Neman: Edwardsville teenager turns her life around with baking | Food and cooking

Aria Burnside of Edwardsville bakes and delivers cookies and cupcakes to order. She’s a typical home-based business, as much a hobby as anything, but in May she’ll be opening her own bakery at EastGate Plaza in East Alton.

This is great news for any entrepreneur, but Aria is not just any entrepreneur. Aria is 17 years old.

She is still a senior in high school, although she will graduate before the bakery opens. That she graduates is almost as shocking as the fact that she opened her own bakery before she was old enough to vote.

A few years ago, Aria had a discipline problem at school. She was disruptive in class, when she went to class. His grades were bad. His attitude was bad. Everything was wrong.

Her mother started homeschooling her in her second year, and her whole world turned around almost instantly. His grades improved. His attitude improved. His life has improved.

“I was more able to concentrate at home, with fewer distractions and fewer people trying to get people laughing,” she said.

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Besides studying harder, she started baking.

Her mum, Charmian Aaron, said: ‘The baking kind replaced bad behavior at school. I’ve always taught that if you stop doing something, you have to start doing something else. She stopped the bad behavior and she focused her energy on something else.

Her company, Aria’s Cookies & Confections, now offers a wide selection of cookies, including her chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, and oatmeal raisin cookies with “not too many oats.” Her selection of outlandish, fun-named cupcakes is even more varied, and she also sells banana pudding cheesecake, old-fashioned peach cobbler, and vegan chocolate chip cookies.

Tried one of the vegan chocolate chip cookies. It was so good that I wrote about it last week and I still write about it now.

Aria had tried cooking a little before switching her life three years ago, but, she said, “it was definitely not edible.”


Food writer Daniel Neman was adamantly against even the concept of vegan baked goods, until he tried one recently.

For example, there was the time when she was about 12 years old and she tried to make chocolate cupcakes.

“It needed a quarter teaspoon of baking powder, but I put in a quarter cup. When I took them out of the oven, they had exploded. When I tasted them, they tasted like soap. J I cried,” she said.

Her culinary epiphany came at age 15, around the time she started homeschooling.

“I went to a website and typed in all the ingredients I had around the house. He said you can make coffee cake. I did, and I tasted it, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s edible,'” she said.

Soon she was sharing her baked goods with people at her church, Anchor and Truth Ministries, where she sings alto on the youth worship team. His uncle was the first to ask how he could order a dozen cupcakes.

“I had to rush and make a price,” she said.

She started with yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting, which she first sold in church.

“At first they were like, ‘Why are these cupcakes $1.50 when they’re so small?’ Then they realized why they were $1.50. They said, ‘So you’re bringing more next Sunday?’ »

She did it. And when her mother shared her inspirational story with other single mothers of problem children on Facebook, the orders really started rolling in. That’s when Aria realized she had to turn what was essentially an after-church bake sale into a real business.

She and her mother sought advice from the Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. There they learned that you cannot legally sell products that you cook at home. Luckily, the church has a commercial kitchen, which she rents out to her until she can open her own bakery.

They also learned where to take food preparation classes, how to set up a limited liability company, how to get an employer identification number for taxes, and everything she needs to know to start a business.

But there’s a big difference between knowing how to start a business and actually starting a business, especially when the businesswoman is still, technically, a businessgirl.

Specifically, where does the startup money come from?

The road to opening the bakery began last fall, when Aria and her mother entered the Alton Main Street IdeaBounce contest. They had two minutes to make a pitch to start their bakery, and Aria gave the judges samples of her cupcakes. They must have liked what they tasted as much as what they heard because she took home the top prize of $500.

But that was only the beginning. One of the judges was Todd Kennedy, owner of EastGate Plaza. He announced after the competition that he was moved by his story and was going to build an Aria bakery in the mall – and the first six months will be rent-free.

Work on the bakery progresses and Aria works to perfect her craft.

Her mum said: “No one knew she had this gift, especially when she was baking flat cupcakes when she was 12. And some of the first birthday cakes she made for me were quite questionable. But when she started to get into it, it became apparent that she had a gift.

Even better, her mother said, “The teachers and administrators she tormented in high school are now some of her biggest clients. … His teachers are so proud.

For more information: cookiesbyaria.com

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