motivated to keep up your business if you don’t totally love what you are doing.”
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