A sweet Akron Experience12/05/2012
Senior Maggie Simenc discovered her career sweet spot through the nationally unique Food and Environmental Nutrition (FEN) program offered at The University of Akron.
Simenc first wanted to be a chef when she came to UA, because the University’s program is highly regarded in the area, but found it wasn’t for her. This realization led her to the dietetics program, and again she still felt something wasn't right. The third time was the charm for Simenc when she was introduced to the FEN program, a branch of the dietetics program, and she knew this was the perfect match.
Graduating senior Maggie Simenc has already started her own business — "Sweet Little Things."
"It interested me because it still had to do with nutrition, but it had to do with the food industry more. No other university has a program like this," said Simenc, of Northfield.
FEN prepares and equips students for the food industry's fast pace and cross-functioning team approach. A new major to UA, it provides students with a strong food, science and nutrition-based curriculum partnered with business and management. Graduates can address and contribute to innovative solutions to the evolving challenges of the food industry.
And it has proven to be a popular program with potential employers, to the point of plucking the students out of the classroom before they can graduate.
"Graduating from the program sometimes gets put on hold because students get offered jobs before they get their degrees. Job seekers are constantly asking 'who do you have that could come work for us?' because the demand is higher than what the FEN program is pushing out, considering these companies need us and this is a new major that not a lot of students know about," Simenc said.
Graduating from the FEN program was critical to Simenc because she felt it was important to get her degree in addition to the experiences that each class has given her. "I wanted to have this degree because the background UA provides to their students will make them successful in their future career endeavors, since it combines food, nutrition and business."
Knowledge + skills = new business
Simenc has capitalized on the entrepreneurial background that the FEN program provides with the cupcake business she runs through her parents' kitchen, "Sweet Little Things."
"Last spring, I started playing around with baking and started experimenting with cupcakes. I started talking to my entrepreneurship teachers from FEN, and with their help, I figured out a business plan, plus I got my home bakery license," Simenc said.
Sweet Little Things' tagline is, "Creating custom-designed cupcakes just for you," and that is exactly what Simenc offers to her customers.
"All the flavors I've concocted are based on requests from my customers. The classes offered through FEN and the few culinary ones I've taken at UA have helped as well," Simenc said. Cupcake flavors range from French Toast to Elvis Presley's Peanut Butter Banana.
'Journey of self-discovery'
Simenc will graduate on Dec. 15 with a B.S. in Food and Environmental Nutrition. She is currently applying for jobs in the food industry. She hopes to either work for Agrana Fruit in Brecksville, Ohio, where she has had a previous internship, or with The J.M. Smucker Company or Nestlé. "Wherever I end up, I know I will still continue to run Sweet Little Things on the side," Simenc said.
"My Akron Experience has been very multidimensional — it is not just going to a classroom and learning from a lecture," Simenc said. "It is very hands-on because we get to make things ourselves and go on trips to experience the field behind the scenes. Looking back at my experience at UA, I see that it has truly been a journey of self-discovery."
For more information, visit Sweet Little Things.
Story by Katey Kimpel
Media contact: Laura Massie, 330-972-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.