Baylee Marsh Thornton started her baking business, Baylee Bakes, by accident. A few candid and lighthearted posts on her “finsta” soon led Thornton to a new lifestyle — waking up at 4 a.m. to finish frosting cookies and teaching decorating classes to hundreds of people. Thornton, who received the University of Georgia Entrepreneurship Program’s Student StartUp Award in 2020, recounts how her now booming business came to be in 2018 and how it changed in the era of COVID-19, as told to Jillian Tracy.
I started it as a finsta on Instagram, actually, on spring break my sophomore year. I was baking like cupcakes and cakes for friends, because I was broke as heck and I wanted to be able to do nice things for them, but I couldn’t, like, buy presents for everybody. So, I’d let them pick their cupcake or their cake or whatever they wanted and people were like, ‘Oh my gosh, you should post this on Instagram. Like, it’s so fun and cute.’
Someone found me and DM’d me and they were like, ‘Do you do sugar cookies?’ and I was like, ‘Well, actually, I don’t even sell, like, this is a joke, but sure.’ And then three weeks later, someone else asked. And then three weeks later, someone else asked. Three months later, I was doing, like, 600 (cookies) a week.
What (the pandemic) has changed, though, is I keep everything contactless. They have to pick a time to come and I set them on my porch. But other than that, business slowed down for like a month (in spring 2020) and then immediately ramped back up with graduation.
And the only thing I really had to change was just limiting the contact with people. I already did … safety procedures, like you know, bagging the cookies and wearing gloves and all of that.
Jillian Tracy is a first-year graduate student in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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