Monday, Jul 22, 2019

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Karris Barclay prepares cupcakes in residence hall

Photographer: Samantha Owens

Kraveitcupcakes Karris Barclay

Strawberry shortcake cupcakes are the most popular selection for Barclay's business

Photographer: Samantha Owens

Kraveit cupcakes

Karris Barclay pours cupcake batter

Photographer: Samantha Owens

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The cupcake and the classroom

Freshman runs baking business from residence hall

While most students stare into their quarts of ice cream, pulled from freezers in despair amid stressful times at Ohio University, one freshman turns to her recipes and baking racks to reduce her anxiety.

Karris Barclay, a special education major, visited Ohio University as a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, through the College of Business Junior Executive Business Program for Diverse Students. The program helps underrepresented high school students explore business majors and better understand the college process.

Although Barclay decided on a different major upon her official enrollment at OHIO, she remained passionate about business and the related programs that the University has to offer.

"It's kind of always been a part of my relationship with Ohio University from the start," she said. "I knew I still wanted to do something with business … I even have an adviser in the College of Business, but I knew it wasn't the exact route I wanted to take here."

Barclay's inclination for business continued through her first semester, with her participation in the Black Student Business Caucus and enrollment in business courses. Soon, she began thinking about how she could tie it together with her first passion -- baking.

"Baking was engrained in me from a really young age," Barclay said. "My grandparents loved to bake and they were big on making everything from scratch. I was always in the kitchen helping because my grandmother had all sons, so it was important for her to have a granddaughter so she could have somebody to pass her recipes on to."

During her years in high school, Barclay baked cupcakes at night to sell in the hallways between class periods to bring enjoyment to her long class periods and even longer coursework. She was uncertain she could continue her venture at Ohio University because of an increased homework load and the limited baking resources available in the residence halls.

After learning a few marketing and branding tips and re-evaluating her spring semester schedule, Barclay realized her potential, developing KraveIt! Cupcakes and an online presence to accompany her newly named business endeavor.

"Everyone is so supportive of small businesses here so it made it really nice," she said. "I know one of the biggest concerns with college students is that they don't carry cash so I made it possible to buy online, helping me to get more sales."  

Her academic adviser in the Patton College of Education, Kelly Davidson, helps Barclay grasp the importance of balance in her entrepreneurial pursuit.

"Too much of anything is not good," Davidson said. "As an entrepreneur and an education major, it's important to not bite off more cupcakes than you're able to chew at one time."

Barclay handles her load by rotating only three signature flavors – currently they are pineapple upside down cake, classic chocolate and her most popular flavor, strawberry shortcake – and by limiting the times she is able to deliver cupcakes. However, she has grown to be more flexible to ensure clients return.

"I assumed the business would be more of a convenience thing, I would just do it when I felt like doing it and people would buy then, but I realized I had to make myself more available for my customers," Barclay said.

She also has to work around those with available kitchens, often relying on friends to give her access to Voigt Hall's community kitchen or let her use their off-campus spaces.

"I have to go off of other people's schedules, I have to transport things and I have to be able to get cupcakes safely to where they need to be – it's just a lot of back and forth," Barclay said. "But, it motivated me more to do my school work and it's making me more responsible and I like that."

Despite all the constraints, Barclay said the hardest thing about having a business is the advertising, especially with her excessive timidity and without the help of an established storefront.

She depends mainly on word of mouth and her friends' constant loyalty to bring popularity to KraveIt! Cupcakes, a brand she hopes to slowly expand and continue long after her tenure in Athens.

"The more exposure it gets, which has all been positive, hopefully it'll allow me to expand," she said. "I'm going to take it as slowly as possible because I have plenty of time to build up customers and I'm going to continue to take it wherever I go."