A Recipe for Sweet Success

Catherine Cramer, Class of 2012

When Catherine Cramer graduated from The First Academy, a private Christian school in Orlando, FL, she thought nursing was her future. She went on to check all of the boxes:

Earned a degree from the University of Florida.
Passed her licensure exam with flying colors.
Started working as a pediatric nurse.

“But it was not the dream I thought it would be,” said Catherine, who grew up baking with her mom and grandmother and watching as they modeled hospitality toward others. 

So, she took care of the tiniest patients at night and hustled during the day to start a baking business. It wasn’t glamorous. She was the order-taker, the delivery driver, the marketing team, and the dishwasher.

But it was worth it. 

A year later, in 2018, she opened her first storefront for Southern Home Bakery in College Park, FL.

I relate to TFA’s aspiration to be a relentlessly hard worker,” she said, just before she opened her second storefront in Winter Garden, FL. “I believe in having a big dream and working hard and honestly.

Southern Home Bakery alumni from The First Academy, Orlando, Florida

And because that strong work ethic is woven throughout the TFA experience, many of Catherine’s employees are students or alumni. She estimates she has hired 20 employees with links to TFA — some seasonal and some permanent — throughout the years. It’s hard to keep an exact count, though, because when unusually large orders come in, she often turns to her school connections. For example, teachers stepped in to help when she had an order of 27,000 cookies to fill, and even her trademarked logo has a TFA tie. One of her former classmates designed it for her.

The people she hires from TFA are reliable, hardworking, and honest, she said. Plus, even when she doesn’t personally know the alumni she hires, there is always a link to The First Academy’s way of doing things. “It’s really priceless. It has helped create a really special culture in my business.”

Of course, part of that culture of hospitality and relationship-building is thanks to Catherine’s leadership skills, which she learned as president of the National Honor Society at TFA. As a student, she led monthly meetings, organized fundraisers, and pitched fun, creative ideas — all experiences that still help her and her 20 employees today.

“The foundation that The First Academy offers academically and spiritually is unmatched,” she said, adding that she is beyond grateful for her 13 years there. 

“There are a lot of things in life that would have been so different if I had started somewhere else,” Catherine mentioned. “You can share statistics and rankings in sports, but it’s hard to understand what it is like to be in a school community that cares for you. These are some of the people who are helping me build this dream.”

The First Academy and its community are essential ingredients in Catherine’s business success. Do you know other alumni who are grateful for their time at TFA and have stories to share? If so, please contact Megan Fleming, Creative Marketing & Alumni Manager, at (407) 206-8609 or meganfleming@thefirstacademy.org.

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