Business students find sweet spot with help from RCC family
Ask Kevin and Christine Austin about their experience at Rappahannock Community College, and they may share a tale sprinkled with new friends, scholarly advice, and a couple thousand gourmet cupcakes. For this husband and wife entrepreneurial duo, their time at RCC has given them a head start in running their business and has opened new doorways on their sugary path.
In 2014, when the Austins brought a cake to a friend’s birthday, they were met with unexpected enthusiasm. “Everybody [at the party] asked if we would do theirs,” says Kevin of their experience. “It just grew from one person, and everyone at their parties, and everyone there … and it was all just word of mouth.”
After opening up their business from their home in West Point, they were immediately caught up in numerous orders from friends and family. The couple finally decided that this wasn’t an opportunity they could miss, so Kevin decided they “needed to go get a business license and start doing this professionally.”
Christine decided to return to school at RCC for her business degree, however, Kevin says, “The bakery got so busy that [Christine] was overwhelmed, and it was just a lot to handle to run the bakery and do the day to day business of the bakery.”
To help his wife manage the bakery, Kevin, who was previously enrolled in receiving his education degree at RCC, says he “changed over everything so that I could learn how to run the bakery and she could do all of the creative end of it.” Now in his final semester at RCC, he plans to graduate this spring with his Associate in Business Administration.
However, the interest in their bakery didn’t stop with family and friends. After bringing in leftover cupcakes to his biology class, Kevin found more customers through his classmates and teachers than he could have imagined. “The students here who I’ve had classes with who I’ve brought samples [to] have become lifelong customers,” Kevin says.
“They’re my annual customers now. Their kids’ birthdays come along and they call,” says Christine of some of her classmates’ interest in their bakery.
Kevin also has had much help from his teachers in the business program at RCC. “It’s been good because it’s helped us organize the business part of the fun part of our job,” says Christine. “So now Kevin has been able to sit down and organize that end of it and that aspect of it, because of RCC and being able to go through these classes and do what he’s doing now.”
“It’s been good because it’s helped us organize the business part and the fun part of our job,” says Christine. “So now Kevin has been able to sit down and organize that aspect of it. And because of our experience at RCC and being able to go through these classes, we’ve been able to do what we’re doing now.”
They had exceptional help, specifically from Kevin’s accounting professor, Pradeep Ghimire. “He’s opened my eyes so much to how the accounting and how bookkeeping works, so I come home and I look at what I’ve been doing that works,” Kevin says. “Being able to rely on [Ghimire] for those things, and being able to ask him questions nonchalantly about our business really, has been really encouraging for Kevin as well,” says Christine of her husband’s experience.
Kevin goes on to say how his economics professor, Mark Hutchens, helped him learn so everything “makes sense and everything is organized” in his new business. All of Kevin’s education at RCC has added to his success in the program.
Future plans for Austins’ bakery are in the works, as of December 2016, when they received their contract for commercial placement. They plan to open first in New Kent, then “we’re looking to still open a store front in West Point and just keep growing,” Kevin says.
For anyone trying to plot their goals at RCC, Christine says, “No matter how many times you change your plan, there’s always an end game, and to always keep going forward towards it.” An unexpected response to their cakes took the Austin’s on a totally unpredicted path towards opening a business. “You never know, where you’re going to go from that starting point,” she says.
Kevin’s advice for students pursuing education is, “No matter what your goal is, whether it’s to open a business, get a degree, work wherever, don’t work towards that goal, work towards your end game. And always make sure that what you do is something you love. Do what you love and what you’re happy with doing.” — Mary Cline