When Justin Ellen received a “random” direct message Asked on Instagram if he was “Is it a cake?” Whether he wanted to take part in a Netflix show called – he thought it was “very sketchy”.
The youngest contestant on the popular baking show said that only when they said there was an interview did he realize, “OK, it’s valid.”
After a zoom interview and a month of waiting, Ellen – then 18 – was selected to participate.
It was overwhelming, he admitted.
“Because I was so young… and I realized I had to fly and stay at the hotel alone. Filming was a whole month. I haven’t been away from my family for so long,” he told CNBC Make It.
Even for the show’s recording, Ellen had to skip her high school graduation.
“Is it a cake?” A baking competition, where cake artists make edible replicas of everyday things – such as sneakers and handbags.
At first glance, the 19-year-old doesn’t seem to have as much experience as the other contestants. The young baker started making hyper-realistic cakes just two years ago. Even before Ellen was born, one of her opponents started baking.
Yet, before appearing on Netflix, he was already running his own successful cake business, Everything Just Baked.
“Last year, we made 100,000 in sales,” said Ellen, a New Jersey native.
“With [the] Netflix [show] Coming out, I did a lot more research… my calendar was flooded. I am very grateful for that. “
Hard work and failure
Ellen learned how to bake from her mother and grandmother when she was just 7 years old. They used to bake together on holidays like Thanksgiving.
From bread to pies and cookies, they’ve baked everything – but surprisingly, “never cake.”
But he quickly grew up as an assistant, and when he was 14, he went into the rabbit hole of cake tutorial videos on YouTube and was inspired to start his own creation.
“I’ve just watched other people’s videos, YouTube. It’s a great thing. You really have to practice and take the time to learn,” he told CNBC Make It.
“I’ve failed many times. I think it’s a simple cake and then everything goes wrong.”
Still, Ellen was discouraged. When he was in high school he began to immerse himself in baking – which was “definitely difficult” because he didn’t have much time on his hands. He remembers taking part in a baking competition and going to school at 5am to practice.
“I was very busy. [But] If you are really determined, you will find the time, “said Ellen.
Knowing your value
Ellen’s biggest challenge as a young entrepreneur was knowing her price – she was pricing her cake as if she were shopping with her own wallet.
“Back then, I didn’t realize how valuable my art was. I asked my mom and my mom, like me, was cheap. For example, ‘I don’t get $ 100 cakes.’ But today people are easily paying for it. “
When he first started, he was selling a six-inch cake for $ 60, but now it’s “easily $ 150 for the same size.”
From January of this year, he started earning up to $ 12,000 a month after running His business is full time.
“I understand that people are buying designer purses for thousands of dollars. You have to tell your customers the value of your brand and what you are offering them because the cake tastes great and [I] Use high quality material. “
Although the price of his cake has more than doubled over the years, this has not stopped him from building a “very profitable business”.
“The industry is very valuable and people have to pay for it. Honestly, my price goes up a bit every day … depending on my mood,” he said.
And if a buyer asks why his cake is so expensive? “I’ll just be honest and say, every day I improve my skills, so the price has to go up. You’re paying for someone’s skills. It took me 5 years to learn how to do it.”
Not stopping now
Big dreams must have paid off for Ellen. What he envisioned for himself has come true – he now sells cake mixes and baking tools online. Occasionally caught Classes for aspiring unemployed too.
Ellen added that she receives about 6 orders a week and they are now “big orders”. On a typical day, he would get up at 8 in the morning, working alone in his home kitchen according to his orders.
“Honestly, most of my clients don’t choose hyper-realistic cakes, they’re like wedding cakes.”
Her parents are now “sure” that she made the right decision to pursue baking as a career – in fact, Ellen, who started out as an assistant in the kitchen, is now the boss.
“My mother works for me now,” he said happily. “He helps me a lot with the backend stuff… like delivery.”
Even though he was surprised to see what he had achieved at the age of 19, the young entrepreneur did not dream.
“Nonetheless, I’m thinking of new ways to grow my business. I want to have an appointment-based studio. But my ultimate goal is to be like Wilton, a cake-making company.”
Illinois headquarters, Wilton manufactures a wide range of bakeware, decorations, baking equipment and ingredients that are popular among the unemployed.
“My goal is to be … [Everything Just Baked] Minority-owned, black-owned and I think we need representation because there is no such thing as a big minority brand in the baking community. “