Student Entrepreneurs Sweeten, Brighten Life with Businesses

January 11, 2022 / Upper School/All News

When stay-at-home orders went into effect last spring, #distractibaking quickly became a trending hashtag and a defining moment in 2021 graduate Ari Jackson’s journey as a businesswoman. “I found I kept myself sane through baking,” Ari said. At the beginning of her senior year at JA, Ari launched Ari Mae Bakes after perfecting a range of delicious products and planning out a business model with support from family and friends.

Meanwhile, three hours north in Desoto County and not yet enrolled at JA, junior Madison Fairley also found herself inspired to launch into business. The budding entrepreneur joined the JA community in January of 2021 after her family moved to Jackson. “During April of 2020, I stumbled upon a few graphic design businesses on Instagram who were doing graphics and making money off of them during quarantine,” Madison recalled. She now creates digital art by drawing lettering and portraits.

“My parents were super supportive of my ideas and have supported me the whole way,” Madison said. “They are always looking for ways to help my business with new products and ideas!” Her sister Lauren, a senior at JA, provided photography to show off photo presets Madison developed and sells. Her mother suggested different sweatshirts and bags Madison could have her designs printed on, and her father dropped products in the mail for shipping.

With an aunt and grandmother who were both bakers, Ari also benefited from a strong network of advisers to help her develop her business model. “At the beginning, I didn’t take a deposit, and I learned my lesson because three people canceled on me after I started,” Ari said. “I value my time, and I want people to realize what I put into my work.” She now requires a deposit and is considering placing limits on how many orders she will accept. For Valentine’s Day 2021, she set a goal of selling ten boxes of cookies but received 20 orders!

These young entrepreneurs also learned valuable skills such as social media marketing, company branding, customer service, and budget management as they promoted their work. Madison shares her work on Instagram at @MadzNCo, and Ari runs her business through @arimaebakes on the same platform. Both also have pages on Facebook.

Through social media, Madison sells her digital products to anyone in the world who finds her online, and Ari sends targeted ads to people seeking baked treats in the Jackson area. Both girls say their best proponent lives a little closer to home: “My mom is the biggest advocate,” Ari said as Madison nodded in agreement. A core group of friends and family who spread the word supports each student’s business ventures, including fellow JA students and faculty.

“I think that JA is such a supportive campus,” Ari shared. “In anything I’ve ever done, my best friends have supported me, and my teachers have supported me. Miss Smithers asked me to make Mrs. Pearcy’s birthday cake, and Ms. Ley asked me to make multiple cookies for her family events.

It makes me happy to know that I have teachers who support me in the classroom and outside in what I want to do, even if it has nothing to do with math and trigonometry.”

“I moved to JA over this past winter break, and the community has been nothing but amazing!” Madison said. “I have had multiple people buy from me, follow my page, compliment me, or share my posts, which helps me greatly!” Upper School Physical Science Teacher Stancie Ley even offered to introduce Madison to her daughter, Kristen Ley ’03, the owner, founder, and creative director of design company Thimblepress.

With so much support behind both of their businesses, Ari and Madison look forward to continuing to create. Ari began studies in finance at Loyola University in New Orleans this past fall and hopes to use baking as a side-hustle throughout college and run a bakery someday. Madison plans to continue her business throughout high school. “Where I go to college and what my schedule would look like will determine if I continue or not after that,” she said. “Using my graphic design knowledge and practice, I would love to be a graphic designer or social media manager for a sorority or the university in college!”

As each student navigates the remainder of their educational journey, their journey as businesswomen has already prepared them with skills they can use long into the future – whether to turn a profit or inspire a smile!