From a baker to an entrepreneur, this high school graduate built his business for $ 100,000

From a baker to an entrepreneur, this high school graduate built his business for $ 100,000


Justin Ellen, at the age of 17, found himself at a difficult crossroads – should he pursue his passion for baking full time or go to college to further his education?

At the time, the youngest contestant of Netflix’s popular bakery show was making his own cakes from home as a side rush, while juggling school.

He carried home at least $ 5,000 a month, but he couldn’t help but compare himself to his peers.

“What got me was seeing all my friends [apply for colleges]. “

However, the young famous baker held on to his arms and believed that “everyone has their own way.”

“[I’m an] first businessman, then baker. If you want to be a baker, go work for someone else, “says 19-year-old Justin Ellen, who earned 6 jobs with his cake business.

Justin Ellen

Just two years later, the full-time businessman and cake business owner, Everything Just Baked, earns more than $ 100,000 a year – and doesn’t return.

He made his Netflix debut in March of “Is It Cake?” – a baking competition where artists create edible replicas of everyday items such as skittles and sewing machines.

The show, which premiered on streaming on March 18, was four weeks in the US Top 10. He also gained more than 100 million hours of views from around the world.

But the path to success is not without failures, Ellen tells CNBC Make It. Mere hard work and wise words from loved ones encouraged him to do so.

“Who made this cake?”

As a digital native, Ellen knew from a social networking presence that would be essential to building his business. But it took a lot of practice – and courage – to make itself known.

“In the beginning, my social networks weren’t great … they weren’t great photos, they were very blurry. But as I went on, I realized it had to be super clean.”

Ellen also saw that Instagram was “really pushing” the video content on the platform, and then he decided to turn the camera against himself and share excerpts from his young baker’s life.

“I was definitely shy at first because it was just embarrassing for me … but the more you do it, it’s like, well and honestly, no one cares if you have a little frizzy hair today,” he said.

“Frankly, it makes you more related. People want to know the person behind the brand, and if you like them, they’ll want to spend money with you.”

Still, Ellen said posting on social media was something he didn’t “take seriously” at first.

“I only published for fun. In the end [through] oral… people kept asking ‘Can I order a cake?’ “

Ellen was also slowly building an audience and baking clients whenever she had the opportunity, even if it was for family events.

“It doesn’t have to be a big cake … just do something small because you don’t know who’s going to be there. Someone eats it and asks, ‘Who made this cake?’

People buy branded wallets for thousands of dollars. You need to get your customers to understand the value of your brand and what you provide them …

Justin Ellen

Owner, everything just baked

Before he continued, he had over 50,000 followers on Instagram and earned about $ 5,000 to $ 9,000 a month in high school.

“I realized, wow, this can be a serious business.”

From baker to businessman

When Ellen saw his side hustle and bustle in high school gain strength, she began to consider baking as a career. But not everyone approved.

“My dad was like a baker? I feel like he has some connotation.” [with baking] like, ‘Oh, you don’t make much money’ or ‘You have to do a lot of work,’ “he said.

But Ellen had bigger plans for himself.

“I realized I don’t have to think small. There’s so much you can do in the field … think of every lane you could take.”

“I looked at other bakers who created their business – they have product lines that I had no idea it was something you could do.”

It was at this time that Ellen, like his friends around him, had to think about what would happen next after high school.

“Probably around the first year, when everyone likes to look for college. ‘I debated [about] go to cooking school. [But] “I realized it’s not for me,” he said.

If you want to be a baker, go work for someone else.

Justin Ellen

Owner, everything just baked

“I just felt it wasn’t worth it and it was a lot of money. And in a sense, art can’t be done, it’s really just an exercise – and the more you practice, the easier it will be.” get.”

This was a crucial moment for Ellen, who realized that she was no longer just a baker in high school.

“[I’m an] first businessman, then baker. If you want to be a baker, go work for someone else. ”

The best business advice

Social media could be “completely free” to use as a form of marketing, but Ellen needed help with start-up capital to get her business up and running.

“In the beginning, I sold the cookies I sent out … I asked my parents for $ 500 to buy boxes and other materials.”

It was the first and last time he had ever asked his parents for money for his business, he said.

Running a business is expensive. You don’t want to spend money just because you think you have a good idea.

Justin Ellen

Owner, everything just baked

Although his parents initially doubted his business, Ellen attributes his success to their wise words: Always reinvest what you earn.

“I could have reinvested the money [I got from] people shopping, back to my business. I didn’t go to buy Jordans, “he said with a laugh, referring to Nike’s popular Air Jordan sneakers, which can cost at least $ 200.

This way of thinking is something that his parents – who run their own real estate company – inspired him with, Ellen said.

Justin Ellen now sells his own line of cake mixes and baking tools online.

Justin Ellen

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