By Casey Hans
Staff members at Logan Elementary have done the taste test: And the baked goods and sweets from the Page family kitchen get a solid thumbs up.
This sweet duo includes Shalae Page, a Logan fourth-grader who owns and operates Shalae’s Sweets, and her mom, Shenida Page, 27, who has her own home-based baking business called The Bakery Down the Street.
Shalae does a variety of decorative cookies, suckers, chocolate-covered strawberries and chocolate-dipped pretzels selling for between 75 cents and $2 each. “It depends how big, how many there are and how decorative they are,” explained the young entrepreneur.
“At first I thought I would grow up to own my mom’s business, but I decided to have my own,” she added.
Last summer, Shalae was invited to the University of Michigan to speak to a group of high schoolers that were learning about business and entrepreneurship. She spoke to about 100 students – and gave each of them a handmade, specialty U-M sucker that she had designed. “They all laughed when I said I had a Facebook page,” Shalae said.
The story of their business startup is bittersweet.
Shenida Page got the itch to bake in 2004, and it wasn’t the best of news that sent her to the oven. Her father had just died and this mother of five thought she would bake a special cake for two of her children’s birthdays. “It turned out awful,” she said, but she was determined to get it right.
Her next effort was more pleasing. Using some specially shaped pans, she began baking cakes for others. And people started asking, “who does the baking?” Through word of mouth, her business, “The Bakery Down the Street,” was born.
With encouragement from her husband, Khalil (who never went anywhere without mentioning his wife’s cakes,) the word spread and business grew. Sheet cakes, themed cakes, cupcakes in decorative mugs – she does them all with a flair.
The business became sidetracked when her husband died in 2008. After spending some time with her grief, her energy and motivation rebounded and she began anew last summer.
When approached about baking cookies and making specialty chocolate suckers, Shenida Page thought her daughter might like to do that so she could focus on cakes. “She liked to make suckers and do the sweets,” her mom said.
Nine-year-old Shalae got cooking and Shalae’s Sweets was born.
Her four younger siblings – Dorian, Felicia and twins Linda and Larry who all attend Logan – occasionally get their hand in the mixing bowl, as well.
“They beg me and beg me and beg me ‘I want to work for Shalae’s Sweets,’” Shalae said. “But, they don’t’ work very hard – they lose interest. You know, their favorite TV show might come on.”
Shalae’s favorite subject at school? “Most kids would say they like lunch and recess, but not me,” she said. “Science and writer’s workshop – those are my favorites.”
As for her self-made business: “I would like to have a few more customers,” she admitted. “I’m only 9 years old and the word has to get spread around yet.”
Shalae’s Sweets’ Facebook page is where she stays in touch with customers, takes orders and posts specials with the help of her mom. Visit www.facebook.com and search for “Shalae’s Sweets.”
Shenida Page is a success story of her own. She is a self-made Detroit native who decided to change her life and make something of herself.
Having dropped out of middle school, she decided to better herself and re-enrolled in school to get her GED, which is where she met her husband, who was teaching. “I decided this is not the life I want to live,” she said. “I got my GED and I’ve been doing so much better. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur, but here I am.”
She is now working toward her college degree.
Her dream is to someday have a full storefront bakery in Ann Arbor, another in Detroit’s inner city where she wants to help others better themselves and a third in Memphis, where her father-in-law lives. For now, watch for the license plate on her van that proclaims: “Cakedva.”
“I’m so thankful to be here,” she added. “It’s the best place to live, in Ann Arbor.”
Editor’s note: Although we do not normally publish elementary school children’s full names in the AAPSNews, this story was published with parental permission.
Casey Hans writes and edits this newsletter for the Ann Arbor Public Schools. E-mail her or call 734-0994-2090.