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March 11, 2010

Rolling out the dough

by Philipa Friedman, Print Managing News Editor
Walking into a room and inhaling the buttery scent of baking pastries and cakes that emanates from the oven inspires an acute pang of hunger, a deep gnawing in the pit of the belly that will remain until the craving has been sated. For a select few, the aroma of a cake in the oven inspires a different type of hunger entirely - a hunger for business.

For senior Alisha Fraser, the sweet smell of success is remarkably like the aroma of baking brownies. Blair's Entrepreneurship Academy has provided her with the opportunity to combine the two scents into one pleasing and potentially lucrative passion.

What began as a project for business class has, for Fraser, turned into a dream career. She started off baking in elementary school, bringing in cookies for her classmates' birthdays or for bake sales. Baking was something that came naturally to her, even at such a young age, she says. Pretty soon, she says, her friends began raving about her skills as a baker when she would make them cupcakes for their birthdays. 'They would ask me, 'Did you make this?'' says Fraser. When she told them that she had, they told her that she should start selling. And that's exactly what she has started to do.

Kevin Murley, the Entrepreneurship Academy coordinator, is showing Fraser how to market her skills as a baker in order to create a small business. Her project has already come a long way from the original bake sale concept from business class. Fraser now makes birthday cakes, cupcakes, brownies and cookies. 'Whatever you request, I will make it,' she says. Her most recent project included a 'Little Einstein' birthday cake, complete with colorful numbers, letters and even a rocket ship - plus matching cupcakes. 'Over the summer I'm working on expanding,' says Fraser. Without the load of school work, she will be able to take more jobs and save, she says, for a real baking space.

Randi Goldman, the owner of Creative Cakes, Inc. in Silver Spring, also started out early - twelve years old to be exact - and emphasizes the importance of expanding one's client base. It is important, she says, to get the word out in the community about a business. While it is entirely possible to sell a bad product using good marketing strategies, says Fraser, who used fast food chains as an example, it is more difficult to sell a good product without adequate marketing.

For now, says Fraser, her business relies mainly on word of mouth for publicity. Her primary clients include family friends and people she knows. Now that she is looking to expand her business, however, Fraser is also looking to develop her marketing strategy. 'I'm trying to arrange business cards,' she says. 'There's a website that makes business cards called IntoIt.com. I should have it done by summertime.' Over the summer, Fraser also plans to look into getting a booth at a local outdoor market and will showcase her baking and decorating at a local Caribbean market.

Looking even further forward, Fraser also plans to keep up her business in college, which, according to Kevin Murley, head of the Entrepreneurship Academy, will be difficult. 'The biggest challenge,' he says 'is being successful in being a student, in being a business owner and in her personal life.' Goldman adds that, while keeping up a business in school might be difficult, it provided her with a safety net and the option to study whatever she wanted in college. Like Goldman, Fraser also has a fall-back option and, if her business continues to grow, will not have to find another job to get her through school. She will be taking on a double-major in business and medicine at Hampton University in Virginia, a course of study which she believes will prepare her for any future business endeavors. 'I plan on continuing my business while learning from my business classes how to manage it,' she says, as well as how to maintain her business legally and financially. As for balancing her business and her school life, Fraser adds, the drive back home isn't too far to manage.

After college, Fraser plans to branch out and acquire other businesses in areas besides baking, perhaps even delving into candy or clothing, but first she says she would like to expand her current business. 'At the end of college, I would like to have my own store, be baking out of my store, and have a nice amount of clients,' she says.

While it is true that Fraser dreams of big business someday soon, nothing can make her lose sight of her love for baking. The road may not be easy, but with determination, true passion for pastries and just a dollop of frosting, success will be sweet.



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