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How Netflix high-school grad built up a $100,000 business


Justin Ellen found himself at a difficult crossroad when he was 17 — should he pursue his passion for baking full-time, or go to college to further his education?

In that moment, Netflix’s most popular show about baking had a young contestant who was creating custom cakes as a side hustle while also managing school.

Although he was earning at least $5,000 per month, he could not help but feel that comparing himself with his peers made him more successful.

“It was my friendships that brought me down. [apply for colleges].”

The celebrity chef remained strong, believing everyone is on their own journey.

“[I’m an]First, be an entrepreneur and then become a baker. Justin Ellen is 19 years old and has made 6-figures from his cake business.

Justin Ellen

Just two years later, the full-time entrepreneur and owner of cake business, Everything Just Baked, is earning more than $100,000 a year — and he’s not turning back.

On Netflix’s Is It Cake, he first appeared on March 12. — a baking contest where cake artists create edible replicas of everyday objects, such as bowling pins and sewing machines.

It premiered on streaming services on March 18th. Top 10 most-watched list in the U.S. for four weeks. The site also received more than 100,000,000 views worldwide.

Ellen says that failures are part of the journey to success. CNBC Make It. His hard work was rewarded with wise words and a lot of effort from his loved ones.

Who made this cake?

Ellen, a digital native from childhood knew that social media was essential for building his company. But it took a lot of practice — and courage — to make himself known. 

“In the beginning, my social media wasn’t great … not great photos, they were very blurry. However, as I progressed I realized how important it was to have super-clean photos.

Ellen saw Instagram “really pushing video content” on Instagram and decided to take the camera off himself. He shared snippets from his childhood as a young baker. 

“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 shared.

You will be more approachable if you are honest. People are interested in getting to know the people behind the brands and, if they like you, will want to invest money with them.”

Ellen stated that he didn’t initially take social media posting seriously.

I was simply posting to have fun. Eventually, [through] word of mouth … people kept asking ‘Can I order a cake?'”

Ellen baked whenever possible to build his clientele and following.

“It doesn’t even have to be a huge cake … just make something small because you don’t know who’s going to be there. You’ll be asked who made the cake and who will eat it.

Designer purses are being purchased for thousands of dollars by people. Customers must see the value in your brand, and understand what it is offering them.

Justin Ellen

Everything Just Baked, Owner

His Instagram account had over 50,000 followers and he was earning between $5,000-$9,000 per month.

I realized that this was a serious venture.

Entrepreneurial journey from baker to entrepreneur  

Ellen began to consider baking as a possible career after he noticed his side hustle grow in high school. However, not all people were supportive.

My dad was a baker. It has a connotation to me. [with baking]He said things like “Oh, you don’t make much money” or “You must do a lot more work.”

But Ellen had bigger plans for himself.

“I realized I did not have to be limited in my thinking. There’s so much you could do in the field … think about every lane you could go into.”

“I looked at other bakers who created their business — they have product lines, which I had no idea that that’s something you can even do.”

Ellen was also faced with this dilemma, along with his peers.

“Probably around junior year, when everyone’s like searching for colleges … I was debating [about]Go to culinary school. [But]He said, “I realized that it wasn’t right for me.”

Work for another person if you are interested in becoming a baker.

Justin Ellen

Everything Just Baked, Owner

It was too expensive and I felt it wasn’t worthwhile. And you can’t really teach how to do art in a sense, it’s really just practice — and the more you practice, the easier it’s going to get.”

Ellen realized that he wasn’t just a high school baker.

“[I’m an]First, be an entrepreneur and then become a baker. You can become a baker by working for another person.

The best business advice

While social media might have been completely free to be used as marketing tools, Ellen required capital funding to launch his business.

“In the beginning I was selling cookies that I shipped out … I asked my parents for $500 to buy boxes and other materials.”

He said that it was the last and most important time he asked his parents to fund his business.

Owning a business can be expensive. It is not worth wasting money on a great idea.

Justin Ellen

Everything Just Baked, Owner

Justin Ellen has started selling his own baking products and mixes online.

Justin Ellen