2012 Ramapo High School grad Kara Schnaidt has sold thousands of cupcakes to locals over the past year, and according to the baking teen entrepreneur, it all started with a manicure.
“In high school, I was really confused about what I wanted to do after graduation,” the 19-year-old Franklin Lakes native said.
“I had always loved baking, and I used to just bake cupcakes as a hobby. One day I took a batch of cupcakes to the ladies who do my nails, and they absolutely loved them and asked if they could buy them. So, I thought, ‘maybe I can do this.’”
Kara Kakes doesn’t have a storefront yet, but it operates out of a local certified commercial kitchen and accepts online cake, cupcake, and custom orders.
She’s sold cupcakes at the Franklin Lakes, Wyckoff, and Allendale town fairs. At a professional bakery competition held at the 48th Annual Country Fair in Wyckoff last month, Kara’s Creamsicle Cupcake took the top prize.
“I didn’t expect this to take off as quickly as it has,” Schnaidt said.
Over the past year, Schnaidt has filled online orders for thousands of cupcakes, mostly through social media marketing and word of mouth about her unique designs. The baker says décor is what sets her cupcakes apart.
“I really just go all out with the decorations, that’s my thing,” she said.
“I use edible glitter, I use fresh fruit. It’s really all about the presentation.
She also uses only fresh ingredients, never freezes her baked goods, and tops her cakes with a Swiss meringue buttercream.
“It’s lighter than traditional buttercream. I want people to feel good after they eat a cupcake, not like they are going to regret it.”
Though she is enjoying her success now, Schnaidt said it hasn’t always been easy being a teenage entrepreneur. She first started the business while still a senior in high school, but shut it down after being mocked by classmates.
“I started the website while I was in high school, and it leaked out and everyone knew about it,” she said.
“I’d hear comments constantly, like ‘who does she think she is starting a business now?’ and had a lot of kids making fun of me. It was just nasty high school stuff, but at the time it really bothered me.”
Schnaidt even closed down her website until after graduation.
“After I went to ICE, I just knew this was what I wanted to do, no matter what people thought about it,” she said.
“I used to be shy about telling people that I own my own business, but now it’s the first thing I want people to know about me. I’m different than a lot of other 19-year-olds, and that’s a good thing.”
Schnaidt says she hopes to open a local storefront by 2015.
“There is a lot I want to do, but I am really happy that people are already trying and liking my cupcakes. I may not be established yet or have a store or a reality show, but I’m glad people know that doesn’t mean I’m not good.”