South Cariboo youth seem to have caught the business bug during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And some are finding their baking and other homemade treats are a lucrative pastime – selling their wares at local farmers’ markets or through their own websites.
Sophie Rywaczuk, 12, who started baking birthday cakes for children who needed cheering up during the pandemic, has set up her own business, selling cakes on Facebook under the name Sophie’s Bakery. She got a hand last year after a community member donated some professional bakery supplies.
“I watched a lot of baking shows like Cake Wars. I always thought it was so cool how they could take a cake and make it into a realistic-looking sculpture of something, so that’s what I wanted to do,” said Sophie, who lives in 105 Mile.
She’s been experimenting lately with fondant sculpting and piping techniques. Her first time making a fondant dragon didn’t go perfectly, but Sophie said she learned a lot from it. Fondant is an edible but firm icing.
“It’s like clay, but edible. It’s pretty easy to mould if it’s soft but if it gets hard, it’s garbage,” Sophie said.
Her biggest demand lately has been for dirtbike and unicorn cakes. She’s usually been able to meet any challenges that arise when making cakes but when she needs a hand she reaches out to her mom Jamie. She sells little cakes for $20 and big cakes for $40, though the price can vary depending on the complexity of the decorations.
Horse Lake’s Hailey McNeil, 13, is touting her pastries on Instagram and selling them at the South Cariboo Farmers’ Market. The founder of Sunbeam Pastries, Hailey specializes in cupcakes and pastries and also hopes to have her own bakery one day.
“I didn’t decide to get into the baking business this year for any particular reason. I had the idea to do this last year and I wanted to start this year,” Hailey said.
She is just one of a few youths who are offering tasty treats at the farmers’ market, which seems to be the launching point for several young entrepreneurs. Lone Butte’s little Guinevere Rolland, 6, began selling her horse treats at the market, much to the delight of the community, while the Peanut Butter Queens – sisters Stella, 14, and Lydia Schwartz, 15 – plan to return to the South Carboo Farmers’ Market and Interlakes Farmers’ Market in July.
Stella and Lydia, who live in Whistler but come up to Sheridan Lake every summer, got their start last year under the name the Interlakes Nutbutter Company after a former tenant of their parents left a peanut butter making machine behind. The girls even have their own website, peanutbutterqueens.ca.
“We have Interlakes Nutbutter Co., we have a website called the Peanut Butter Queens and we have the Whistler Nutbutter Co.,” Lydia explained.
The sisters are eager to return to this year’s farmers markets, as they have three new flavours to offer to the community. Besides last year’s salted, unsalted, coconut, chocolate and trail mix, the girls now have chocolate chili, ginger and smores-style peanut butter, their personal favourite.
“For ideas for new flavours, they come from both of us. Whoever happens to have a great idea,” Stella said.
The girls say they have noticed a lot more young people getting involved at the Whistler Farmers’ Market, which Lydia said is great.
“Often people look at kids like us and they don’t think we can own a business and that we’d be capable of all the responsibilities that come with it. In reality, it’s totally possible,” Stella said.
Sophie agreed it’s great to see more girls getting into baking and starting their own businesses. Her advice is to “try their best and never give up.”
Although Hailey said she finds the social side of running a business, such as talking with customers and managing her social media account a bit difficult, the farmers’ market is helping her gain experience and confidence.
“It makes me feel glad,” Hailey said. “There aren’t very many other young people at the markets, but when there is I’m happy to know I’m not alone.”