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Sugar and Spice pays off for teenage owner

Marshall High School student bakes up a successful business

Submitted photos Cloie Stevens and Kaitlyn Runia operated a booth to sell baked goods at Marshall’s Farmer’s Market for the first time in 2019. Stevens has continued the business as a sole operator.

Plenty of sugar and the right kind of spice add up to a winning combination for business owner Cloie Stevens.

Although she’s just a sophomore at Marshall High School, she has two years of experience operating Sugar and Spice Bakery. Her main sales venue is Marshall’s Farmer’s Market, which runs from early summer until fall.

The idea of a baking business took shape while Stevens was in junior high school, as she was starting to look ahead to job possibilities that could furnish spending money and the chance to save up for her education.

“I really enjoy baking,” Stevens said. “When I thought about jobs, I wondered if it could be possible to turn my baking hobby into a way to earn money. I thought it was worth a try.”

She began the business in 2019 through a partnership with a friend, Kaitlyn Runia. Stevens has continued Sugar and Spice as its sole owner, even with pandemic conditions from the past year.

She spent many hours planning the business before it was launched. The tasks included buying ingredients, getting a state license to be a cottage (home-based) food producer, and applying for the opportunity to have booth space at the Farmer’s Market.

It takes up to 30 hours a week to operate the business during Farmer’s Market season. During the school year, she concentrates on other sales opportunities by filling custom orders.

Customers place orders as small as a dozen items or as large as about 200. Stevens also has 13 people who get subscriber boxes once a month. Each box includes an assortment of breakfast treats, snack items and desserts.

Another sales opportunity takes place in December with a kindelmarket for Marshall area youth entrepreneurs. It was held for the first time in 2019, and was followed by a drive-through sales event last winter.

“I’ll work with any treat I’ve made or that I might be able to make,” she said. “I enjoy the time I spend on the business. It’s fun to get customers and to meet people.”

Her efforts have also met her expectations in terms of net profits. She’s made a total of about $10,000 altogether, with significantly more income in the second year as Sugar and Spice has become more established.

The business has also created occasional adjustments in the family routine at home. A second stove and refrigerator in the garage give her a chance to bake in two places.

“The kitchen gets busy when I’m baking,” Stevens said. “We’ll often eat outside when the weather is nice and when I’m using the kitchen area.”

Her experiences as a business owner have provided a strong foundation for related school activities. This year she placed first in the region in the entrepreneurship category of the Business Professionals of America contest.

She went on to finish fifth in the state event, and will compete in a national segment next month which will have a virtual format.

Her BPA project offers a variety of ways to showcase Farmer’s Markets to the public. Some of the components include a shopping list preparation guide, a meal planner, and a set of recipes.

“It’s important to let people know about the wide range of things they can find at Farmer’s Markets,” she said. “They can get high-quality food items and support local business. In the peak of the year, they can save money on groceries.”

She said a diverse product line is important to the success of Sugar Spice, but that customers have two items which have become special favorites.

One of them is her large monster cookies, ones that are bigger than most of what’s available from bakeries. The other is a special recipe for peanut butter and fudge brownies.

She said she’s hoping to continue Sugar and Spice for her junior and senior years.

Besides BPA, she’s active in a group of school activities that include theater, choir, golf, student council and special education tutoring.

“I’d like to keep the business going,” she said. “It depends on how it balances out with my other commitments. I also want to stay involved in extra-curriculars.”

She said she’d recommend business ventures to other teenagers if they have a detailed plan, along with a realistic chance of getting enough of a customer base.

“It’s all about having something to sell that people will want and having a way to get it to them,” Stevens said. “If they think something might work, I’d tell them to try it and see what happens.”

Chloe’s mother, Kandi Noles Stevens, said another main ingredient for success in youth entrepreneurship is a consistent long term effort. She’s familiar with a variety of youth development activities as a Southwest Minnesota State University education professor.

“Cloie proved that it’s possible to start a business at the age of 14,” Noles Stevens said. “She stayed with it and turned it into a success. It’s an example of what young people and young women can accomplish.”

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