STANTON — It started in the seventh grade with a challenge of making her first cake … and spiraled into running her own cake business a short time later.
Alyssa Ruggles, 18, of Stanton, has been running her own cake-making business called “The Cake Kid” from her home after her mother received a request to make a graduation cake.
Ruggles, at the time, had only a little experience through 4-H of making cakes and knowing how to decorate them, but she persevered.
“It was quite the process,” she said with a smile, noting she loved every minute of it.
With her mother being an art teacher at Central Mont-calm Public School and with the success of her first cake, word quickly got around school that Alyssa was able to bake cakes — and very well at that. Requests started rolling in for her to fulfill and she stood up to the challenge.
Over the years, to help better herself, Alyssa did a lot of research, took classes, practiced and experimented with cakes to master the creativity and product.
“I did a lot of experimenting with fondant and butter cream frosting,” she said, adding that now she makes cakes of all shapes and sizes, with 3D objects and to almost any theme including wedding cakes.
Her parents Laura and Mike Ruggles said the experience of running a business at a young age has helped their daughter develop tough life skills like problem solving and thinking on her feet.
“(The experience) will serve her well in every job,” Laura said.
With many cakes under her experienced belt, one of her favorite cakes to do is for a returning customer who asks Alyssa to make a cake featuring ferrets.
“That’s my favorite and most fun to do,” Alyssa said. “I get to be creative.”
Her most recent challenge was learning how to make a topsy-turvy cake, but after much research, she was able to add that design to her cake-baking resume.
Laura said through the years, there have been times where her daughter would ask for help, but she kept her idea in mind and made sure it was perfect.
“There were a lot of sleepless nights,” said Alyssa of making sure the cakes were perfect.
Although she loves performing the task of baking cakes, Alyssa said the real excitement comes when the cakes are delivered.
“The reaction is a wonderful payoff,” she said. “That’s the real joy.”
Currently, Alyssa is producing about three cakes a weekend and it takes her about three days to put everything together. However, wedding cakes take a little longer as she makes all of her own frosting and fondant from scratch.
Alyssa will be graduating from Central Montcalm High School on Sunday and has already looked ahead at where she wants to take “The Cake Kid.”
“This is what I love to do and I knew where I wanted to go since I was a sophomore,” Alyssa said. “I will be going into culinary arts at Northwestern Michigan College Great Lakes Culinary Institute.”
She said the program is a two-year associate program, but the college partners with Ferris State University where she can pursue a business and hospitality degree.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Laura said when Alyssa began her cake business, they weren’t sure if she would be burnt out by this point or be inspired to keep going.
“It’s neat to see her persevere and continue her dream,” Laura said “We are very proud of her.”
After college, Alyssa said she hopes to own either her own bakery or restaurant.
For other young entrepreneurs, Alyssa does have advice for those also facing challenges.
“Don’t give up,” she said, noting there may be times when they might want to walk away. “Keep it up — it’s worth it.”
Looking back through the years, she said her support from people she could talk to about the cakes and resources are what helped her push through the challenges and she is happy she stuck with it.
“Baking cakes make me happy,” Ruggles said.