When she was about 12 years old, Bernadine Baptiste began watching Food Network shows with her older sister and became fascinated with the process of mixing together ingredients to make a delicious dish. She started experimenting with different recipes and fell in love with baking, decorating and making beautiful edible creations.
Now, the 18-year-old Dawson County High School alumna has expanded this passion into her own small business and has been working hard to bring her cakes, cupcakes and other baked goods to the community.
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Baptiste said that the first several years of baking and decorating cakes and other desserts consisted of pouring herself into learning the craft and really honing her skills.
“I was definitely not good at first,” Baptiste said, “so it took a lot of practice, a lot of effort and a lot of me begging my mom to just buy some extra sugar or chocolate from the store so I could practice.”
In 2020 when the pandemic hit, Baptiste and her family were living in New York and she began looking for ways to pass the time while staying at home and being separated from so much of the outside world. It was then that her older brother suggested the idea of taking her baking to the next level and starting her own business.
“My brother said ‘you should sell your stuff’ and told me he thought it was good enough to sell, so I presented my business idea to my parents with my older brother by my side and they were on board,” Baptiste said.
So she started “Made By Bernadine” and began building a customer base in New York of people who were excited to buy her custom-made confections. But in June of 2021 during her senior year of high school, she was thrown another curveball when her family moved all the way from New York down to Dawson County.
“The whole business for me since I started has been kind of like a roller coaster because I started it in New York and then we picked up everything and moved to Dawsonville during my senior year, so at that point I didn’t know if I should keep baking, should I quit or what,” Baptiste said. “Moving here I didn’t even know if it was going to keep going, but all of a sudden people were interested and wanted to know ‘who is this person that just moved to Dawsonville with this baking business’… so I decided to keep it.”
Since then, Baptiste has been continuing to grow and expand her business, building up a new customer base in her new hometown and loving every minute of it.
“It’s just been going ever since which is kind of crazy but I love doing it,” Baptiste said.
Baptiste graduated from Dawson County High School in the spring of 2022, and since graduation she’s been baking full-time while she decides what to do for college. Her ultimate goal, she said, would be to attend a college nearby and pursue a degree like business or marketing while she continues baking.
“UNG is my top choice right now and with that I could stay here and not have to quit doing what I’m doing,” Baptiste said. “I don’t know what God has in store, but in my future I would love to have a storefront where people could come and buy everything. That’s something that could be far off and I would love for that to happen, but I would need to go through college first.”
In the meantime, she has completed all the necessary steps to obtain her cottage license, which allows her to legally operate her business out of her home kitchen. She has recently put a lot of work into tweaking her business website, allowing customers to conveniently place orders directly through there. And one of the best things for her business, she said, has been being able to advertise on social media.
“My dad calls me ‘the queen of Facebook’ because of the number of times I use that app every day; social media has been the best thing for my business,” Baptiste said.
Since she moved to Dawson County, Baptiste said that she’s built up a customer base of people who love her creations and are excited to order from her for any celebration.
“I have regulars who order for every occasion,” Baptiste said. “I don’t know if I even would have thought I’d get the amount of support I’ve gotten; people here are just so nice about everything. My favorite part about the business has to be the people.”
Her favorite part about the job, she said, is creating each of her custom cakes special for each customer.
“Whether the client sends me a picture and I get to recreate it or they say I have full freedom and I can just go all out with all the sprinkles and all the decorations, it just makes me very happy,” Baptiste said. “And it makes me so happy when I get photos back from customers from their wedding, shower or party — I just love photos like that because it just makes my whole job feel so special.”
And while some bakers may like the decorating more than the baking, she said that she absolutely loves every step of the process.
“Some bakers like the decorating more than the baking but I just love all of it; there’s something about mixing butter and sugar that’s my favorite part,” Baptiste said.
Moving forward, Baptiste said that her goal for her business besides moving toward eventually opening a storefront is to keep herself busy with baking in all seasons, rather than just the whirlwind of the holiday season.
“Now that I’ve been doing this over a year I’m getting the trends of everything; so like for the holidays October through December and then February are super busy,” Baptiste said. “My goal is to stay busy in all seasons so that’s what I’m working on right now.”
One step toward doing this, she said, will be participating in festivals like the Mountain Moonshine Festival, which she had a booth at in 2022. Any future festivals she signs up for will be announced on her social media pages, she said. She’s also recently opened her order form for Valentine’s Day orders through her website, and she is in the 2023 Best of Dawson contest under the “desserts” category.
“I would like to continue doing what I’m doing; I appreciate all the support and anyone who continues to order from me especially now with inflation and everything,” Baptiste said. “I just appreciate all the support no matter anything that’s happened; hopefully there’s a lot to look forward to in the future. It’s definitely been a whirlwind but it’s a great whirlwind.”
To order a custom cake, cupcakes or other creations online, go to Baptiste’s website at madebybernadine.com.