By Hannah Green
When Rebecca Bourque goes home over winter break, she will not be kicking up her feet for a long winter nap like most college students. Instead, she will be dusting off her recipe book and heading into the kitchen to prepare for a holiday rush of baking.
But Bourque is not just making a dozen cupcakes for a family party—she is the owner of Baking by Becca, a dessert catering company that serves the area in and around her hometown of Lynn, MA.
Now a sophomore majoring in public relations/marketing communications here at Simmons, Bourque founded Baking By Becca when she was in the seventh grade.
“I really just kind of fell into it,” said Bourque, who accredits her baking skills to her grandmother, who she would bake with once a week as a young girl.
In fact, Bourque came upon her first few jobs accidentally. Before she developed a business plan or became the entity known as Baking by Becca, Bourque was a 13-year-old girl making cakes and cupcakes for family events. It wasn’t until other families began to request cupcake orders that Bourque realized she had the potential to turn a hobby into a business.
Now, Baking by Becca has expanded to include cakes, cookies, and any other requested desserts. And she does not just cater for birthday parties; Bourque has made treats for sweet sixteens, weddings, and baby showers. Her largest order? 12 dozen cupcakes.
However, these changes have not come without growing pains.
“I definitely had experiences where I had to re-evaluate where my money went,” said Bourque. As her order sizes increased, Bourque realized she was losing money and time using retail-sized ingredients.
To conserve her resources, she started buying supplies in bulk like sugar and flour. She also invested in a commercial mixer.
Bourque said that even though being away at college means she can only work during winter and summer break, her Simmons education is teaching her applicable skills in finding her niche within the business world.
She learned that to be successful, she had to differentiate herself from other businesses. “I don’t have a basic ‘this is what I have.’ Whatever they want, that’s what I do,” she said, “and that’s how I’ve set myself apart. My customers know they’re getting my full attention and efforts.”
While at Simmons, she also learned the importance of customer service and developing positive relationships with her target audience.
Because Bourque focuses on earning customers through word-of-mouth recommendations and social media, responding to both positive and negative customer reviews is a skill she prides herself on. In fact, she even uses this to her advantage by offering a discount to customers who post an honest review on her business’s Facebook page.
When asked what advice she had for students looking to start their own business, Bourque said, “You’ve just got to do it. I was really tentative at first and that’s not something that will help you. If you’re going to do it, do it head on.”
And Bourque is not the only Simmons student scheduling time for classwork, club activities, and business meetings all on a single Google calendar. Sammy Gilliam is a sophomore double majoring in business and finance who found time this semester to launch 2ndHandSam, an online consignment clothing shop based on Instagram that promotes sustainability and recycling.
Gilliam said she developed the idea for 2ndHandSam years ago. She knew she could not be the only one with an overabundance of unworn clothes and a wallet low on cash, and an online consignment shop seemed like the solution.
“I wouldn’t say [my business plan] was necessarily a realization,” said Gilliam, “but more of a now or never attitude. I had an abundance of clothes, and I knew that if I didn’t start selling them now, then I never would.”
However, Gilliam said it was tough to find the right audience for her company in her hometown of Burlington, VT. She recognizes that Boston’s college population is the perfect market for her online business that offers trendy clothes at low prices.
While her site now mainly caters to Simmons students, Gilliam said she hopes to expand her business in the coming years. “Future-wise, I want it to grow, but I don’t know how yet,” she said.
One thing Gilliam is sure about is using her business to help others; in the future, she wants her company to include a charity aspect and provide clothing to families in need.
“I think you have to be passionate about what you do,” she added, “and this is something where I want to help other people.”
Gilliam also said she was proud to be a part of a community of women breaking into the field of business. “It makes me happy whenever women are involved in businesses,” she said, “it’s definitely a male heavy field and I want to break through those walls.”