Junior markets baked goods, jewelry to student population

It's the beginning of seventh period English, and junior Cecilia Acosta is being accosted. A tote bag at her side is packed full with foil pans of miniature cakes, and she has just fulfilled an order of one to a student, sparking a flurry of activity. A throng of students surround her desk located in the corner of the classroom. Even after the initial commotion dies down, every few minutes another student will approach like clockwork and ask what flavors are left, or when they can order one. She cracks a smile, and it doesn't leave. They had proven to be a hit, but the miniature cakes were just another in a long line of products she'd touted to the student body over her high school career.

"I sell baked goods, usually cakes, which I've been doing probably since I was 13," Acosta said. "I watched a lot of Food Network as a kid and it kind of just escalated from there."

While beginning to produce generic items, Acosta got her start through custom cake orders, and continues to take them for events such as birthday and graduation parties.

"Every commission is a new opportunity to try new things and improve my skills," Acosta said. "I'm looking forward to making cakes for graduation parties once that season rolls around, and soon I'm going to start vending at craft and farmers markets on the weekends.”

Yet, baking is only one of Acosta's ventures. For the past three years, she's also sold her own handmade jewelry on Etsy, growing to over 200 sales during her time on the platform.

“When I was younger a family member I really looked up to was really into jewelry making, and she always used to make pieces to give to people," Acosta said. "I had always thought that was cool, so when quarantine began in 2020 I decided to take it up as a hobby. There was a short time when making earrings became a trend on TikTok, and I figured it was now or never, because I didn't want to seem like I was jumping on the end of the bandwagon. I started my Etsy shop using a lot of upcycled materials since I couldn't go to the craft store during lockdown."

Initially, Acosta sustained some difficulties getting her shop off the ground.

"Starting out I totally thought I could just skip the math and it'd all be fine," Acosta said. "Word of advice: the math is there for a reason. There's a lot of organization and budgeting involved in maintaining things. Etsy has definitely been annoying to navigate with their fees and setup."

Despite roadblocks, Acosta says her multiple enterprises are easier and more profitable than traditional employment would be. In addition, jewelry making has served as a channel for creativity.

"I just make whatever l'm inspired to make," Acosta said. "I know it's kind of frowned upon to not stick to one theme, but my personal enjoyment is a big part of what I do, and my customers don't mind too much. I like to make things in a variety of styles: for example, my Halloween collection was very popular last October."

Still, Acosta tries to stay up to date with current trends, while staying true to her creative drive.

"I've always upcycled aluminum cans in my jewelry because they're cheap, pretty, lightweight, and moms love them," Acosta said. "For the younger crowd, though, I like to use charms, crystal beads, and wires in my pieces."

When necessary, Acosta invests back into her jewelry and baking businesses to continue growing.

"I'm always saving for new baking supplies, craft materials and vendor fees," Acosta said. "I've even recently started making more intricate jewelry pieces with higher quality materials on top of my usual items."

But, when it comes to the majority of the money she earns, Acosta likens herself to a squirrel storing acorns in a tree.

“Except instead of acorns, it's cash," Acosta said. "I just like to save money. You never know when you're gonna be glad you put some away, so it's always good to look out for your future self.”