Julie Druker | Jul 16, 2015
It might surprising to see a 13-year-old running a successful business at the Saturday farmers’ market in Sharbot Lake. But what's even more surprising is that it is Ellie Larocque's third consecutive summer doing just that.
Ellie started up Cassnelli's Cookies and Lemonade in 2013 with her friend and cousin Cassidy Donaldson (hence the business name) when she was just 11. It was Ellie's mother Donna, who suggested that the two set up shop at the Sharbot Lake Farmers Market, and for her first summer, Ellie used her birthday gift money to invest in the necessary supplies.
While Cassidy, who lives in Lanark, is no longer involved in the business, Ellie has continued on and her friend Annika Putnam has joined her as a co-baker/seller. The two bake all-butter-based cookies, with Ellie offering up huge and reasonably priced cookies that come in chocolate chip, ginger and oatmeal, and Annika adding her own peanut butter and sugar cookies to the mix.
I recently interviewed Ellie and her mother Donna at their home in Sharbot Lake and got a close up look at what makes this young entrepreneur tick. Coming from a family of self-motivated business people, (Donna is an artist and sign maker and father Dennis a mason), it is no wonder that Ellie is herself an enterprising young entrepreneur.
Ellie let me in on a couple of trade secrets, like the fact that some of her recipes come from Evelyn Raab's cookbook, “The Clueless Baker”. She uses only butter, never lard, and the cookies that I was lucky enough to sample are light and chewy but with a definite crispness. It comes as no surprise that one is never enough. They are affordably priced at $1 each, $5 for a half dozen and $10 for a dozen.
Ellie’s longest work days are the day before the market. She mixes up fresh batches of cookie batter throughout the week and always bakes the cookies the day before the market, ensuring their freshness. She bakes over 100 cookies on Friday and often sells out.
While cookies are the girls’ main focus, they also sell ice-cold glasses of real, homemade lemonade as well. Asked what her motivations were for starting up a business, Ellie answered that making her own money to spend as she likes is one of the reasons, but added that she was also looking for experience in running a business, understanding that it will make her more knowledgeable and employable in the future.
This summer she set a personal goal for the season - to sell enough cookies to afford a Macbook since she is also interested in graphic design.
Of course the business could not exist without the help of Donna, who does the driving to local stores to purchase the ingredients. An understandably proud mom, Donna said the business venture has been a project they worked on together and she admitted that though the road was bumpy at the start, things are now running smoothly and efficiently. “I'm very proud of the initiative Ellie has shown and her hard work.”
Ellie herself says that she has learned a lot since she first began three summers ago. “Baking is more difficult that I thought it would be and I am a much better baker now then I was back then. I am also a lot better at handling money and understanding the costs of doing business."
She admitted that balancing school and the market in May and June can also be tough. That being said, Ellie said that she expects to be continuing at the market for another year or two.
For those not in the know, Ellie and Annika's cookies are worth every penny and though the two are not able to attend every single market day, as the saying goes...Get ’em while you can.