Teen Emma Rohleder’s sweet treats helping charity
May 18, 2014
By Neil Pierson
New: May 18, 2:37 p.m.
Emma Rohleder has spent a lot of time in the kitchen, developing a passion for cooking and baking that may take her to culinary school one day.
That future is still far away. Rohleder is only 14, and she’s finishing up her eighth-grade year at Beaver Lake Middle School while playing select soccer for the Issaquah Soccer Club’s Gunners Premier program.
Over the past three years, though, Rohleder has shown gifts for philanthropy, entrepreneurship and culinary arts that are uncommon for someone in her age group. In June 2011, she founded Emma’s Sweet Cakes, a small cupcake business that focuses on raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Rohleder has a personal connection to the cause – her aunt died from lymphoma, a cancer of the blood – and has been selling her cupcakes with extraordinary success. She’s raised more than $10,000 for LLS in three years, much of it associated with the organization’s annual Big Climb, a 69-story march up the staircase of the Columbia Tower in downtown Seattle.
Rohleder’s love for baking developed as a small child when she’d pull up a chair next to her mother, Jen, in the kitchen of their Sammamish home.
“I think she’s been hanging by my side since she was about 2,” Jen Rohleder said.
Emma later took a cake decorating class that spurred her interests.
“I loved it, but I wanted something smaller because cakes were really big, and there were a lot of ingredients and a lot of decorations,” she explained.
Cupcakes were the logical choice, and she began selling them to family and friends during the summer of 2011. Through word of mouth, her sales have grown, although Rohleder said she’s not interested in growing the business further for now. Delivering to anyone outside of the Sammamish area takes time, and she’s already busy enough between school and extracurricular activities, she explained.
“When I’m going to high school next year, I would love to keep this going, but school becomes more of a priority,” she noted. “… If people have already had my cupcakes, and they’re a friend and they’re referring me to other people, then I’m fine with that.”
“Sometimes she’s up until midnight making cupcakes as it is,” her mom added.
Using her networking skills, Rohleder has increased the money she brings in for the society. For example, her uncle’s business matched every dollar she raised one year.
She also sends out mass emails to friends and family to drum up support, and when a soccer teammate’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she got involved with Relay for Life and began selling cupcakes to benefit that organization.
“It’s just really a good way to tribute (my aunt),” she said.
Emma’s Sweet Cakes has a wide variety of treats available, from the standard chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors, to more exotic tastes like coconut, carrot and mint brownie.
Rohleder tries to cut down on her workload by featuring a Cupcake of the Month. For May, she’s doing snickerdoodle cupcakes, featuring cinnamon-and-vanilla flavored cake, butter-cream frosting and a dusting of cinnamon sugar.
Rohleder said she’d love to attend culinary school. She draws inspiration from Food Network shows – “Cupcake Wars” is a particular favorite – and although desserts are her passion, she likes anything involving cooking and baking.
Her family went to Italy for spring break this year, and Emma and Jen took a culinary class in which they made homemade pasta and tiramisu.
Finding a way to raise money for a charitable cause might be the best thing, Jen Rohleder said. Her daughter’s business certainly isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme.
“I think it’s really cool – tons of people ordered to support her and chipped in an extra 20 bucks or whatever,” she said. “But we figured she probably only makes about $4 an hour when all is said and done.”