When Justin Ellen was first invited to join a Netflix baking show called Is It Cake? on Instagram, he initially thought it was unreal until organizers told him there was an interview. He subsequently joined the show as one of the youngest and probably the least experienced baker.
The baking show features bakers who create edible replicas of everyday objects such as handbags and sewing machines. To participate in the show, Ellen had to skip his high school graduation, which was also the longest period he had stayed away from his parents.
“Because I was super young … and I realized I had to fly and stay in a hotel by myself. Filming was a whole month. I’ve never been away from my family for that long,” he told CNBC Make It.
Prior to joining the show, Ellen was running his own bakery business and he was achieving success. He revealed grossing $100,000 in sales last year. “With [the] Netflix [show] coming out, I’ve been getting like a lot more inquiries … my calendar is flooded. I’m super grateful for it,” he said.
Baking runs in Ellen’s family. His mother and grandmother were bakers and he learned from them when he was only seven years old. He recalled baking with them during holidays like Thanksgiving.
According to him, they baked everything but cakes. By age 14, he had started watching cake tutorial videos on YouTube and got inspired to start his own cake creations.
Mastering the art of cake-making did not come easy for Ellen. He did not have a lot of free time on his hands. Nonetheless, he was determined to break barriers so he made time for his passion. He founded Everything Just Baked in the process which is now a full-time business. The teen sold a six-inch cake for $60 when he started. Now he sells the same size for $150.
“Back then, I didn’t realize how valuable my art is. I asked my mom and my mom’s just like me, she’s cheap. Like, ‘I’m going to get a $100 cake.’ But today, people are easily paying that.”
According to CNBC Make It, Ellen now earns up to $12,000 per month managing his business full-time. According to the 19-year-old Netflix star, the business is on track to make $200,000 by the end of this year.
Ellen now accepts six orders in a week and they keep growing. For now, he works on the orders in his home kitchen single-handedly. However, his mother helps occasionally.
“Honestly, most of my clients don’t choose hyper-realistic cakes, they’re more like wedding cakes,” he said. The young entrepreneur now hopes to have an appointment-based studio soon.