Haley Brown never really meant to start her own business. Her friends kind of pushed her into it and she just went with the flow.
"I'd make cupcakes for all my friends for their birthdays and in my junior year, my AP English class thought I needed to have my own business," said Haley, 18. "So they set me up on Facebook and designed a T-shirt for me."
For her efforts, Haley, a senior at Tishomingo County High School, has earned a $1,000 scholarship from the National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation for her business, Cupcake Couture.
"It's hard for anyone to keep a small business going, but it's even harder when you have homework, too," said Ron Aldridge, state director of NFIB/Mississippi, the state's leading small-business association. "While some of Haley's classmates were working for other people, she was working for herself."
More than 500 students nationwide applied for a YEF scholarship this year, and 131 were awarded. Haley is the only student in Mississippi to receive one this year, Aldridge said.
Haley will use the scholarship to help pay expenses this fall at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville. From there, she plans to attend Mississippi State University in Starkville, although she doesn't know what she'll study yet.
"I like to bake, but I really didn't think culinary school (at Mississippi University for Women) was an option, because they don't really make a lot of money," she said. "But my intention one day is to buy an old building in downtown Iuka and have a bakery and a cafe in it. I'd have to get my dad involved with that, though. He really likes to cook and we like to cook together."
Haley is the daughter of Anne Marie and Henry Brown of Iuka. She has one brother, 14-year-old Nathan.
The natural blond-turned-brunette said most of her business has been by word of mouth, and it's really picked up in the past six to eight months.
"People have started hearing about it," she said. "I've done three baby showers and one wedding shower and some birthday parties in the last month."
Her cupcakes come in a variety of flavors, including vanilla, red velvet, chocolate and strawberry, and she has different icings to choose from.
"I found a recipe for icing I started using and then I tweaked it," she said. "I don't even use a recipe anymore. I just throw some stuff in the bowl."
If you call Cupcake Couture to book an engagement, don't expect to see a price list.
"I used to make cupcakes for free, but now I charge," Haley said. "But I don't have a set price. Whatever they want to give me is fine."
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