South Royalton Teen Turns Baking Into a Fledgling Business

  • With help from her mother Sandy Clavelle Hannah Clavelle, 14, of South Royalton, Vt. prepares the filling for her macarons at her home on Nov. 15, 2018. Under the name Ginger's Golden Goodies, Hannah bakes a variety of sweets for area businesses. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hannah Clavelle, 14, of South Royalton, Vt. squeezes filling onto her macarons at her home on Nov. 15, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Before heading to her dance class Hannah Clavelle, 14, of South Royalton, Vt. cuddles with her dog Ginger at her home on Nov. 15, 2018. Under the name Ginger's Golden Goodies, Hannah bakes a variety of sweets for area businesses. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Clavelle bakes like a boss.

With preternatural exactitude she scoops flour and sugar onto a kitchen scale, cracks eggs into her aqua-blue stand mixer and spoons dough into piping bags, her polka-dot apron somehow remaining spotless through batches of macarons and lemon squares. With just a bit of help from her mother, Sandy Clavelle, she converts measurements in her head and adheres to a tightly choreographed routine that allows her to churn out her sweets and still get to bed on time every night. She almost never eats her own merchandise.

Last summer, Hannah launched Ginger’s Golden Goodies, a baking business based out of her home in South Royalton. Since hosting a grand opening in the cottage-style shed beside her home, she’s begun selling her baked goods at markets, special events and a local coffee shop. Satisfying the public appetite for locally made food, she’s honing a range of business skills along with developing her culinary prowess and pocketing some profits for future goals.

“I like to hear it when people say that they’ve enjoyed the baked goodies,” said Hannah, an eighth grader at White River Valley Middle School in Bethel.

People weren’t her first customers, however. Hannah got the idea for the business after she started baking healthy dog treats for her goldendoodle, Ginger (who is now whiningly sequestered in another room on baking nights).

But Ginger, for whom the business is named, doesn’t deserve all the credit. Like many people, Hannah traces her love of baking to fond childhood memories.

“I would bake with my grandmother whenever I would go to her house,” she said.

Hannah had been pondering starting her own business for a while before the dog biscuits provided the right gateway. After experimenting with dog treat recipes, she decided she’d like to make and sell treats for people too. She and her mother talked it over and decided to buy a small shed where she could run her business. Her August grand opening, which she publicized in two local papers, on Facebook and Instagram and on posters hung all over the area, brought a surprising number of customers to the Clavelles’ well-off-the-beaten-path home.

Originally planning to use the shed as a bake shop, Hannah quickly found more practical outlets. A distant relative asked her to make her berry tarts for a family party, and another asked her to make pastries for a company meeting. Someone who attended the grand opening suggested that Hannah try selling her baked goods at the Royalton Farmers Market.

Not long after, she could be found smiling behind a table on the village green, peddling her chocolate-dipped biscotti, pistachio cakes, berry tarts and energy bites. At the farmers market, where she routinely sold out of her treats, the owners of First Branch Coffee asked Hannah to provide a list of things she could make for their shop. She’s now a regular supplier for the cafe, which opened in October, as well as a vendor at special events including the fall open house at Welch’s True Value and the upcoming holiday craft fair at South Royalton Elementary School. A few weeks ago, she registered her business as an LLC.

After a few months of baking on a regular basis, Hannah and her mom have developed an efficient routine. After receiving her weekly order from First Branch, she bakes on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, coordinating her tasks so that everything fits neatly into the time allotted.

For example, on Wednesday evenings she typically whips up her macaron batter and pipes it onto pans to let it set while she makes the crust and filling for her lemon squares. Then the macaron shells go into the oven to bake, followed by the lemon squares. On Thursday’s baking sessions, which don’t begin until Hannah gets home from dance class, she makes the filling and assembles her macarons, then makes her berry tarts, which Clavelle bakes after Hannah goes to bed. On Fridays, Hannah and her mother drop her products off at the cafe before school.

They usually don’t last long among the law school students who frequent the cafe.

“We’ll go there on Sunday, and the lemon squares will be gone,” Clavelle said.

The recipes for her fast-selling treats come from a variety of sources: Hannah’s favorite YouTuber, Rosanna Pansino, the baking camp Hannah attended at the King Arthur Flour store in Norwich and Sandy Clavelle’s well-worn cookbooks.

Hannah’s favorite recipe to make is macarons, which she concocts in three flavors — lemon, espresso and chocolate — and sells for $1.25 each. She sells her lemon squares for $1.50, her pistachio cakes for $2.50 and her tarts for $3.50.

Tart by tart and cake by cake, Hannah has made enough money to buy some new kitchen equipment and put some profits aside. She hopes to save enough money to travel internationally and/or participate in a foreign exchange program, along with helping to pay for college.

To do so, she has to keep a close eye on her margins. “I really wanted her to understand basic economics,” said Clavelle, who is semi-retired from a career in finance.

At first, Hannah deposited her proceeds into a bank account and then Clavelle transferred money into her own account to cover expenses week by week. Now that she has a business account, she can handle transactions more seamlessly and keep a closer eye on her expenses.

Clavelle and Hannah, who enjoys math, also have learned to shop prudently, scanning area stores for sales and buying in bulk when they find a bargain. “We shop pretty much everywhere,” Clavelle said.

Along with serving as chauffeur and business consultant, Clavelle calls herself Hannah’s gofer during her baking sessions, grabbing what she needs from the cabinet or fridge, removing pans from the oven (which Hannah admits she’s not crazy about doing) and prompting her when she needs to convert measurements to one-and-a-half or twice the standard recipe. When she pipes her macarons onto the macaron mats she purchased with some of her profits, Hannah relies on her mom’s calm command to perform the little flourish of the wrist that terminates each dollop.

Hannah, however, is her own boss. Nagging is never needed.

Another aspect of the business she hasn’t had to think much about since her grand opening is marketing. Though she’s made a website, she hasn’t gone live with it yet. Right now, she’s busy enough.

Not so busy, though, that she gets a free pass on clean-up. After the tarts and cakes and cookies are baked and packed away, Clavelle washes the dishes, and Hannah dries.

Only occasionally does Hannah indulge in one of her creations.

“I think she’d rather have a Kit Kat,” Clavelle said.

Ginger’s Golden Goodies can be found at First Branch Coffee in South Royalton and at the holiday craft fair at South Royalton Elementary School on Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews.com and 603-727-3268.