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At 11 years old, Bowie, Maryland native Michael Platt decided he wanted to start giving back to his community. Home-schooled by his mother with a passion for baking, Platt formed Michaels Desserts in 2017, with a pledge that for every item it sold to its customers, the company would also donate a dessert to someone in need. It only took two years for Platt’s business to take his community by storm. Michaels Desserts gained media coverage at the local and national levels in publications such as The Washington Post and People Magazine detailing the company’s success in giving back to the community and helping the less fortunate.
As part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneur Series, we spoke with Platt about his experiences running a startup, the way he is using his business to give back to his community, and his perspective on the future of business. Here is what he had to say:
Q: Tell us a bit about your business and why you started it.
A: I have a one-for-one baking business called Michaels Desserts. It isn’t a bakery in the classic sense though. I create cupcakes that feature people or organizations that take on or have taken on big problems in the world. For every dessert I sell, I give one away to people experiencing homelessness or families living in domestic violence shelters or transitional housing facilities. I started the business because I think if you’re good at something, you should use that to change something in the world that bothers you. Injustice and hunger bother me so I use my baking passion to address that the best way I can.
Q: What is the mission of Michaels Desserts?
A: Our mission is to demonstrate social entrepreneurship and inspire other business owners to embark on making the world better.
Q: What are the biggest challenges to starting a business at a younger age?
A: The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is adults who mean well but don’t understand the mission of my business and tell me that my model isn’t sustainable. I recognize that traditionally it is not extremely profitable, however, I believe that people want a better world and if given a way to help, they will.
Q: Were there any new skills you had to learn when starting your business?
A: Yes, my dad is very big on me knowing my inventory and knowing my food costs. I didn’t know any of that and had to learn that.
Q: What impact has running your own business had on your life thus far?
A: It has kept me very busy and it has helped my work ethic. I think if you want to do something, obstacles might arise, but you keep working at it until you’ve overcome that challenge. My business gives me lots of these kind of opportunities.
Q: What are some of the biggest milestones your business has had so far?
A: Giving away over 10,000 meals to kids who are food insecure was a huge milestone. Also, we are moving into a shared kitchen space in September so we will be able to scale this model a bit more and help raise awareness to hunger even more – so that’s huge.
Q: What are the long-term goals you have for your company? Where do you hope to see the business grow?
A: I am working on a cookbook right now that will be one-for-one. The cookbook will have recipes that can be made with easy-to-access ingredients and tools. No mixers or digital scales involved. I want anyone to be able to make a dessert no matter what. For every book sold we will donate a book, as a housewarming gift, to families who are moving out of shelters into their own homes. Longer term, I want to open cafes all over the world with a social impact model.
Q: What advice would you give to any other young entrepreneurs who are considering starting their own business?
A: Find your purpose first. Skills aren’t purpose. It’s no one’s purpose to bake or be a doctor or program computers. Those are tasks and skills we use to do our purpose. Once you find out the problem you’re going to solve and how you’re going to solve it, use your skills to do that. That way if your skills ever have to change or shift that’s okay because you’re still serving your purpose. Lastly, keep working at whatever you’re working on. No matter how big it is, keep a steady pace and you will succeed at moving that mountain.
Platt’s dedication to creating a successful company with a business model built on social impact, is a testament to how the next generation of entrepreneurs are approaching business – as a way to solve some of the biggest issues they see around them. At the U.S. Chamber, we believe business is not only a positive force for our economy, but for our communities as well. Through his business, Platt strives to use entrepreneurship to change the community around him for the better.
The U.S. Chamber’s Young Entrepreneur Series will continue to highlight businesses, like Michaels Desserts, that are harnessing creative solutions to make a positive impact on peoples’ lives. Check out other young entrepreneurs in the series, here.