Yumyum Brownie Shop built on grandma’s inspiration
Jerilyn Sheppheard, 18-year-old owner-proprietor of The Yumyum Brownie Shop, has never been at a loss for initiative. As a youngster in the Frogtown area of St. Paul, industry pretty much came naturally to her — organizing a neighborhood bike parade, devising an extra-curricular program at school with her kid sister, creating a community garden — and led to her career as a fledgling entrepreneur.
Since 15, Sheppheard spent summers in her yard, operating a variation on the tried-and-true concept of lemonade stands — except, she sold brownies. Three years later, she’s now running her own shop offering such goodies as brownies, cake jars, homemade ice cream and other deserts that have customers marveling at both her entrepreneurial and baking skills.
“Ever since I was little I always liked doing stuff. I was always into it. I just wanted to start a business. I didn’t know what kind, but something I’d never seen before,” Sheppheard said. “I had ideas, but didn’t write a formal business plan.”
It was a matter of starting small and taking one step at a time. She didn’t go about it conventionally, with such preparation as a blueprint and investors. She didn’t even take out a loan.
“We saved up from the first time and from then on I saved money.” The “we” actually is she, enlisting support from family and a small sales force of business-minded youth like herself.
“I hired five younger girls, and every summer we worked,” she said, methodically expanding.
“As I went, I had to learn different things, like licensing. I called the Department of Health and they guided me through certain parts. Everything I had questions about, I looked up on the Internet.”
So, putting herself through a self-taught, grow-as-you-go crash course in commerce, she struck out on her own. Sheppheard is now a student St. Paul College, where she is studying culinary arts and running a booming storefront. She put up the proverbial shingle this past December, where she adheres to the timeless retail adage that there are three keys to setting up any shop: location, location, location.
Hence, Yumyum Brownie Shop is situated on the corner of University and Victoria avenues in St. Paul, just off a bustling main drag and right across from the Metro Transit Light Rail and a bus route.
Accordingly, street traffic is good. Customers can also place orders online. On-hand orders are fulfilled immediately. They also do next-day orders; catering takes three days.
“My grandma, Sallie, she gave me advice, but she wanted me to do it by myself. She’s really old school. Very independent.” Sallie, who was a role-modeling source of inspiration, passed away just weeks before the doors opened. Her spirit, of course, is still with Sheppheard.
“She was very proud of me,” said Sheppheard. “She was always the person I went to with different ideas. I made the recipes and she tasted everything I made and [told me whether] it was good.
“I shared news with her, like when I got opportunities. It’s different, not having her to go to, but I think I got it.” An understatement if ever there was one.
Her offerings are so successful that business is entirely self-supportive, paying salaries and the all-important aspects of overhead — from rent and space at a commercial kitchen and supplies to lights and water and gas for deliveries.
She’s also keen on supporting the neighborhood. “We have community involvement meetings every Wednesday, and kids are able to come and share ideas of how to give back to the community.”
It was through these meetings that she and her staff have, for instance, facilitated supplying meals to the homeless. “We’re really trying do a lot for the community,” she said. “We hold events all week long for everybody to participate.”
This includes an open mic night, family game night twice weekly, a fun zone with games and other activities for children, as well as homework help each afternoon. She also has an eye out for opening a second location soon.
To peers interested in following her example, she advised, “Go for it. Don’t let anything stop you. Anything you don’t know, definitely look into it and don’t let people discourage you.”
Yumyum Brownie Shop is located at 858 University Avenue in St. Paul. For more info, Facebook/Yumyum Brownies.