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Olivia Carpenter

Sweet Success: Take one part pandemic and mix it with two parts inspiration. Then add a heavy dose of entrepreneurial spirit and you get Olivia Carpenter '22: Cookie Maven. 

Olivia Carpenter baking cookies

Olivia Carpenter mixes up a batch of Via's Cookies. Via's offers a wide range of cookies with traditional ingredients, as well as vegan and gluten-free recipes. Photo courtesy of Lexie Danielson/The Ithacan.

At first, Olivia Carpenter ’22 didn’t consider a future selling baked goods. Having majored in journalism before realizing her love for business, she scored a fashion internship in New York City—while creating a clothing line infused with the spirit of social justice.  

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it took a toll on the city and Olivia’s dreams. She had options: tough it out in New York with expensive rent, move back to her home state of Ohio, or relocate to Ithaca with her sister, a Cornell student. She chose Ithaca, and while it stalled her career in fashion, it pushed her life as an entrepreneur forward. 

Like so many others during the height of the pandemic, she spent most of her time at home, attending online classes, and, of course, baking cookies. 

“There was this new coffee shop that was very close to my apartment. And I was like, What if I just had some cookies in there? I know my cookies are good. People absolutely love them. And so, I started making cookies for them,” Olivia says. 

“Ithaca has just cultivated this, this me,” she says. Olivia tapped into the community’s resources, like the Business Leaders of Colors and Ithaca College’s alumni network, which offered advice for her small business’s growth. 

 At IC, Olivia found a community that supports one another and a place where no one has to go it alone. “The college, even the struggles that we've gone through, has brought me to this point and has been very supportive of me. Things would be different if I wasn't here.” 

“The college, even the struggles that we've gone through, has brought me to this point and has been very supportive of me. Things would be different if I wasn't here.” 

Always driven to see how far she can push her ideas, Olivia submitted a plan for her cookie business to the competition for IC Demo Day. She won three prizes, landing more than $6,500 to use toward her aspirations. The experience of getting licensed and working on business proposals has allowed her to pursue her own version of progress.  

Olivia’s startup, Via’s Cookies, markets both regular and gluten-free varieties and sells them at local businesses including GreenStar, Ithaca Bakery, and the Trumansburg Farmers Market. Olivia donates 5% of her profits to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students who are struggling to make ends meet.  

What’s her secret to success? Take one part pandemic and add two parts inspiration. Then add a heavy dose of entrepreneurial spirit and you get a recipe for sweet success. Where’s Olivia heading next?   

“The sky's the limit. I'm going to take it as far as I can, as far as I want to go,” she says. “I'm just going to keep going up, trying to make a positive impact on the world.”