Justin Ellen identified himself at a tough crossroad when he was 17 — really should he go after his passion for baking whole-time, or go to university to further his schooling?
At that time, the youngest contestant of Netflix’s well-liked baking clearly show was making tailor made cakes from residence as a side-hustle, although also juggling with faculty.
He was bringing property at least $5,000 a thirty day period, but he couldn’t help but examine himself to his friends.
“The matter that acquired me down was like, I was observing all my pals [apply for colleges].”
Nonetheless, the young superstar baker caught to his guns, believing that “absolutely everyone has their possess path.”
Just two decades later, the complete-time entrepreneur and owner of cake business enterprise, All the things Just Baked, is earning a lot more than $100,000 a year — and he is not turning back again.
In March this calendar year, he manufactured his debut on Netflix’s “Is It Cake?” — a baking contest the place cake artists develop edible replicas of everyday objects, this kind of as bowling pins and stitching equipment.
The exhibit, which premiered on the streaming services on March 18, was in the Prime 10 most-watched record in the U.S. for 4 weeks. It also raked in far more than 100 million several hours of sights from about the earth.
But the path of accomplishment is not without having failures, Ellen tells CNBC Make It. Sheer really hard work and clever terms from cherished ones also served prod him along.
‘Who made this cake?’
As a electronic indigenous, Ellen understood from the start out that owning a social media existence would be critical in developing his enterprise. But it took a ton of follow — and courage — to make himself identified.
“In the starting, my social media was not wonderful … not excellent photos, they were being very blurry. But as I held on progressing, I understood they have to be tremendous clear.”
Ellen also saw that Instagram was “truly pushing” video clip written content on the platform and which is when he made a decision to turn the digicam on himself, sharing snippets of his daily life as a young baker.
“I was unquestionably shy in the starting due to the fact it was just uncomfortable for me … but the much more you do it, it truly is like, oh well and truthfully no one cares if your hair’s a minor frizzy currently,” he shared.
“Actually, it makes you much more relatable. People want to know the man or woman at the rear of the brand name and if they get pleasure from you, they’re gonna want to commit dollars with you.”
Even so, Ellen claimed that submitting on social media was some thing he “failed to choose seriously” at the start off.
“I was just submitting for enjoyment. Ultimately, [through] phrase of mouth … folks stored asking ‘Can I order a cake?'”
Ellen also bit by bit constructed his following and clientele by baking whenever he had the likelihood, even if it was for loved ones gatherings.
“It doesn’t even have to be a huge cake … just make something tiny for the reason that you never know who’s heading to be there. Someone’s heading to take in it and check with, ‘Who created this cake?'”
Ahead of he knew it, he had in excess of 50,000 followers on Instagram and was earning about $5,000 to $9,000 a thirty day period in superior faculty.
“I understood, wow, this could be a critical business enterprise.”
As he observed his facet hustle get momentum in significant faculty, Ellen started off wondering about pursuing baking as a career. But not all people accredited.
“My father was like, a baker? I experience like there is a connotation [with baking] like, ‘Oh, you do not make a whole lot of money’ or ‘You have to do a large amount of function,'” he reported.
But Ellen had even bigger programs for himself.
“I understood that I failed to have to believe small. You will find so much you could do in the industry … feel about every single lane you could go into.”
“I looked at other bakers who produced their enterprise — they have products traces, which I experienced no strategy that which is some thing you can even do.”
It was about this time that Ellen, like his friends all-around him, had to consider about what’s up coming following large faculty.
“Possibly around junior 12 months, when everyone’s like searching for faculties … I was debating [about] heading to culinary faculty. [But] I recognized it wasn’t for me,” he explained.
“I just felt like it was not worthy of it and it was a lot of cash. And you won’t be able to seriously educate how to do artwork in a sense, it is really just follow — and the a lot more you observe, the a lot easier it is heading to get.”
That was the pivotal moment for Ellen, who understood he was not just a baker in substantial faculty any more.
“[I’m an] entrepreneur initially, then a baker. If you want to be a baker, then go do the job for somebody else.”
Social media could have been “absolutely totally free” to use as a type of marketing and advertising, but Ellen essential support with the first capital to get his business enterprise up and functioning.
“In the starting I was marketing cookies that I shipped out … I requested my mother and father for $500 to invest in bins and other elements.”
That was the initially and final time he ever requested his mother and father for dollars for his business, he explained.
Even while his parents experienced uncertainties about his small business in the early days, Ellen characteristics his achievements to their wise phrases: Usually reinvest what you make.
“I was in a position to reinvest the income that [I got from] people obtaining, back into my small business. I did not go acquire Jordans,” he claimed with a chortle, referring to Nike’s well-known Air Jordan sneakers that can charge at minimum $200.
That mentality is one thing that his mother and father — who operate their personal real estate firm — instilled in him, Ellen said.