From my experience in the Thought Into Action Student Incubator, I have learned a great deal. This past year I realized that creating and running a business from the ground-up, especially as a nineteen-year-old, full-time college student, is no simple task. However, because of the support, advice, and dedication from incredible family, experienced mentors, and friends always hungry for surplus cupcakes, I can now say that my business, Baking Connections, has seen growth and success over the past year. Thanks to my TIA experience, along with my undying love of food and its magical unifying capabilities, I saw my dreams transform into reality. At our sessions, I introduced Colgate students to Hamilton residents and taught individuals with no baking experience how to perfect cookie dough topped brownies and apple pie cupcakes, among other desserts. Nothing has made me feel more like a ‘real adult’ than receiving my very own business cards that say ‘Erica Pais: Owner & CEO’.
After a year of generating ideas, improving upon a business plan, and seeing my baking aspirations turn into a tangible success, I had an incredible experience at E-Weekend in April. Finally able to share Baking Connections (along with 100 cupcakes and 250 cookies) with the greater Colgate community, I had the opportunity to speak with countless alumni, parents, and students about my hopes for the future of the business. The flood of support that visitors to my table showed was overwhelming, in the best way, and I was even happier when I saw people enjoying my homemade baked goods. Many alumni had great comments, suggestions, and questions that made me think out of the box. One alum in particular has stayed in contact and continues to dedicate time to correspond over email in order help me think of ways to grow Baking Connections over the long term.
My experience with Baking Connections in TIA further fueled my curiosity about start-ups and nonprofits. This summer, I interned at tilt (The Institute for Leadership and Training) and Community Servings in Boston. At both placements I succeeded, in part, thanks to my TIA experience. tilt is a start-up that provides mental toughness training and leadership development for college athletes. As a business development intern, I drew significantly from our lessons about branding and marketing in order to help create a social media campaign and work on a variety of projects to enhance the brand. My second internship complemented the start-up experience nicely. Community Servings, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, prepares and delivers meals to Massachusetts residents who are living with life-threatening illnesses and are too sick to cook for themselves and their families (among other program initiatives). As the communications intern, I saw, in action, the importance of topics we covered in TIA, such as meaningful networking, building a personal brand, and fulfilling a market need. Working at Community Servings was an incredible opportunity for me because the organization marries two aspects that I hope to encapsulate with Baking Connections: cooking and social justice.
I am so excited to return to campus in the spring and bring what I learned this summer to Baking Connections. Overall, it was a summer well spent, getting some valuable work experience that will help propel my venture to the next level. Thanks to my TIA training, I always felt confident in sharing my ideas at both organizations. This summer has been a great reminder of how much TIA has given to me and taught me.
Erica Pais is a rising junior from Sharon, MA and a Sociology major/Educational Studies minor. On campus, she interns at Career Services, co-leads the COVE American Heart Association Club, works as a tour guide, and is an active member of both the Club Volleyball Team and Colgate Jewish Union. Erica will study abroad this fall in Florence, Italy.