Kelly Sloan, The Business Times
Anyone wondering if the entrepreneurial spirit remains alive and well in the younger generation need look no further than Abagale Stone.
Although only an eighth grader at East Middle School, Stone serves as chief executive officer of Spot Bakery. Moreover, the recent graduate of the inaugural class of participants in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Grand Junction is bound for Dallas to compete in the semifinals of a national YEA competition.
Stone launched her business last fall along with the start of the academy. The program takes students through the process of launching a business or social movement over the course of an academic year. By the end of the program, students own and operate fully functioning businesses.
Spot Bakery sells miniature cupcakes on a wholesale basis. But what’s really unique about the venture is the packaging Stone created with the help of local manufacturer City Metalsmiths.
“The packaging holds the cupcakes vertically, with built in integral support so that the cupcakes don’t get messed up if you accidentally drop the package,” Stone said. Each package holds four cupcakes and includes a self-supporting base or optional hanging tab.
Stone said she was inspired to start Spot Bakery because of her love of baking. “I knew going into the program I would do something with baking,” she said.
The packaging system evolved from there. “The cupcake packaging you see nowadays is all the same. You don’t really see anything different and there are just so many in a package,” Stone said. “So I came up with the idea of packaging them vertically and in smaller servings.”
Stone and Spot Bakery were selected by a panel of investors in a process reminiscent of the television show “Shark Tank” to proceed to the semifinals of the national YEA competition scheduled for May 9 in Dallas. Stone will compete against 23 other ventures for a chance to advance to the finals set for June 11 and 12.
Betsy Bair, governmental affairs manager for the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, helped oversee the YEA program. The chamber is only the second in Colorado to bring the program to local students.
Bair said the panel that selected Spot Bakery to advance to the semifinals was comprised of local business owners who put money into the program to serve as startup funds.
“The students had to go through a ‘Shark Tank’ like experience and ask for money,” Bair said. “What really impressed the investor panel with Abagale’s product was not just the cupcakes, but the packaging she invented, which they encouraged her to patent.”
Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said Stone is just like other successful entrepreneurs who spot an opportunity and take advantage of it. “It’s cool that she already knew she wanted to be a baker. But then to come up with this packaging system is really amazing.” Schwenke said.
Stone and other graduates of the YEA program in Grand Junction displayed their products and services during a trade show that served as the culminating event.
“The students here have spent the last 30 weeks, a whole school year, learning every aspect of starting a business,” Bair said. “We tell them they start with an idea and graduate as a CEO.”