Because we are all about promoting women who are down for a cause or working hard in our communities, we sought out Megan Schmidt, the founder of Cupcake Meg for an interview with Liberette. This Hampton University student is a social entrepreneur that is working to make lives sweeter worldwide through the power of baking. Check out her story and don’t forget to snag one of her super fly tees!
I am aware of background on how Cupcake Meg came to be and they sound amazing. However, are there any specific projects that your business is focusing on at the moment? Do you plan to send more of your funds to Togo?
The focus is still on building a brand new primary school for the children in Togo. My mentor who I traveled with back in 2010 is currently in Lome and will bring back more details of what I need to share with others on getting everything in full motion. I can’t start building a school at this very moment because I need the funds to do so! So in the meantime, I make sure that more and more people visit my site, shop, and purchase cupcakes whenever I’m in town! (Either in New York or Virginia). I am really hoping to partner up with a very charitable non-profit that may have the experience and the means to get my Togo project completed, but in time, and with my own hard work I believe everything will happen how it should.
Why did you decide to do a creative social entrepreneurship?
When I was in high school, I was introduced to a program by Youth Venture (GenV.net) that gave seed funding to young people who started socially concious business. I was already passionate about the community, and wanted to learn about business first hand- so I wrote my business plan, recieved a check and never looked back. I think it’s the best type of business to have. Having a business in itself is already a service to the community, but when customers know that the cause is bigger than anything they could have imagined, it’s very inspiring to them and it pushes me to grow my business even more.
Cupcake Meg happened by accident. I sold goodies in the halls of my high school and wanted to stand out against other students who were raising funds for their businesses as well. So I added cupcakes to my inventory, hoping to gain some really loyal customers. When I graduated from Benjamin Banneker Academy in 2009 and saw a little bit of profit, I made plans that summer to start my vision right away- a non-profit organization which would support the basic needs of children around the globe, and a spin-off youth empowerment clothing line so that I can use my artistic skills and combine it with fashion to send a message to my peers and generations to follow. Within my first month as a freshman at Hampton University, I discovered an oven in the dorm I stayed in and called my mom asking if it would be a good idea to sell cupcakes again, but only for about a month or two. She gave me the green light and on October 11th 2009, I started my first sale at Hampton University straight from my dorm room.
Two months turned into four, and the next thing I knew I had a logo for Cupcake Meg, a youth empowerment clothing line idea, and a non-profit. Three businesses before I became a sophomore. That was a lot to think about at night. My campus and people in the area of Hampton University fell in love with what I began, and after witnessing the success of my tee-shirts combined with the success of my cupcakes…I eventually made three businesses into one. Now, Cupcake Meg donates half of it’s proceeds to our current community service projects and non-profits that work towards changing the world for children just like us.
What would you say has been the most exciting thing about your work thus far? What would you say is the most challenging?
I will never forget the joy it brought to the faces of parents at E’cole Savoir in Togo the day student’s families visited the school to hear about the contribution that I was making. As the director of the school spoke to parents in French, explaining who I was and that I had shipped school supplies for their children, a father interrupted the speaker, jumped up into the air and yelled to me, “How do you feel?” And at that moment, I finally did feel something. I didn’t know the effect I had on anyone until they gave that response with so much emotion. I was there in Togo and at the school simply executing my plan over my month stay, and looking forward to coming back home. That was it. I didn’t go for any excitement or hajj to “the motherland” looking for my roots or any of that. I will say the exciting part about my work is everything that I never saw coming.
When a simple task turns into something fun, emotional or even complicated – it’s so exciting and fulfilling. The same emotion displayed from the father is the same emotion I see on campus at Hampton when customers bite into one of my cupcakes. I love to make people happy because I know how it feels inside, and when I see that face and body language of someone who is so grateful to have recieved something refreshing- it makes me feel even better. That’s why my company’s tagline is, “Making lives sweeter worldwide” because this is an experience for everyone, whether you’re a student at a school like E’cole Savoir or a student at a school like Hampton University.
The most challenging thing is selling a million cupcakes. (Ha). The more cupcakes and merchandise I sell, the more I can do to help the community. I am very passionate about what I do. I love every part of my story and want to really see it mature and become a true success, but there is a balancing act that I deal with between business and school. I am still pursuing a college degree, so I am doing the best that I possibly can on my own and with my mom by my side to keep things afloat so that I can go full force when I completely finish with school. I hardly ever complain though, I look at any challenge as a blessing in disguise because I love to learn and grow because the problems I am faced with make me stronger and stronger every time I get through them.
What gave you the idea for the clothing? Do profits from these shirts go abroad as well?
The idea for the clothing was an accident too! After my cupcakes started to gain popularity around campus my second semester of my freshman year, it was time consuming and overwhelming to repeat my contact information everytime for customers who wanted to keep in touch for cupcakes. I created business cards with my logo, which people took a liking to as well. A customer told me that if I made a tee-shirt of my logo, he would wear it. Initially I thought, “No no no, I don’t want to do this cupcake thing, I have to get back to my original idea.”
Then, I started to hear more and more people say they would wear the tee’s as well. The wise decision would obviously be to go with the money making option, so that I can be of more service to the community- so I went with the teeshirt idea and Cupcake Meg uncontrollably became something bigger than I expected. I’m glad I made that choice because it really helped when I bought and shipped supplies to Belize and Togo. Next thing I knew, I was purchasing the CupcakeMeg.com domain and having photoshoots with the teeshirts around lower Manhattan.