Justin Ellen is known as a remarkable, innovative baker, but the nineteen-year-old considers himself an entrepreneur first.
Two years ago, Ellen was in high school, juggling the demands of his senior year with his lucrative side-hustle. His custom, ornately decorated cakes were bringing in over $5000 a month, but he was also worried that he wasn’t following the steps he was supposed to. Watching all his classmates apply for college made him feel down, as if he were missing out.
But he stayed the course. “Everyone has their own path,” Ellen said.
For Justin Ellen, that path was not actually about the cakes – it was about his ability to self-promote. He began on Instagram, learned to polish his social media presence and to use the platform to its best advantage. With short little vlogs that mixed his daily life into his craft, he built his brand and image.
Before he graduated high school, he had 50,000 followers, and was making between $5000 and $9000 a month. He considered culinary school, but decided it was more valuable, and less expensive, to spend that time practicing what he already knew.
“I was definitely shy in the beginning because it was just awkward for me … but the more you do it, it’s like, oh well and honestly no one cares if your hair’s a little frizzy today,” he said.
“Honestly, it makes you more relatable. People want to know the person behind the brand and if they enjoy you, they’re gonna want to spend money with you.”
Now, he has been a competitor on the biggest American baking show currently on Netflix, Is It Cake? and he’s launched a line of baking mixes, bakeware utensils. And he’s not done. Ellen is always planning to continue investing back into his business, to grow it even bigger, a lesson which he credits to his parents.