Shelby Olstad: Whipping Up Sweet Treats

By Hannah Wente | Photography by Hillary Schave

When she was five years old, Shelby Olstad dreamed of opening a bakery in her hometown of Middleton. Fast-forward 21 years, and she is the proud owner of the pink-clad bakery of her dreams — located in a former frozen yogurt shop she once frequented.

In middle school and throughout college, Olstad would bake for friends and friends of friends. Word spread, and she opened Miggy’s Bakes in 2019 at the age of 21, fulfilling orders via Instagram.

She studied business and economics at UW–Madison. Post-college, her plan was to work in the corporate world and eventually shift to owning a bakery full-time — once she was more financially stable. The pandemic, and a former boss’ advice to launch a business when she didn’t own a home, have a partner or kids yet — shifted her plans.

She was doing marketing for a start-up shopping app when the pandemic hit, and she started working from home.

“I was working full-time until 5 p.m., and baking every night until 2 or 3 a.m.,” says Olstad. “It was constant, and I loved it — I ate it up. I realized this is becoming a thing — my business blew up.”

In April 2021, the company called all of its staff back into the office. Olstad went back for a week, and a day before her 24th birthday, she quit her job.

“I wanted to be able to tell my kids [in the future] that I quit my job when I was 23,” she says. “I didn’t tell my dad — I hid it from him for three months.”

Part of the reason for her silence was that owning a business can be unpredictable. Stats show that one out of every five small businesses close in the first year. Gen Z owners make up just 1% of all small businesses in the country, according to Forbes.

She continued to build her customer base through word of mouth, social media, markets and pop-up classes. As of August, she had amassed over 18,000 followers on Instagram.

Olstad encourages other women to “start as soon as you possibly can. If you have an idea, try it and do it. It’s scary at first because you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Not everything is going to work — you may need to pivot.”

Despite staffing challenges and on-the-job education (given she’s never worked in a bakery or retail store), Olstad is thankful to have her own local business. Her long-term vision is to open bakeries in Milwaukee, Oconomowoc, Florida and South Carolina — all places she enjoys visiting.

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