When nearly 900 wide-eyed grade-schoolers from 22 schools in Washington and Hancock Counties descended upon the Future Promises job fair at University of Maine at Machias this past April, they walked into an arena brimming with dozens of entrepreneurial and vocational exhibits, all filled with discovery and promise. Here they had an opportunity to speak to folks with far ranging occupations, from engineers and healthcare workers, to game wardens and small business owners. They would leave one step closer to answering the inevitable question, “What do I want to be when I grow up.”
All students had the opportunity to submit a short personal essay where they reflected upon their experience at the Future Promises expo, and shared their thoughts on what inspired them. Recently, twenty of them were awarded a $250 scholarship to be put towards college, or even starting their own business one day, the culmination of one of Machias Savings Bank’s signature youth-oriented initiatives.
The awards banquet, which was held at MSB’s home campus in Machias, featured excerpts from the student’s essays and keynote speaker, fifteen year-old Jaelin Roberts. Roberts is the founder of the recently launched business venture, Simply Macaroons by Jaelin. She didn't become a business owner for love of profit however, but for a passion for baking, and a deep desire to create something that gives back.
Jaelin's story starts with a little nudge from fellow entrepreneur Chris Keegan, owner of Coffee Hound, of Bar Harbor and Sunday River. Jaelin's mother was in the store and simply said, "My daughter Jaelin would love this place and this food. She bakes french macaroons." Chris replied, "If she bakes authentic french macaroons, then we'll sell them!” Returning with a sample in hand, Jaelin landed her first business opportunity with a ringing endorsement from Chris, "These are better than the macaroons I buy from New York City."
That business opportunity was no piece of cake and had Jaelin and her Mom Joan preparing for months. Not only did the family kitchen need to be certified, but every flavor had to be certified as well. Jaelin worked through the Department of Agriculture's testing lab on the University of Maine campus and learned a whole new vocabulary around "water activity levels" and "shelf stable products". Just this past April, Jaelin got the green light for sales.
Even before Jaelin sold her first macaroon, she knew she wanted to give back. Jaelin is a Chinese adoptee and her own life experiences led her to an organization called Love Without Boundaries. 10% of Jaelin's profits funnel through this nonprofit organization to provide compassionate care to orphaned and impoverished children in the form of medical care, foster care, education, and nutrition. In the process, Jaelin has learned the true definition of a value-driven company.
Jaelin, a sophomore at John Bapst High School in Bangor and winner of Hardy Girls Healthy Women “Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 2017, shared with the attendees how she started, some of the many things she’s had to learn that she’d never expected to, and several of the challenges she’s already faced and how she overcame them. “You are all sitting here because you have written winning essays about your future dreams,” she emphasized. “Whether you want to be writers, veterinarians, scientists, or even a baker like me, keep your eyes open for opportunities, show off your talent, and continue to follow your dreams.”
Winners of the Future Promises 2018 Essay Contest include…
Cedar Lenke-Beeftink - RMG
Karalyn Lester - RMG
Daniel Jiang - RMG
Maya Corbett Kelley - RMG
Brenden Sault - Eastport Elementary
Kelsey Sault - Eastport Elementary
Courtney Kiestead - Eastport Elementary
Jonathan Andrews- Eastport Elementary
Linda Jessiman - Whiting Village School
Kiley Bauman - RMG
Camden Johnson - Jonesboro Elementary
Luke Campbell - Home School
Hayden Reynolds - Bay Ridge
Ethan Sierra - RMG
Sydney Phinney - Whiting Village School
Levi Campbell - Home School
Ayla Zanoni - Lubec Consolidated
Daniel Akinson - RMG
Mackenzie Schors - RMG
Lexi Donaghy - RMG