My name is Jessica Cervantes and I am the founder of Popsy Cakes, the 2008 NFTE National award winning company. NFTE changed my life. They didn’t just teach me how to operate my own business, but they taught life skills. I am able to communicate with others and I can even stand and speak in front of an audience, and although I am still terribly nervous, I have conquered my fear of public speaking. NFTE has also in many ways funded my company and my education. I am now a senior at the University of Miami. I am a Microbiology major and hope to attend Med School in the Fall of 2014. My business is thriving, thanks to the help of many, notably Bill Hansen, Craig Edelmen, and Stewart Merkin. Popsy Cakes is now in over 50 locations including Miami International Airport and Bongos in Downtown Disney. We are now expanding our company, looking for investors, and trying to meet our high demand.
My story began about 6 years ago when I was a junior at John A. Ferguson Senior High School. At that time, I was interested in becoming a lawyer and became part of the Business academy. As part of my requirements, I had to take Principles of Entrepreneurship. No one in my family owned their own business nor had I ever been exposed to entrepreneurship, so to me it was just another class I had to pass and nothing more. Little did I know that I would be so interested and so passionate about this class.
My professor at the time, Mrs. Wesley, gave us an option: Either take a written final exam or use the skills that had been taught in the course to create your own business plan. With the physics and calculus final exams I was already forced to take, getting out of one was music to my ears. The question then became, what would I do? What could I sell? What was my community willing to buy?
My parents, mentors, and NFTE personnel at the time, Dulce Damon, advised that I should turn my passion into my business. So I thought, I love to bake! I will create a cupcake business. However, I had also learned about a little thing called competitive advantage. I needed to make the next best cupcake. The major problem I found with cupcakes was the messiness they left behind, especially after attending my little cousin’s birthday party and seeing all the kids running around with dirty frosted fingers which eventually ended up on my aunts couch. And it hit me. I would create a cupcake on a stick, just like a popsicle, but even better because this stick will be edible as well.
After many months of experimentation in the kitchen, I finally created the first Popsy Cake prototype. Around the same time, I became more involved with NFTE and began participating in the business plan competitions.
All my hard work finally paid off when I found myself on my way to New York City to compete at the National level. I remember I was so intimidated, as everyone seemed so confident and assertive, and there I was the shy Cuban girl from Miami with the cupcake on a stick idea. I never thought I would make it past Round 1. Yet, my name was called. And it was called once again, and before I knew it, I was competing in Round 3 where the worst I could do was 3rd place, which I had never even pictured. I presented and it went well. I stuttered, I got nervous, I forgot my numbers, but I kept on. And I gave it my all. That night was one of my proudest moments. I became the 2008 National First Place Winner of the NFTE Business Plan Competition!
I hope we can all agree on how wonderful NFTE is. I thank everyone for supporting NFTE and helping kids like me realize their dreams.