Teenager really cooking as entrepreneur

Teenager really cooking as entrepreneur

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The first thing you figure out is that 14-year-old Mika Scott, CEO of Mika’s Heavenly Cookies, is not your typical teenager.

After sampling the cookies he developed – with key input from his mother, Kimberly Scott – you don’t care how old the baker is, you just want another cookie.

And that’s not even the most interesting part of his story.

Mika leads his cookie business, plays football and participates in ROTC, provides financial counseling in concert with his mother’s business for children and teenagers. He also is a budding inventor, with a school project aimed at aircraft safety attracting the interesting of Boeing Co.

A freshman-to-be at Grissom High School, Mika is already a practiced hand at the cookie game, having started his company seven years ago.

The roots of the company begin with a terrible encounter with a dog. Six-year-old Mika was at a party and noticed that a chow dog had started hungrily eyeing a toddler carrying a hot dog.

"My first instinct was to yell for help," Mika said during an interview at his home in south Huntsville. "But I grabbed the baby, and the dog bit me."

The dog had bitten off a section of Mika’s face, but the baby was unharmed. He was taken to the hospital, had plastic surgery and was on the soccer field several weeks after the incident.

During his recovery period, his mother recalls, cards and food and all kinds of support were offered for the little boy. Mika asked his mother one day, "How do we thank all these people?"

"I said we can give them thank-you cards," Scott said. "But one morning Mika went into the kitchen and just started putting together flour and eggs and sugar, not measuring at all."

His mother baked the cookies for him and, at her son’s urging, gave them out as thank-you gifts.

"People started calling and saying, ‘I’ve never tasted a cookie like this,’" his mother said. "People kept calling, asking for the recipe."

Kimberly Scott and her husband, retired U.S. Marine Eric Scott, moved to Huntsville when Mika was a toddler. She owns and runs Consumer Credit Education and Counseling Services Inc.

Fueled by her business savvy and the demands of friends and family hungry for more cookies, "Mika’s Heavenly Cookies" was born.

"We gave away a lot of free cookies, and people could not believe it until they tasted them," she said. "We did that for three or four months and started selling them."

Over time, the demand became so great Mika was rising at 5 a.m. to start mixing dough before school. Mother and son laugh, recalling mornings when the last thing they wanted to do was face more cookie dough, but they toughed it out.

"I knew I had a job to do," Mika said. "We had to fill those orders."

One customer became such a fan, she got Mika a cell phone so that he would be available for her to call and place an order.

Different varieties

Today, Mika’s offers 56 types of cookies, and the CEO and namesake doesn’t need to consult a recipe for any of them. It starts with the basic cookie he created and then the varieties are built from there. The top-seller is the Lemon Drop cookie, other varieties include chocolate Hershey cocoa, German chocolate, Red Velvet, Carrot and the newest flavor, New York Peppermint Patty.

Scott estimates they bake, in their family kitchen, about 3,000 cookies a month and said the company has about 300 customers, ranging from business customers to churches.

Geneva Simpson, who was a business associate of Scott’s, is a devoted customer, buying cookies for numerous special occasions.

"I get them for birthdays, anniversaries," Simpson said. "My husband’s birthday is coming up, and he loves those cookies. I told her the first time I tasted them, ‘There are no cookies like these.’"

The business is thriving, and an upcoming feature on the ABC series "20/20" profiling the young entrepreneur (an air date has not been set) is sure to increase demand. That almost certainly means new kitchen space will be needed, Scott said.

Financial planning

Despite being CEO of a booming business, Mika is not living the flashy CEO lifestyle. His parents have made sure his college will be paid for and he’ll be able to buy a car at 16, but the Scotts won’t overindulge him with presents or excessive spending.

"Even though Mika has the money that he could buy anything he wanted, that’s not what we do," his mother said. "When Xbox 360 came out, he was given a regular Xbox and was happy to have it."

Mika said he knows his family’s approach isn’t typical.

"Most kids have all this stuff, and they’re mad if they don’t get something else," he said.

That awareness of how money works will grow as Mika is given a closer look at his company’s finances in the coming year, his mother said.

"You need a budgeting system, discipline and dedication," to make a business work, Mika said.

He’s already passing on what he has learned to other kids and makes presentations to groups. He is also available for tutoring for longer sessions if kids need help managing money.

Mika plans to keep the cookie business as a side venture, but he wants to be an engineer, designing cars.

"My mom really helps me, my dad, too," Mika said. "They taught me what I could do."




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