An Ohio State Marion student shares her formula for entrepreneurial success…research, striving for perfection, sound math skills, hard work, and good old-fashioned customer service
Dressed in a quaint country apron, smart but unassuming glasses, and pearl earrings, Delaware native and Ohio State Marion junior mathematics major Lillian Longstreth greets the throng of potential customers who travel the sidewalks of Delaware’s Downtown Farmers Market each weekend with a smile and freshly baked cookies and breads.
At the urging of family and friends, Longstreth began selling her homemade, sweet confections on Delaware’s sidewalks during summer 2013. Longstreth prepares a host of delicious baked goods from scratch weekly. During most sunny summer mornings, she can be found with her table of goodies and the provincial charm you might expect in a bygone era.
She is more than just an accomplished baker. She brings precision and an entrepreneurial spirit to her small yet impassioned business venture. Buying ingredients, measuring, keeping track of inventory, baking time, and tracking profit margins and expenses requires a sharp mathematical mind, in addition to knowing your way around a kitchen, and Longstreth is blessed to be gifted in both areas.
According to Longstreth, there is no perfect way to prepare for the market. She starts with deciding what she wants to bake each week, shopping for the ingredients, creating labels for each cookie, making the bags for packaging, and then finally, actually making the baked goods.
“I spend time researching different recipes and taking suggestions from friends, family and customers to get a general idea of what flavor I want to create, and then I go to work in the kitchen,” she added.
“Researching recipes” that’s all the part of the vernacular and mindset that Longstreth brings to the table as a top-notch student, campus leader, and part-time entrepreneurial baker.
“I start with a base dough and add a little bit of this and that until I have a working dough, usually the 3rd or 4th try. Then I beta test it on friends and family and tweak it to get it just right. Then I sample it one week at the market, and if it gets positive feedback it goes into rotation,” Longstreth explained.
Choosing what to bake entails a number of factors, according to Longstreth, factors such as, how well each item sells, whether she has a request for a certain item, how much the ingredients cost, bake time and temperature of an item in relation to the others she’s making that week.
Weather even plays a factor in the choices she makes when it comes to the many varieties of cookies and baked goods.
“A sunny day means people are going to want "sunny" flavors: dreamsicle, lemon, raspberry… and a cloudy or rainy days tends to mean I'm going to sell more heavy flavors like double chocolate chunk, chocolate mint, and gingerbread snap,” she added.
“I always have my permanent cookies that never go out of rotation – chocolate chip, salty caramel, and Cajun chocolate chip,” she said proudly.
Making the right product selection is not the only priority Longstreth places on her creations, she insists on using top quality ingredients: Ghirardelli chocolate chips, organic eggs, organic butter, premium un-sifted and unbleached flour, pure vanilla extract, all fresh fruits, and premium blended spices, some of which are imported from locations around the world.
Much like the eye-reddening hours the Dunkin Doughnuts guy keeps…”Time to make the donuts,” Longstreth has a baking routine that demands early-bird hours.
“I make my dough on Friday night and let it sit in the fridge overnight - the ingredients continue to mix,” she said, “and you get better dough.”
“Then I wake up around 3 a.m. on Saturday mornings to bake the cookies and bread fresh,” Longstreth explained.
Emphasizing the freshness and quality of her wares is one of the most important things to her.
“If I feel like I have a bad cookie or a whole batch, I won't sell it. I strive for perfection, or at least what I think is perfection,” said Longstreth.
Striving for perfection, whether in her baking, in the classroom, as a student leader, or in the community, Longstreth embodies the true spirit of The Ohio State University, encouraging students to be engaged, involved, and grow to their full potential inside and outside the classroom.
The Delaware Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from the end of May to the end of October from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 pm.