In part one, we looked at Joel and Jeremy’s story, and just like Joel and Jeremy’s unique journeys to becoming businessmen, so is Autumn Oliver’s journey to evolving entrepreneur beginning at the young age of seven. Autumn is a second-generation businesswoman. Her mother initially opened up a bakery called “Baby Cakes.” When Autumn took the reigns of the family business, she renamed it “The Boujie Bakery.”
I spoke with Autumn and asked her to share how a young 22-year-old manages to pick up the torch and grow a startup family business to new heights.
She shares the beginnings of her story: “I was about seven years old and remember my mother always working. During her working years, she’s done bail bonds; foster care; she did everything she wanted to do. One day she said that she was going to open a bakery, and everybody was like, “You don’t bake. Why you want a bakery?” She replied, “This is what I want to do.” And she went ahead she opened up her first bakery in Cleveland Heights. And it grew to be really successful. She was able to open a second location and eventually she ended up getting a food truck. After a 10 year run, she closed the stores in 2015. I graduated high school in 2014 and I went away to college in Cincinnati to study business administration. At the time, I wanted nothing to do with the bakery, or cupcakes, or cakes, nothing. I didn’t even work at the store when I was in school. I worked at a pizzeria directly across the street from my mom’s bakery.
Unfortunately, I only attended college for a year because it was hard for my mom to pay for school as a single parent from the bakery earnings she and my grandmother owned together. My grandmother was getting older and sickly and she was in and out of the hospital and it was just becoming too much for my mother. So, she decided to close the stores and I decided to leave college and go home. My mother still baked for people from her home. Subsequently, my mother ended up going back to school and now she’s a pharmacy tech at Hillcrest Hospital. Her co-workers started placing orders for cakes and cupcakes from her. As the orders grew and become too much for her she would ask me to step in and help her while she was at work. Since I didn’t have a job at the time, I helped out, this also helped pay my car note. One day, I started posting the cupcakes and the decorations on my social media, not to advertise, just taking pictures of what I was doing. From the post, more and more people start showing attention, and a couple of people order cakes and cupcakes. I started working a part-time job and before I knew it I was making more money baking than what the part-time job was paying me. I was making more money baking cakes. At that time I started making $1,300 in a month and thought I was making a lot of money. My checks from my part-time job were averaging $200.00 every couple of weeks. And my baking orders were producing $1,000.00 a month. I was like if I quit the part-time job and bake full-time, I could make a lot more money. So, on my 21st birthday, I walked away from my part-time job and never looked back.”
Usually, a job gives a sense of security, but for Autumn it held her back from her potential. She took a risk and plunged right in after she saw the money she could make from baking cakes and cupcakes. With a simple marketing move, she began to realize her true potential. Her business evolved beyond her initial goals.
“I decided to make an Instagram page; because I didn’t have Instagram. I was just doing everything off of Twitter. And I knew that Instagram was really big for business but I didn’t like it because I didn’t post pictures. But though, if I’m on Instagram I can make a cake page for my business. And it literally just took off from there. I went from making $1,300.00 in September to almost $9,000.00 a month by March. And I wasn’t all that good. When I look back at the cakes that I was doing my eyes start ‘bleeding.’ They were so terrible. But today, I still have so many loyal clients, who trusted me, grew with me, and stuck with me throughout that phase of my journey. And I’m very grateful for that.“
As seen on Fox 8 News, Cleveland, Ohio] From that simple Instagram page her clientele grew so much that she decided she wanted to have her own storefront bakery. She very wisely became frugal and saved all the money she could in an effort to get the storefront she wanted. There was an advantage to her saving more money because her mother had all the equipment that was needed to run a bakery. That was money she didn’t have to spend, she told me. Before long she had saved $20,000.00. In the middle of her looking for her own store, the encouragement from her grandmother meant so much when she told her that if this is what she wanted to go for it. She shared that by the time she saw the 2,000+ square foot building she wanted to buy, her bank account had grown to about $26,000.00. With an additional $10,000.00 loan Autumn knew that she had enough money to put down on the building she desired. Not a person to give up, Autumn said, “The building was in a residential zone and not in a retail zone. So, right before, completing the transaction, I consultant a Realtor. I thank God for my realtor. He looked into it. He said we had to go to court to get this approved which took months. I went and viewed the building in December, and we didn’t get the final approval until April. But my landlord, also had faith that they were going to approve it. After he’d seen my work, and after he had seen my vision, he really wanted me in his building. And also, instead of me buying it, he’s letting me rent it with the option to buy. It’s really nice. She stated that if she buys the building this year, the seller will take $20,000.00 off the asking price.
This business-savvy young lady with her own building attributes her mother for passing on her entrepreneurial spirit and positive outlook on life. But when asked about the vision she has, it’s her own unique vision: “My mother is very, very nice. I’m a lot stricter than my mom when it comes to the way I do my business. She’s extremely nice, but I’m a lot more business-like.” Her mom and grandmother wanted her to take the bakery’s original name “Baby Cakes” and just rebrand it. She told them that she couldn’t do that, “That’s not me…it’s gotta be mine.”
When asked about her vision for the future of the bakery, Autumn quickly and excitedly shares that she wants to expand her bakery to other locations. One city she wants her bakery in is Cincinnati. She even used the word global when looking into the future of her business. Interestingly, she revealed that her original business idea was to open up a smoothie bar. She always wanted to do smoothies. “That’s what I was working on and I have a recipe book, I have a name, I have everything for it. I was ready to go. The only thing was I didn’t have the money. And after a while, I just got totally fascinated with baking and I scrapped my book. I still have it though. That’s what I plan on doing next. When my baking business is very successful that’s what I plan on doing next. To get my beverage bar, that what I call it.
When asked if she was able to influence other young people like her she admits that she was the youngest baker she saw on Instagram. She was just 21. But when her peers saw what she was doing and that she was successful, she began seeing more of her peers baking and even contacting her for advice. She even has classes for those interested in baking, and she employs family members and young teens to assist her in her profession, paying them for their services. I asked her that as a second-generation family businesswoman what is her dream for her family into the future. In her own words, “I want to make my family, not proud…I want to make my family successful. I want everybody in my family in a position just to win; so we can all win together. I want to put my family in a good financial situation, whether they want to bake or do something else that I can help them with.”
For an evolving millennial in this 21st century, she gave age-old advice for any other young person seeking to become an entrepreneur, “I would really just say not to give up and to be patient with learning whatever your craft may be…perfect your craft and not try to keep up with other people. Just don’t give up.”