It was bad enough when COVID-19 closed Philly schools last March. Then summer break arrived, and there weren’t even classes to fill the time.
Like a lot of youngsters, Makyla Linder, then 11, found herself getting bored. So she started watching videos and shows about baking, on TV and the Internet, even though the only baking she’d ever done was while helping out her grandmother. Soon, she dove in on her own. Cupcakes and chocolate-covered strawberries were the Queen Village kid’s first creations.
“I tried them on my friends when they came to my house,” said Makyla. “I also tried them on my family. They said they were good.”
For most kids, that would have been enough. But Makyla had bigger ideas. What if, she asked her mom, she started selling her confections?
“When she first mentioned it to me, I didn’t really entertain it,” said Chelsea Hatcher, 29, who works as a school bus driver. “I said, ‘OK,’ but I kept pushing it off. But she asked me a couple more times.”
Ever the supportive mom, Hatcher eventually caved and helped her daughter buy additional baking supplies and equipment. Meanwhile, Makyla ramped up her culinary research, perfecting her recipes and techniques.
“Before June, it was just practice,” she said. “After that, I got serious.”
She started taking orders from her personal Instagram account. Word of mouth got her more customers. Her mom did the paperwork to create Dolci Desserts LLC, and Makyla started handing out business cards to spread the word that her little dessert company was up and running.
In addition to those original cupcakes and chocolate-covered strawberries, her product line now includes include chocolate-covered pretzels, white-chocolate-covered Oreos, chocolate apples, Rice Krispie treats, and banana pudding. She says she has about 30 customers, quite a few of them repeat buyers.
On Dolci Desserts’ Insta account is a menu of baked goods on offer and a telephone number and email that people use to place orders. The Insta photos offer a visual feast of Makyla’s frankly amazing looking treats: She uses food colorings and colored chocolates, and customers can choose from a palette of pastel icings, chocolate coatings, and even regal metallics.
Makyla does the baking in her Queen Village home, where people retrieve their orders (delivery available for an extra charge). The prices, according to several customers, are reasonable: $15 for a dozen cupcakes or cake pops, and $13 for a dozen of the other goodies.
“I like baking, and I like making my customers happy,” said Makyla, who recently turned 12.
She also likes making her own money and spending it; one of her most exciting splurges was a pair of Crocs. But she’s cautious with her earnings.
“I’m just saving to save,” said the Mastery Charter Elementary sixth-grader.
Makyla’s success isn’t exactly a shock to her mom. “I would say she’s mature for her age, and she works hard,” said Hatcher.
Still, lots of people have been amazed to deal with a baker who’s so young.
Shabria Miller, a South Philly mother of four, first purchased Makyla’s goodies because she had gone to school with Makyla’s mother.
“The first time I did, it was [to show] support,” Miller said. But Makyla’s delicacies were so scrumptious that Miller ordered a batch of cupcakes for the fifth birthday party of her twin sons. Some in Miller’s family were skeptical that the sweets would be as good as they are, given that a middle-schooler had made them.
“My mother was like, ‘Nah, uh, I’m not getting no cupcakes from no little kid,’” Miller said. But then she tried them.
“She said, ‘Can you get more?’ I was like, ‘See?’”
Rahkeema Whitmore, a repeat customer, heard about Dolci Desserts from a friend and ordered chocolate-covered strawberries and cupcakes for her sister’s birthday party.
“It was really good,” said the Southwest Philly home health aide, “the quality, the presentation. Everything was on time. They even deliver.”
Jermaine Walker, a neighbor and longtime family friend, has ordered from Dolci Desserts seven times already. She’s a fan of the treats, but even more of their baker.
“I’ve watched her grow into a wonderful young lady. I’ve seen her do everything — drill team, modeling, designing,” Walker said. “I’ve never seen this young lady say, ‘This is too hard, I’m not doing it.’ She sticks with it until it’s done. She’s a light in the darkness.”
Every now and then Makyla gets a little tired and her mother will give her young entrepreneur a gentle reminder of her commitments. But more often, Hatcher has had to put the brakes on her industrious daughter, especially when school resumed in September.
“I had to kind of cut it down,” Hatcher said. “I have to work and she has school, so her main days [to bake] are Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The other days, she focuses on school. She wanted to do both, but she understands that school is more important right now.”
And Makyla does enjoy school. As would befit a budding businesswoman, her favorite subject is math. She still tunes into the Food Channel and other similar programming to get new ideas for her product line. She’s looking forward to creating special treats for the holidays.
“I have to think of what stuff to make,” she said (thankfully, she has a live-in taste-tester in her 5-year-old brother, Carter Pierce). She enjoys snacking on some of her creations, too. But truth be told, she said, she doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth.
What she enjoys more is the creativity of baking and the feeling of making people happy. That’s why she plans to keep Dolci Desserts even after pandemic’s restrictions have gone away.
“I’ll definitely continue it,” she said. “I like doing it.”