At age 3, Shea Gouldd knew who Emeril Lagasse was. “When I was a toddler, I used to watch cooking shows instead of cartoons,” says the class of 2017 entrepreneurship major. By the time she was in seventh grade, Gouldd was an avid baker.
“Everyday, I would come home from school and I’d start baking,” she says. “I’d bring [what I had baked] to school and just give it away to everyone.” Soon her mother asked her to either stop baking or start making some money from it, so Gouldd could pay for ingredients. Gouldd sold a cheesecake to a family friend in October 2008. By that Thanksgiving, she had 30 orders. Gouldd realized she might have a business on her hands, so she incorporated as an LLC and applied for permits. At 14, she became the owner of Shea’s Bakery.
The bakery would stand out on its own (Urbanspoon and The Knot both recommended it), but Gouldd’s youth also attracted attention. She won the 2010 Young Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the National Association of Women Business Owners, was named the 2013 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Foundation for Independent Businesses, and was a national finalist in the Guardian Life Insurance Company Girls Going Places Scholarship Program.
Gouldd took a step back from the bakery after high school to come to WashU, where she could learn to improve on her entrepreneurism skills in a supportive environment. A team runs Shea’s Bakery back in her native Florida, leaving Gouldd free to found an entrepreneurship club and, with the help of three other girls in the club, start a second business on campus, Bear-Y Sweet Shoppe.
Here she talks about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and lessons she’s learned along the way.
What advice do you give other young people who want to start a business?
I always think to myself, I’m not a crazy circumstance. The only thing that’s unique is that I just went for it. I think being a younger person is honestly the best time to try out a business because you don’t have to pay rent, you don’t have a mortgage, all that stuff. So there’s less to lose, and [I think] you’re more creative when you’re less inhibited. So just to go for it is the first step.
How was it starting your candy store, Bear-Y Sweet Shoppe, on campus?
It was really tough. No food business has ever been started by students before. And at first, whenever we brought the idea up to advisers, they were like, “No, there’s no way. You’re not going to be able to pull that off.” And we were like, “Mm-hmm.” It pushed us harder and harder I think. And it was an adventure, and we definitely had to build a lot of groundwork that hadn’t been done before. But maybe the best part was that we really got to pave our own way, and now there are other businesses coming in, student run, that are going to be selling different food products. So it’s really awesome to have started that movement.
What impact has being an entrepreneur had on you?
I think being an entrepreneur has made me feel limitless in a way. I think that being able to create something from nothing has made me feel that if you really focus, you really put your head into it, you can pull it off. So I think I’ve had an amazing past. I’m very fortunate to have the experiences that I’ve had, and I think that that pushes me to think there are no boundaries in the way — and to go about life in that way where I think if I really want something, I will fight tooth and nail to accomplish it.