At 19, she already has your recipe for success.
At 19, Elizabeth Sabol-Jones is the youngest entrepreneur to interview with Inspirest. She is a student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC where she studies Chinese.
Learn what inspired Elizabeth to start Nightly Noms – a student run on campus bakery with delivery service.
The ingredients for Nightly Noms’ recipe included:
- A dash of motivation from an Entrepreneurship Club
- A sprinkle of inspiration from family traditions
- And a pinch of drive to support a cause.
Please tell me about yourself and your background.
I am about to turn 20. I went to private school for several years, and then was homeschooled, before going to public high school. I attend Georgetown University, where I am a sophomore and a Chinese language major, which is just about as far from cooking as you can get! I became interested in baking when I went off to college. My parents cooked all the time when I was younger. My mom and grandmother baked a lot, which is where I get the basis for many of my recipes. I was always involved in sports and clubs, which has always given me an interest in team work and working for a common goal. This is how the ideas for Nightly Noms’ future came about.
What from your background gave you the idea for your business?
At Georgetown University they recently started a club called the Compass Fellowship, which is a social entrepreneur fellowship. It was their pilot year when I joined. Joining them is what got me interested in entrepreneurship and starting my own business. I think one of the hardest things about starting a business is just making the first leap to decide to go out on your own. Your business becomes your baby. The Compass Fellowship really helped me do that. The fellowship promotes forming a business and using it as a format to promote certain causes and form social change. We did modules on everything from finance to marketing discussing how to start your own business. This gave me a great foundation, especially for someone who is not majoring in business and does not have a business background, on how to get started. All of us were supposed to start our own businesses at Georgetown. The fellowship has recently spread to other colleges and universities, and is spreading nationwide to promote entrepreneurship among college-age students and individuals.
Could you tell me a bit more about your business and what causes you support?
When I first joined Compass, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, or what causes I wanted to support. We had a potluck to discuss ideas, and after baking dessert for my friends, I realized I really loved the feeling that came from making something from scratch and sharing my creation with others. There was something very special about that to me. I started thinking, how can I incorporate this into a business? So I began experimenting with recipes and ideas on how to make a business of it. I talked to my friends about how to open a bakery and a baked goods delivery service on campus. I didn’t want to spend all of my money on flour and eggs, so I looked into ideas on how to finance it.
I decided to make inquiries on whether people would be interested in the idea, and I got a really good response. So I played with the idea, and started planning. Honestly, I started to get lost in the plans at first. I started at a friends’ birthday party, and it was great. We started last spring with a bakery delivery service two days a week, and it evolved from there. Now we deliver baked goods one day a week, but people can order their baked goods any day. We have the delivery service, but we also have a blog, which I run, which has updates and recipe ideas.
We realize that a lot of people are fearful at first to experiment in the kitchen. So we try to take the pressure off by giving them ideas. We also go to different restaurants and give reviews for others. We try to show other college students that they can start their own businesses.
In terms of our cause, we donate a portion of our profits to Operation Smile. Operation Smile is a nonprofit that performs cleft lip and palette surgery on children around the world. The connection for us is that baking and delivery food to our peers provides smiles to our neighbors, and they provide smiles to children around the world. Our goal is to provide a nutritional program to children in public schools.
We want to show them that they can still have tasty treats, while still eating healthy. We want to show them that they can still have sweets and baked goods, as long as they eat them in moderation, and they can still have a healthy life. It is a little all over the place at the moment, but we have a firm focus on improving people’s awareness of a healthy lifestyle through the children of D.C.
You focus more on healthier baked goods then?
We try to show people there are more than ho-ho’s out there. We use fresh ingredients. For instance, we have banana chocolate chip muffins. We use fresh banana instead of banana extract. We want to show people it is okay to eat baked goods, as long as you eat them in moderation.
Earlier you mentioned that you didn’t want to spend all of your personal money, so where did you end up getting your starting capital from?
In the beginning, we started with side orders, like a dozen muffins for a party or organization. I also took some of my own money and put it in. Baking has a pretty good profit margin, so we were able to put the money back in from each order. After about a year, the fellowship offered us $1,000 as seed money. We did an outline of what we would do, and where the money would go, and they gave it to us to allow our business to begin taking off.
If you had unlimited funding tomorrow, what would you do differently in regards to your business?
I would definitely find a good commercial space to run our business out of. I would put some money into helping make a more efficient plan. It’s hard to get everything done in an efficient manner to help us stay on track. I would also put money towards our school program.
If you were given $1 Million for your personal life, what would you do with it?
I would save it, finish school, make sure that Nightly Noms was up and running; and then I would move to China to either start a bakery, restaurant, or an amateur cooking school.
So do you have any inspirations or role models who you look up to?
Mostly family. My grandmother passed away about 7 years ago, but I still use her recipes and I have always drawn on ideas and techniques from my mom’s cooking. Also, and it may sound silly, but I really look up to Julia Child. I may not be into French cooking, but I love her attitude. She was a very no-nonsense type of chef. I like the idea that you can make mistakes in the kitchen and it’s not the end of the world. It’s a very simple idea, but it’s so true.
What is your definition of success?
My definition of success, in terms of my business, we are happy doing what we do. It’s not about making tons of money, or people adoring what we do. We enjoy what we do. If you can find something in your life that you really truly enjoy doing, you can be a success. As long as I have fun with it, and love what I am doing, I am really and truly successful.
If you could do it over again, is there anything you would do differently?
I would probably try to organize things more. It is a pretty well organized, in terms of how we do the baking and delivery, but I feel it could be more structured. I feel we could have had more check lists, and I could have been held more accountable for how we build Nightly Noms. There are little things we could have done at the beginning to have made it run more smoothly. I am generally happy about how things are done; I just feel we could have used a little more organization at the beginning to ensure it was all done well, and on a timely basis.
If you could characterize your life as an entrepreneur in one word, what would you say?
It’s hard to find one word to describe it. I want to say spastic, but that has such negative connotations, and that’s not really what I mean. It’s really exciting and a really good kind of frazzled. There are always things that have to be done, but it’s good. There is not just one word to describe it, but it is exciting and there is just so much happening.
What three pieces of advice would you give to anyone considering the entrepreneurial lifestyle?
First of all, don’t be afraid to start; don’t be afraid to fail. One of the hardest things to do is just to make that first leap. People need to understand, if you start a business and it just doesn’t work out, that does not mean you are a failure. It just didn’t work this time. You need to persevere. Perseverance is a good quality to have. Everyone fails every once and a while. Another piece of advice is to definitely have a support group. It’s hard to do everything yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if you just ask for advice, you need the support to succeed. You should always be open to new ideas. You need to be open minded enough to accept that sometimes people will have ideas that can help you.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just have fun with what you are doing. Make sure to find something that you love doing, and just do it.
Connect with Elizabeth Sabol-Jones and Nightly Noms
- Website – http://georgetownfoodie.blogspot.com/
- Contact – http://georgetownfoodie.blogspot.com/p/contact.html
- Twitter – https://twitter.com/nightlynoms
- Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nightly-Noms/356153990361
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