Emmaus student’s cupcake business booms during quarantine

Sherman selling cupcakes at the Zionsville Antique Mall on Oct. 18. Photo courtesy of Sherman.

With the devastating blow of Coronavirus on the world, many people were sent into a spiral of muddled days and a seemingly endless stream of unproductivity, but Emmaus junior Sarah Sherman saw this as an opportunity to turn this quarantine haze into a creative stepping stone to help her launch her own cupcake business, Sarah Jane’s Cupcakes. 

Through utilizing social media accounts, her own website, and a weekly newsletter, Sherman flipped the boredom of quarantine into a way to both do something she loves every day, and earn some money. Over the past five months, Sherman earned almost $1,600 in sales from a variety of cupcakes baked in her own home, such as mini cupcakes, seasonal flavors, and specialty flavors. Although she now finds herself fulfilling orders and making new batches of cupcakes as a daily routine, starting her own business wasn’t Sherman’s original plan for her newly found free time in quarantine.

“One day I started to make cupcakes and driving them around and delivering them to people,” Sherman said. “One of the people that I was delivering to, their mom called me later and was like, ‘These are so good, can we order some for my niece’s birthday?’ and I was like, ‘Oh my god, sure!’ and that’s how it kind of started.”

Deliveries, mixing batter, and planning take a large portion of Sherman’s day. However her softball team, the Bat Busters, competes with her baking process through a rigorous time consuming schedule that consists of tournaments every weekend, three hour practices every Tuesday and Thursday, and three hour pitching lessons. With the recent addition of schoolwork, time management regularly proves itself as one of Sherman’s most prominent struggles in balancing her workload. She squeezes time to make batches of cupcakes in between classes, during study halls, and after school to make up for her busy schedule, benefiting from the online model for school.

Daria Krout, Sherman’s teammate, notices how much time she dedicates to baking, even at unconventional hours of the day.

“Sometimes she will [make cupcakes] right after softball, which ends around nine, and will go home and just make cupcakes until midnight,” Krout said. “She will pretty much stay up as long as she needs to to finish what she needs to do.”

Fitting time into her packed schedule is just one of the hurdles that Sherman has to work through in starting her own business. 

“I definitely feel like I want to take the responsibility to learn more about the business aspect of making food, because that’s something I struggled with in the beginning,” Sherman said. “Knowing what prices to put and organizing everything like the finances, that was difficult for me in the beginning… but I have to save money and buy ingredients with that money and I have to put money aside for my business.”

Though she is venturing into a whole new world of owning and operating her own business, Sherman still takes these challenges in stride. In trying to build a thriving business from the ground up, one of her friends, junior Abby Hark, notes the passion and devotion that Sherman expresses for baking. 

“She’s putting a lot into it, and I feel like she really puts it first. She spends the time thinking about new flavors and filling orders, and she’s really determined to make people happy and make sure the orders go well for people,” Hark said. “She’s kept it going up, and up, and up the whole time, and has really put a lot into it, which really shows that she’s invested in the business and that she enjoys it.”

Starting a new business in the time of a global pandemic is no easy task. With sales dropping for countless small businesses closing, Sherman finds a way to keep Sarah Jane’s Cupcakes operating. Returning to normal may pose a new challenge though. 

“I don’t really know anything else other than what we’ve been going through with the pandemic with my business,” Sherman said. “I don’t think that I would have started it if it weren’t for the pandemic… so I’m really adapting now as were getting back to almost normal”

Sherman has sold over 1,000 cupcakes since opening her business in May, and has opened numerous doors to new connections and business opportunities for herself. One of these new opportunities is a chance to sell cupcakes at the Zionsville Antique Mall. According to their website, zionsvilleantiqes.com, Sherman held a table on Sunday, Oct. 18, and will return during the store’s holiday shopping event on Dec. 5 and 6. Here, Sherman will have pre-orders for pickup, sell individual cupcakes, and sign people up for her new newsletter.

Melissa Weigner, the manager of Zionsville Antique Mall, first heard about Sherman’s business after receiving some of her cupcakes as a gift from one of her coworkers. From there, Weigner saw an opportunity to extend Sherman’s business by offering her a location to sell her cupcakes in person, something that is not usually available for Sherman’s customers. 

“She’s a young entrepreneur looking to get started and our business is all about promoting local small businesses,” Weigner said. “She has a good product, a quality product, and she’s a good person.”

Supporting small businesses is an important aspect of the store, as it is comprised of around 200 independent vendors who conduct business daily.

“[Small businesses] are the foundation of what America is,” Weigner said. “That’s why people came here, to be entrepreneurs and to start their own business, and it’s important to keep small businesses going in our country.”

Although Sherman does not believe she can still run her business when she goes to college, she wishes to attend culinary school and pursue a career in either cooking or baking. Creating Sarah Jane’s Cupcakes has opened her eyes to new opportunities in her future, such as opening her own restaurant or bakery. 

Sherman’s love for baking reveals itself in all aspects of her business through her drive and pursuit of success. 

“I’m very impressed that she’s been able to connect to these other people and they’ve spread the word and she’s continued to make cupcakes for these people, and through that it’s expanded,” Hark said. “I feel like so many more people have been able to get out and try them. It’s not like she just gives it to a few of her friends, she’s made it into a real thing.”

Lemon and mixed berry cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Sherman.
Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese icing. Photo courtesy of Sherman.

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