Stephanie Long’s father, an avid Rolling Stones fan, gave each of his children a song from the legendary band to describe them. For his daughter, he chose “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Long begs to differ. At age 21, Long is a budding entrepreneur, director of operations for a regional frozen custard chain in Northwest Arkansas, and full-time student at UAFS.
“If I have a vision in my head, you can’t tell me no,” she said.
One of those visions has centered around The Cake Occasion, a small-batch bakery located in Springdale that Long opened in 2015 while a student at Springdale High School. Long has grown the business while attending Brightwater, the culinary school at Northwest Arkansas Community College. Through the first five months of this year, Long’s company has already exceeded sales from 2017.
Having grown up baking with her mother, Long had wanted to own a bakery from a young age. But during her time at NWACC, she learned about making artisan foods and saw an opportunity to open a business to address an unmet need in Northwest Arkansas.
“They were teaching us to do artisan foods where everything is local and fresh, and we’re missing baked goods stores that do that in our area,” she said. “I wanted to bring that concept alive.”
She just celebrated her company’s three-year anniversary, highlighted by her recent participation in the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s (WBENC) nationally competitive student entrepreneur program held last month in Detroit. Long was one of just 22 entrepreneurs chosen to participate, where she participated in workshops and seminars and learned from mentors appointed to help her develop as a business owner.
The conference ended with a pitch competition, and though Long didn’t win, the experience was what mattered to her.
“I was just going for the experience,” she said. “I knew that by being around like-minded individuals, we would be able to help grow and expand our businesses together. After getting to know all the girls, it became more about cheering them on and pushing them to be the best they could possibly be as the owner of their business.”
Long is also gaining management experience through her work at Shakes Frozen Custard, where she serves as director of operations. In that role, she travels to franchises in Missouri, Florida and Texas and trains new managers and owners. At the store in Fayetteville, she is in charge of many of the day-to-day operations and is currently implementing a new operations manual for the entire company.
In January, Long transferred to UAFS to round out her baking expertise with a business degree. She said the school’s community feel drew her to attend here.
“I love UAFS,” she said. “I feel like the people on campus actually care that I’m here.”
Long plans to graduate from UAFS next May and to start more businesses in the future. She is also looking at buying a storefront for her bakery.
“I like the idea of starting businesses, making them sustainable, and moving on to another one,” she said. “But I still want to be a part of all my businesses. It’s not all about the money for me. I take pride in the transactions with my customers and making it personalized. I love baking for people and I want to continue doing it.”