My name is Shrobana, and I am a 17-year-old high school senior living in San Jose, California. I have always been an introvert and crafty kid who loved to doodle and draw right from the time I can remember. Sometime in early middle school, my parents sent me for a greeting card-making class at Michaels. I loved it and was soon on YouTube all day, looking up various card-making techniques. With so many cards lying around the house, I started giving them away to friends and family. However, they soon all wanted to buy them. My mom started a Facebook page for my cards, and I started selling them and donating the proceeds to the charity that was always close to my heart, St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Around the same time, I started to volunteer at Sunday Friends, a local San Jose-based non-profit that works with underprivileged families, helping them with their jobs, school, and providing them monthly essentials. Their mission is to break the generational cycle of poverty and help elevate the living standards of these families. I was an activity leader here who taught the kids how to make handmade greeting cards.
Besides cards, I also volunteered in the kitchen and helped cook nutritious meals for these families. At home too, I loved spending time in the kitchen. Just like a lot of other kids, my mom initiated my baking journey with chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. The only difference was that my mom is an avid cook herself so she taught me to make things from scratch. Soon, every other weekend, I was baking desserts. My neighbors and friends would stop by to pick up my treats. I was writing down these recipes alongside my tips, tricks, and tweaks, and my mom suggested that I start a blog. As a sophomore, I started MerakiX.com. Meraki is a Greek word to describe doing something with heart, soul, and creativity.
Then, the pandemic hit, and I was home baking, clicking, and blogging recipes. For a Mother’s Day post, I was making a French cookie box. And I was ready to take on the finicky macaron. I was overcome with trepidation and worry and sat with my eyes glued to the oven as they baked. Fortunately, enough, the macarons were fine. It got the famed feet, smooth top, and a non-hollow texture. I was encouraged to try baking more. I baked macarons almost every day for the next two weeks and kept posting on social media. Soon my lifestyle blogging journey became all about macarons.
Word spread quickly, and I started getting orders for macarons. YouTube was my teacher, and I started combining my art skills to decorate the macs. Throughout the summer of 2020, all I did was bake and sell macarons. My parents suggested I start a business and they helped me with the process. I also became Serv-Safe certified. I was selling macarons and donating to various causes to help with the effects of the pandemic. But, I would hear the plight of the families at Sunday Friends and was getting more and more inclined towards doing something for them.
We did a survey amongst the Sunday Friends families and found that 80% of the group lost jobs due to COVID and about 33% families had an income of about $800 monthly with multiple kids to support. Most of these families did not have computers or laptops and kids did their online school using cell phones. I could not imagine what they were having to go through.
Around October, I launched a fundraiser to raise $15K to buy 50 laptops for 50 Sunday Friends families. I took full advantage of the Holiday season and sold various gourmet collections of macarons. Word spread like wildfire and my almost impossible goal of getting to $15K started becoming a reality. In the last 10 months, I have raised close to $12.5K for Sunday Friends just by selling macarons. The process is slow, but this has been the most rewarding journey of my life.
So many people reached out to me saying that this small act of kindness has inspired them a lot. Nothing means more to me than that. I am so glad that I could use the extra time that I got during the pandemic to give back meaningfully to families and children and make their lives a little better.