Student Entrepreneurs: A Tasty Prospect

Students love brownies, but that’s only half the battle. Brookies – grounded in the notion of cookie-brownie hybrids – was founded by UEA student, Zoe Shakes, and her partner, Daniel Shakes, heralding the start of a business with “its own challenges, and benefits”. According to Zoe, “it’s challenging, some weeks, to balance deadlines from my own coursework. I’ve found that Brookies has given me an outlet for procrastination.” 

Unlike scrolling the strange and complicated world of social media, baking feels like a healthier sibling. “If I’m going to put off doing my work, I might as well spend my time doing something fun and productive.” It also benefits from an equal level of commitment, with both Zoe and Daniel bringing their unique skill sets to the fore. “Dan has played a crucial role in the branding, web design, and business side of everything. Having run his own business for years and being a professional designer, he was able to bring our vision to life.”

Zoe’s creative skills have been put to good use. “Brookies is built on creativity, in our approach to marketing and the ways we finesse our recipes. We make lots of mistakes, but that’s all part of the process.” Student entrepreneurship has seen a steady incline ever since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, with the development of online accelerator programs and pitching events specifically tailored for students. Earlier this month, Imperial College London was named the best university for prospective entrepreneurs, whilst the city of London was named the best city in the world to be a young entrepreneur. At a time of great uncertainty, solving the big problems and filling spaces in the marketplace is an attractive prospect. 

Zoe is grateful for the opportunities provided by the local community here in Norwich. “UEA has been so helpful for our business, mostly because of all the awesome students who make up most of our customer base. We wanted to create something affordable for normal students and young people like us, people who, she jokes, “[are] broke but looking for some quality cake.”

The entrepreneurial spirit exists in many, but not everyone taps into it. “We would definitely encourage students to pursue their business ideas. We started with a small investment and built from there. I think the key is to always do something that makes you happy and to build off your passions.”

Success is built on adaptation, and the owners of the brownie delivery service acknowledge the need to adapt to grow. “Another innovation we’ve been trying out lately is vegan baking. This is something I’m incredibly excited about. We’ve found ways of adapting both midnight slices and Brookies to be fully vegan, and we’re now releasing one new vegan bake every week. That started as our attempt to make a Christmas gift for a good friend, but when we realised how good our vegan creation was, we had to build on it and add vegan items to our menu long-term.”

Brookies seem to be riding a wave of success, built on the fundamental belief in the importance of doing what you love. “We really enjoy what we do. We even baked Brookies the week of our wedding! It’s one of our favourite bonding activities and driving around Norwich together on deliveries gives us a good chance to spend some quality time.”

Brownies aside, universities need an entrepreneurial kick, especially in the age of distraction and disenfranchisement. As Zoe and Daniel have demonstrated, ambition gets you far.

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Sam Gordon Webb

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August 2022
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