Sophomore Christine Proctor was already a successful business owner – with years of experience under her chef's apron strings – when she decided to start the Scheller Society of Entrepreneurs last fall.
At age 14, she began a gourmet cake business (Christine's Cakes) that has won her many loyal customers for her unique twists on a familiar dessert. "Think strawberry cake with white chocolate key-lime mousse," Proctor says. "I strive to create a beautiful work of art on the outside and five-star restaurant quality on the inside."
For example, one of her favorite creations (for a groom's cake) was inspired by the cubist style of Piet Mondrian's paintings (resulting in a giant cube cake decorated all over with varying blocks of primary colors).
"Running the business has definitely grown my interest in marketing, brand management, and brand loyalty as I've created a very customizable product for consumers," she says. "I developed a full marketing program in high school, promoting seasonal tie-ins to my cakes through e-mail and social media channels."
Preparing for Corporate Career
Proctor, who was the featured Young Entrepreneur Speaker at the 2011 WOMENetics Conference, has enjoyed so much demand for her desserts at parties, weddings and other events that people have asked her, "Why are you in school? You should be doing cakes full-time."
Proctor has had to cut back in the kitchen to make time for her studies and internships, but she hasn't completely stepped away from the oven. She still donates cakes for Greek auctions on campus and makes desserts for select large events.
"I'd love to revisit it in the future once I have investment funds," she says. "While I've loved working for myself, I want to know how to be a good employee for someone else. I want to learn how to meet someone else's needs before I start another company."
Gaining Valuable Experience
Proctor has parlayed her cake enterprise into opportunities on the corporate side of restaurants. In summer 2011, just before starting Tech, she worked as a marketing intern for Waffle House, conducting research and working on menu design. Last fall, she was a public relations and marketing intern for Concentric Hospitality Solutions, which operates such popular restaurants as ONE Midtown Kitchen and TWO Urban Licks.
For her latest internship, she has ventured out of the hospitality industry to work in emerging apps at Silverpop, whose marketing platform enables companies to create and manage large e-mail marketing campaigns.
"I'm working at an automated software company, and my IT class has helped me understand the vocabulary of how things work," she says. "I don't have to program the software. But I know how it works, and I can talk to the software engineers. That's what going to a technology business school is all about. You don't necessarily have to know the nitty gritty."
Developing Competitive Advantage
Proctor, a native of Atlanta, chose Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business for hers studies because of its technological orientation. "Though some people might think it's strange to go to Tech for business, in my mind it's actually an asset because it intertwines technology and business together," she says. "Obviously, the world is becoming more dependent on technology every day, and you need to have that baseline knowledge. Having that will definitely give an edge."
After graduation, Proctor would like to work in marketing and brand management for a large corporation like GE or Coca-Cola. But eventually she plans to get around to starting another company of her own, possibly in the food and beverage industry.
She believes the Scheller Society for Entrepreneurs she started for all undergraduate majors at Tech is providing a great learning platform, helping participants develop their entrepreneurial skills to either work for themselves or someone else. Successful entrepreneurs are regularly featured as guest speakers at twice-monthly meetings.
"I hope the club helps instill the confidence that we all can accomplish our goals," she says. "Self-doubt is a big problem for entrepreneurs."