Alumna of the Month: June 2008
Jennifer Appel '86, '90, '93
What is your edge (strength)?
My ability to stay organized, to delegate, and to strive for balance every day.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
I juggled a lot of different things, usually taking full-time course loads, working two or three part-time jobs at a time, being involved in extracurricular activities, etc. It kept me stimulated, and I had to be organized!
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
For me, that word would be "liberating."
What was your major?
Psychology, with a minor in English literature.
What was your favorite class?
Any class taught by David Cernic, philosophy professor.
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
Partying at Hofstra USA with a bunch of friends after a lot of studying.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first "real" job was at a German bank in Manhattan, as a bilingual administrative assistant. I learned to fit into a corporate culture and how to do things that were expected of me, even when I wasn't quite sure I should have to do them.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I now own a retail bakery, and I did so by quitting my job as a school psychologist on Long Island and taking a leap of faith into entrepreneurship based on a hobby.
Who in your field do you most admire?
Every working mother!
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Be sure to gain many different experiences both in college and afterward, since the work world is changing so much. Also, don't be afraid of a liberal arts degree; college should be about education for its own sake, as much as training to be something specific.
How do you balance work and life?
I work full time and am a mother of a 4 year old – balance is difficult! But my husband and I now work together, which eases my workload a bit, and we both respect each other's need for alone time as well as shared parenting. We're also diligent about "date night," so we always try to get a babysitter for Saturday night.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Retired from needing to work, and spending my time volunteering, working at what interests me, and learning new things.
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
Probably creating a business that grew from just an idea into a successful venture. Also, watching this cupcake industry develop before my eyes. Before 1996, almost no one was into cupcakes other than mom baking for a school bake sale – now, old-fashioned bakeries are everywhere, and new products related to cakes and cupcakes are turning up everywhere as well. It's incredible to see what an impact it has had on job creation and economic development.
You earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Hofstra, and went on to own and operate a successful small business in Manhattan. Have you found your psychology background useful in the world of business?
Every minute of the day!
What was the most useful part of your Hofstra education when it came to building your business?
I would credit Dr. Michael Barnes (in the Psychology Department), my dissertation sponsor, with teaching us in the graduate program about the importance of flexibility in our daily working lives – if you're not flexible, you're as good as dead!
Successful business owners know the power and importance of networking. In your opinion, what is the best way for students to hone their networking skills?
Joining professional and civic organizations is a great way to do so – also, there are a handful of great books out there written on this topic.
Jennifer Appel's professional slogan has become "Life is uncertain, eat dessert first." She began her professional career as a clinical psychologist, having earned undergraduate, master's and doctoral degrees in psychology from Hofstra University. Now she is the owner of New York City's famous Buttercup Bake Shop - with locations on both sides of Manhattan.
Though academically oriented, she discovered that the culinary arts were also in her blood. She fondly remembers her mother and grandmothers creating a variety of masterpieces in the family's kitchen. At the end of a long workday, Jennifer would come home and unwind by cooking, and by baking special desserts. Before long, her hobby became her passion. Intrigued by the food industry, Jennifer decide to switch careers and make a new start in the bakery business. In July 1996 she opened Magnolia Bakery in New York City's Greenwich Village, where she and her business partner sold cookies, pies, mini-cheesecakes and other delectable treats.
In August 1999 Jennifer ventured out on her own to open Buttercup Bake Shop in midtown Manhattan. Since its opening, the bakery has experienced outstanding success with its line of old-fashioned American desserts and welcoming ambiance.
After years of brightening up midtown Manhattan, Buttercup Bake Shop launched a second store on the Upper West Side in 2006. Buttercup's classic American desserts continue to be enjoyed by New Yorkers, including Martha Stewart, Al Roker, and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton. Jennifer has appeared on The Today Show several times, and Buttercup Bake Shop has been featured on MTV, Fox, and CNN, as well as in the romantic novel A Match Made on Madison by Dee Davis.