We are always so inspired by students who take the leap of faith into entrepreneurship while still taking classes and juggling a handful of other responsibilities. One of these inspiring students is Michelle Schechter, a current senior at Northwestern University who started the company For Real Dough. FRD takes a spin on a classic – chocolate chip cookies – and offers its customers an assortment of delicious edible cookie dough (that’s totally safe to eat!). In between classes and friends Michelle answers emails, dreams up new flavors, develops branding and packaging, and so much more. We are in awe of what she has accomplished so far, and can’t wait to see where she takes FRD next. Pass the cookie dough, please!
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?
Michelle Schechter: I believe taking advantage of any point in my life is about being present. As we get older, we’re surrounded by more and more external (and largely technological) stimuli while becoming increasingly invested and obsessed with the next step, the next job, the next assignment, the next party, the next environment. I think by concentrating on being fully wherever I am and grateful for whatever that is, I have the best chance of stopping time from moving by so fast.
CJ: Why did you decide to attend Northwestern University for your undergraduate experience?
MS: At age 8, I fell madly in love with my next-door neighbor. He had his heart set on Northwestern and I decided right then and there that I did, too.
CJ: What are you studying? Do your passions for arts and cooking intersect at all?
MS: I’m pursuing a theater major, business minor, and music theatre certificate. I think I’ve realized my passions intersect more than I ever anticipated. Baking is creative and so is branding. They’re both very hands-on and experiential. And every business pitch or presentation is kind of like a mini performance.
CJ: What originally drew you to cooking and experimenting in the kitchen?
MS: When I was about 6 or 7, I would present my own “Food Network Show” to anyone home who would listen. I would usually teach the viewers (my mom and dad) how to make cereal or a peanut butter sandwich. It was my absolute favorite game of make-believe. Maybe one day it won’t be make-believe.
CJ: As the CEO of For Real Dough, what do your day-to-day responsibilities entail?
MS: I oversee everything from production to branding. I’m in the kitchens once a week mixing up cookie dough. I’m also busy taking meetings, working on the website and brand design, conceptualizing flavors, and lots more. I have the help of some amazing friends and teammates who greatly contribute to the design and growth of the company.
CJ: Can you please tell us more about how FRD came to life?
MS: Yeah! I had the recipe for a few years and always loved cookie dough. But last Spring, I was enrolled in an Entrepreneurship class at Northwestern where I was able to explore the product in a more tangible way. At the end of the class, my team won a pitch competition and outside interest in the idea started growing. I decided to meet with the President of Northwestern on a whim to see if I could sell For Real Dough at the Northwestern Convenience Stores (“C-Stores”) and, after sharing samples and memories of cookie dough with everyone in the office, he agreed.
CJ: How do you juggle finishing your senior year of college with friends, family, and business?
MS: It’s tough. And very busy. But I really try to spend my time and exert my energy towards things that bring me happiness and positivity. So at the end of the day, excitement and passion can overcome stress. It also helps to be surrounded by supportive and loving friends and family.
CJ: In your experience, what has been the most surprising part about entrepreneurship so far?
MS: The generosity of others. I never could have imagined that so many people would support and help turn a dream of mine into a reality. It’s been an incredibly humbling and eye-opening experience.
CJ: As a self-starter, how do you keep yourself on-track with goals and deadlines?
MS: I try to determine what success means for me and keep that goal in mind with every decision I make. From there, it’s passion for the project itself. It feels good to harness productivity and love and put it towards something that I know will make me feel artistically and intellectually fulfilled.
CJ: What does a day in your life look like?
MS: Wake up, have a little dance party, work hard towards my dreams, hug the people I love, take a nap, eat a snack, sleep.
CJ: What has been the best piece of personal advice you’ve been given?
MS: Your will to live must be stronger than your fear of death. (JK Rowling taught me that)
CJ: What has been the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given?
MS: You must believe that what you have to say and give to the world is important.
CJ: What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?
MS: Nothing is permanent. Laugh more. Believe in yourself; don’t wait for someone else to.
Image (top to bottom): Jennifer Gamboa, Rafi Letzler, Justin Barbin