Kyra Lung ’23 has enjoyed the sumptuous success of entrepreneurship, building a popular cookie business from the ground up. Along the way, the 17-year-old estimates she’s sold some 70,000 cookies – raising funds for nonprofits, bolstering her understanding of business operations and saving enough money to pay for college.
She started baking for fun as a young child and launched her Instagram business, Kyra the Baker, in 2018 at the encouragement of her classmates and to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In addition to cookies, she made caramel brownies, banana bread and pineapple upside down cakes – basically, anything family and friends requested.
Lung, who has been a student at Punahou since kindergarten, says she mostly learned the ins and outs of entrepreneurship on her own, including how to persevere when orders were slow.
“Something important that I would always tell future entrepreneurs who are also my age, if they ask for advice, I’d say keep on posting,” she says. “… Even though I didn’t get the results I wanted in the beginning, which was not many orders, I kept on posting, which helped me gain a little more exposure.”
She says her business’s turning point was in 2021, when she pivoted to solely focus on cookies and began hosting pop-ups at Nordstrom.
She also created a pop-up store at the International Marketplace in summer 2022 while her classmates toured colleges. Lung says she was inspired by Baked by Beri’s pop-up at Ala Moana Center – a cupcake retail shop launched by alumna Beri Maeda ’22 in summer 2021.
“I feel like maybe there’s been a stereotype that younger kids can’t open up a full-on store, so I wanted to go against that,” she says.
However, finding a storefront that would accept a two-month lease wasn’t easy. She called 20 to 25 realtors; some wanted year-long leases or had concerns about her young age, while many didn’t respond at all. A classmate’s father, who is also a realtor, helped her put together a business plan that garnered more responses.
Lung’s International Marketplace pop-up was open every day that summer. She hired her friends to work the store while she baked and packaged cookies at home. She’d rotate six to eight flavors each day, ranging from chocolate chip, s’mores, M&M and Kit Kat peanut butter to Oreo milk bars and strawberry cheesecake. The venture was a huge success – she sold 300 to 400 cookies every day.
Today, Lung continues to bake and sell cookies. In addition to fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Kyra the Baker has participated in fundraisers for the Ronald McDonald House and Aloha United Way. Lung says her November 2022 Aloha United Way cookie fundraiser sold out in 30 minutes.
Mark Loughridge, director of Punahou’s Case Accelerator for Student Entrepreneurship, has seen Lung grow tremendously since she took his Social Venture G-term (Champions of Causes: Advocacy and Entrepreneurship for a Better World) in January 2020.
“She’s got this indomitable style where she’s not flustered and just bakes thousands of cookies out of her kitchen at home, and the people who work with her enjoy the experience,” he says. “That’s a big-time leader, she’s going to succeed.”
In the fall, Lung plans to attend Cornell University’s Dyson School to study applied economics. Eventually, her hope is to open a permanent storefront in Hawai‘i.
By Noelle Fujii-Oride
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