What started out as a delicious treat for the swim team became Ashley Dai’s (11) self-sustaining business, Brownies to Dai For, that donated $1,664 to charities during the spring of 2016.
The business began when some of Dai’s teammates on the Middle Division (MD) swim team bought whole batches of her brownies. Dai decided to make a profit off of the brownies and sent the money to charities including Mental Health America, the National Autism Association, and Doctors without Borders, she said.
“It started as a group of my friends meeting in the Atrium, and we thought it would be really cool to start a business from the brownies,” Dai said. Dai’s team included four bakers and a graphic designer, she said.
“I was the figurehead of the business, but we really had so many people helping out,” Dai said.
“I participated in the business as an eighth grader, and it was a good opportunity to collaborate with my peers to raise money for a worthwhile cause,” Ryan Jonas (11) said.
“I’m very involved with sustainable businesses that both make a profit and contribute to the community,” Jonas said. “I share Ashley’s commitment to helping others and value ventures that prioritize that commitment.”
Katya Arutyunyan (11) was commissioned to make the logo and overall branding for the business, she said. “I mainly played the artistic role, creating posters and logos to help publicize her venture.”
“Usually Ashley would just hand out containers with the brownies and we would walk around school and sell them to anyone who had asked for a batch or who just wanted to buy a couple,” Arutyunyan said.
The brownies were only sold to Horace Mann students, and although Dai had a plan for the business to extend outside of school, the business lacked sufficient funding and bakers to produce enough brownies to sell to a larger group of people, Dai said.
The group of bakers made the brownies themselves, and they would often bake dozens of batches every other night to keep up with the growing demand, Dai said.
“We would sell anywhere from two to four batches of brownies per day, which was 30 to 60 brownies per day at our peak,” Dai said.
The main recipe for the brownies was from a website called “What’s Gaby Cooking,” Dai said. For other brownie flavors, the group soon found recipes from all over the Internet, she said.
In terms of marketing, the group made an Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat account to try and connect to potential buyers through social media. In addition, they also held a school bake sale to advertise the business, Dai said.
“We also made a website, where if people wanted to buy a large batch of brownies for themselves, they could schedule and order it on the website,” Dai said. “We had a price list and a link on the website for our followers to choose which charity we donated to.”
“It was experimental and fun at the time that we were doing it because there was encouragement that came from our peers who really liked Ashley’s idea,” Arutyunyan said.
“I would definitely consider starting up Brownies to Dai For again. I loved the experience and the fact that we were able to do good both within the community and for charities and organizations,” Dai said.