Jessica Nabi, 18, is a freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Originally from Scarsdale, New York, Nabi realized there was an “untapped market” that she needed to break into. Thus, Cupcakes By Jess was born. We spoke with Jess about how she got started with her business, and of course got to hear a little bit about her ideal “blue-prynt”.
Lexi: How did you get started with your cupcake business? How long have you been doing this?
Jess: I have always had a passion for baking. I am the one in my family who bakes amazing desserts for every holiday or special occasion. In December 2017, I noticed an untapped market. I realized that there was nowhere in my community to buy fun, college themed cakes or cupcakes to congratulate high school seniors when they received college acceptances. I thought, what better way to congratulate peers on their college acceptances than with homemade personalized college logo cupcakes? So, I started my own business where I baked customized cupcakes and cakes. I launched my business this past year during Early Decision week and, in a matter of weeks, I had more orders than I could handle.
Lexi: What happened next?
Jess: I promoted myself through [my own] Instagram, Facebook, and word of mouth. Soon enough, I was also getting orders for Super Bowl cakes, as well as birthday cakes for kids and adults. After just a few weeks, a home chef app approached me via Instagram to sell my creations through their app. I was offered the opportunity to set up a web store and have my items delivered via Uber Eats to customers within a 200 mile radius. I figured out every aspect of this emerging business: how and where to order my supplies — sprinkles, boxes, powdered sugar — and, by trial and error, I determined the best method for decorating the cakes, marketing my business, and managing my business all while applying to college and staying on top of a rigorous senior year course load.
Lexi: How do you balance being a student and an entrepreneur?
Jess: As a high school senior, I had to be discerning about how many cupcake and cake orders I could realistically fulfill given my workload. There are only so many hours in the day. I spent many nights baking until after midnight in order to finish baking and decorating large orders for the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day and graduation. I am currently trying to figure out how to incorporate my business into my life as a busy college student. I plan to take college acceptance and holiday orders when I am home in December.
Lexi: A bit unrelated, but we’re all about finding your “blue-prynt,” what’s your ideal space like?
Jess: My ideal space would include awesome roommates. It would also have a fully functioning kitchen so I could cook amazing meals for everyone and so I could easily continue my baking business.
Lexi: Do you have any advice for college students looking to break into the cupcake business or starting any type of venture?
Jess: My advice would be to take risks. You don’t know if an idea can become a reality until you go for it. It can be scary to put yourself out there without having all the answers. For me, the excitement has been all about figuring everything out and being creative. Starting my own baking business was a risk. I didn’t know if anyone would buy my cakes or cupcakes. I didn’t know how to run a business. I didn’t even know how to create a perfect college or sports team logo on one of my cakes or cupcakes. I jumped head first into this business and figured out each step as I went along. Sometimes it was scary and overwhelming, but mostly it was challenging and extremely rewarding.
Lexi: What does the future look like for Cupcakes By Jess? Will you continue to work on it during and possibly post-college?
Jess: I would love to grow Cupcakes By Jess into a larger business after college. Baking and being an entrepreneur are my passions. I certainly have learned how to create a business, launch it and manage it.
To see more of Jess’s creations and order your own, follow @Cupcakesbyjess_ on Instagram.
*Disclaimer: Jessica Nabi is a friend of Blue-prynt employees.