At the age of 17, Justin Ellen found herself at a difficult crossroads – should she pursue her passion for cooking full-time or go to college to further her education?
At the time, the youngest contestant on Netflix’s popular bakery show was juggling with school while making custom cakes from home on the hustle and bustle.
He brought home at least $5,000 a month, but he couldn’t help but compare himself to his peers.
“What disappointed me was that I seemed to see all my friends. [apply for colleges]”
However, the young famous baker took up arms, believing that “everyone has their own way.”
Just two years later, full-time entrepreneur and pastry business owner Everything Just Baked is making more than $100,000 a year and not returning.
In March of this year, Netflix’s “Is It Cake?” He debuted with. — a baking contest in which pastry artists create edible replicas of everyday objects such as bowling pins and sewing machines.
The show, which premiered on the streaming service on March 18, Top 10 most watched charts in the USA for four weeks. It also received over 100 million hours of views from around the world.
But the road to success is not without failure, says Ellen Make CNBC. Hard work and wise words from loved ones also helped to nudge him.
As a digital native, Ellen knew from the start that her social media presence would be crucial to building her business. But it took a lot of practice and courage to promote herself, she.
“Initially my social media wasn’t great… not great photos, very blurry. But as I kept going, I realized they had to be super clean.”
Ellen also saw that Instagram was “really pushing” video content on the platform, and that’s when she decided to turn the camera on herself, sharing glimpses of her life as a young baker.
“I was definitely shy in the beginning because it was awkward for me… but the more you do it, the ah well and honestly, nobody cares if your hair is a little frizzy today,” she said.
“Honestly, it makes you more engaging. People want to get to know the person behind the brand, and if they like you, they’re going to want to spend money with you.”
Despite that, Ellen said posting on social media was something she “didn’t take seriously” at the beginning.
“I was just posting for fun. Finally, [through] word of mouth … people asked, ‘Can I order a cake?’ he kept asking.”
Ellen has also slowly built up her followers and clientele by baking whenever she gets the chance, even if it’s for family events.
“It doesn’t even have to be a big cake… just do something small because you don’t know who’s going to be there. Someone will eat it and say, ‘Who made this cake?’ she will ask.”
Before she knew it, she had over 50,000 followers on Instagram and was earning around $5,000 to $9,000 a month in high school.
“I just realized, wow, this can be serious business.”
Seeing her side jobs gain momentum in high school, Ellen began to consider pursuing cooking as a career. But not everyone approved.
“My father was like a baker? I feel like I have an association. [with baking] It’s like, ‘Oh, you don’t make a lot of money’ or ‘You have to work hard,'” she said.
But Ellen had bigger plans for herself.
“I realized I didn’t have to think small. There is so much you can do on the field… think about every lane you can get into.”
“I’ve looked at other bakers who have created their business – they have product lines that I didn’t even know were something you could do.”
Ellen, like her friends around her, had to think about what’s next after high school.
“Probably in third grade, when everybody loved looking for college… I was arguing. [about] go to cooking school [But] I realized it wasn’t for me,” he said.
“I just felt it wasn’t worth it and it was a lot of money. And in a sense you can’t really teach to make art, it’s really just practice – and the more you practice, the easier it is to get.”
This was a pivotal moment for Ellen, who realized she wasn’t just a baker in high school anymore.
“[I’m an] entrepreneur first, then baker. If you want to be a baker, go work for someone else.”
Using social media as a form of marketing may be “completely free,” but Ellen needed help with startup capital to set up and run her business.
“Initially, I was selling the cookies I had sent… I asked my family for $500 to buy boxes and other supplies.”
“It was the first and last time he asked his family for money for his job,” he said.
While her parents were skeptical about her job in the early days, Ellen attributes her success to her wise words: Always reinvest in what you earn.
“I was able to reinvest the money. [I got from] People are buying, going back to my business. I didn’t go buy Jordans,” he said with a laugh. Nike’s popular Air Jordan sneakers this can cost at least $200.
Ellen said this mentality is something her parents, who run her own real estate business, instilled in her.