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Teenage entrepreneur grows with Pink Spoon

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PECAN CRUSTING: Clinton Central senior Kaylah Bolender-Heaton places pecans on French toast in progress.
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FINISHED PRODUCT: Pecan-crusted french toast is served with syrup and a bowl of berries Saturday at the Pink Spoon Café and Ice Cream Shop.

By Leeann Doerflein

news@ftimes.com

A club project led to a passion for business for teenage entrepreneur Kaylah Bolender-Heaton, a Clinton Central High School senior who divides her time between classes and running Pink Spoon Café and Ice Cream Shop.

Bolender-Heaton never imagined herself as a restaurateur before joining DECA during her two years at Traders Point Christian High School. According to the DECA’s website, the organization “prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.”

As club president, Bolender-Heaton led the group’s project to open a coffee shop at school. During this process, she discovered her passion for business.

“We built it from ground zero, from the funding to the recipes,” she said. “I absolutely fell in love with it; there wasn’t a part of it that felt like work.”

Last spring when Momma Jeannie’s Sweet Treats and Antiques closed, Bolender-Heaton – then 17 years old – joked to her mom about opening her own restaurant in that spot at 110 S. Main St. in Kirklin. But, after a while, the joke turned serious and blossomed into a business plan for Pink Spoon Ice Cream Shop.

Bolender-Heaton’s mom Hanna Heaton said the business plan was all her daughter’s and still is today. When it comes to the business, Kaylah takes the lead. Heaton did not even see the business plan until just before she signed the lease, to allow her daughter the independence of setting up the business on her own.

“We told her from the start that we support her completely. Everything is finalized through her,” Heaton said. “She has set high goals since third grade – and that is no joke. She’s a 10-year 4-H member, she has shown swine nationally. When she sets her mind to something and we see it happen.”

While Bolender-Heaton manages the behind-the-scenes business, she said the restaurant could not be this successful without her family and friends.

“My mom and my sister are my biggest supporters,” Bolender-Heaton said. “They take orders on weekdays when I can’t be here, and there is honestly no way I would be open without them.”

After almost a year in business, the restaurant has evolved from an ice cream shop to a café offering breakfast and lunch. The menu today includes a mix of family recipes that have been handed down for generations and foods of Bolender-Heaton’s own creation. The evolution started with trial and error and was spurred when weather turned too cold for the business to stay afloat exclusively with ice cream.

“Now we’re getting to the point where we have regular customers and we are still getting new ones, which is exactly the place I want to be,” Bolender-Heaton said. “We are growing and that, to me, is exactly what success is.”

Bolender-Heaton is not letting the success go to her head, though. She continues to think of new ways to improve the business and new ways to draw in customers. One example is the Free Coffee Monday promotion this month that allows customers a free 16-ounce coffee with their order each Monday of March.

Starting in August, Bolender-Heaton will attend business school at Ball State University but plans to continue managing the business from her dorm room.

“There are many obstacles to come and many to overcome, but I have a support system in place to help me get through them,” Bolender-Heaton said.

Inspired by her trip to Nicaragua with her classmates from Traders Point, Bolender-Heaton’s ultimate business goal is to create a non-profit international aid organization.