Freshman uses health challenge to grow baking business

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Chloe Paulk with her homemade cakes.
Chloe Paulk, owner of Cake It With Chloe, is pictured with her homemade cakes. Photo courtesy Chloe Paulk

Chloe Paulk fell in love with baking early and turned that passion into a budding business. So when a health issue threatened her goals, she turned the challenge into an opportunity to expand the offerings of Cake It With Chloe. 

In October, the Mercer University freshman’s business improvement plans won her second place in the Mercer Innovation Center’s Elevator Pitch Competition.

Paulk, a marketing major from Ocilla, grew up baking and — motivated by her parents’ condition that she pay for her first car — started selling her baked goods in fourth grade. She called the business Chloe’s Sweets and offered pound cakes, chocolate chip cookies and brownies. 

Chloe Paulk bakes as a child.
Chloe Paulk bakes as a child. Photo courtesy Chloe Paulk

In high school, she focused on learning how to market her products and grow her sales, and her business officially became Cake It With Chloe in 2019. Everything was going smoothly until 2020, when she started getting sick and eventually discovered she has a severe gluten sensitivity. 

“It’s kind of ironic, when you’re the girl who makes cakes and you can’t eat cakes,” said Paulk, who is involved in the Tift College Scholars Program and was selected as this year’s freshman recipient of the four-year Bessie Willingham Tift Scholarship. “Because of my gluten-free journey, I’ve realized so many other people struggle with the same challenge.”

Paulk recognized an untapped market in her hometown for people with food intolerances. One of her friends, for instance, was traveling three hours to get a cake she could eat on her wedding day. 

“That’s really the vision and the mission of Cake It with Chloe, to be able to help those people who don’t get to enjoy a piece of cake every day,” she said. “The hope is for the business to start out with gluten-free options and venture out to other food intolerance options like dairy free or peanut free.”

Senior year of high school, Paulk took her business to the next level through involvement in Georgia’s Foundational Leadership and Entrepreneurship X-perience (FLEX), which helps students advance their businesses and learn vital skills. She won $5,000 in the competition in March. 

Chloe Paulk and her family are pictured with her prize winnings from the FLEX competition.
Chloe Paulk and her family are pictured with her prize winnings from the FLEX competition. Photo courtesy Chloe Paulk

Almost all of Paulk’s cakes have a gluten-sensitive option, and she said her taste-testers usually can’t tell the difference. Flavors include s’mores, Oreo, Reese’s and cookie dough, and she also sells cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies and sour cream pound cakes. 

Paulk’s kitchen is cottage foods-licensed, and she hopes to one day have a storefront. She took a short break from baking to get settled into college life in Macon, but she looks forward to getting back to it next semester and bringing her products to Macon as well as Ocilla. 

She plans to use her $250 prize from the Elevator Pitch Competition to find the most efficient options for shipping her baked goods. 

Paulk said she loves getting to know people and hearing their stories, and Cake It With Chloe allows her to do that. The connections that she builds with customers is what makes her business so special. 

“I can’t eat most of the products that come through my kitchen … that’s how I know I love it,” she said. “I hope to use the business as an inspiration to others — knowing my story of not being able to eat cake and I didn’t let that stop me. Instead, I let it turn into something better for the business. If you have a passion for something, that’s what you’re meant to do. For me, that’s making cakes. I still love it every day I do it.”

 

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Andrea is a digital content specialist at Mercer. She creates and maintains written and multimedia content for primary University web pages. She ensures a consistent, University “voice” throughout various forms of online communications platforms. She also plans and executes campaigns for the primary official Mercer University social media accounts.