Sage Hill senior launches baking company to help feed families in need
Shiksha Anand has a deft hand when it comes to baking sweets.
She can make any number of brownies, cookies and muffins, though she says the most requests she gets are for her cheesecakes — the mango one, especially, which she said offers a fresh taste and a bit of brightness with the creamy texture of the cheesecake.
She said she started really cultivating this talent at the start of the pandemic when she and the rest of her family were living in Houston. She’s since turned this talent into a small home bakery that she calls Penplatter.
“I had more time,” Anand, 17, said of the first days of her nascent business. “I was at home and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and be more productive and creative. I got into baking, and I decided I wanted to expand it and make it more of a business and share my desserts. As a baker, it’s always really exciting when you have someone try your dessert. They give you feedback, they like it or don’t — in order to do that, I decided to make it more [organized] and start selling it.”
Anand said she started first by posting pictures and her recipes on her social media before building her own website in the summer of 2021, when her family relocated to Newport Beach. She took formal courses and then earned her food handler’s certification. By fall, she had figured out the goals she had for Penplatter — focusing on charity through food — after attending a small fair for teen entrepeneurs and collecting a sum of $250 she donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in November that year.
“That was a big thing for me. It was my first time [selling] and being able to impact society through [my] hard work, passion and creativity — I was 15. That was really meaningful to me and so we started getting into volunteer work,” Anand said.
She got in touch with For Goodness Cakes in Huntington Beach, the Orange County chapter for a nonprofit that provides birthday cakes for underprivileged children, and more recently, with Parmarth Sewa Trust in New Delhi, India, to help provide funds for meal kits in rural parts of that country. To date, the organization reports that Anand, through Penplatter, has helped provide roughly 18,000 meals a month for about 75 families of four to five people each.
Anand said she helped assemble and distribute those meal kits herself when she and her family visited India last summer to reconnect with their extended family.
“Being able to go on-site and hand out meal kits myself … it’s the difference between just donating money versus going there ... because you have the personal connection. You feel the change and the creativity and dedication that got you there by being able to go there. It was a totally new experience,” she said.
Anand said the majority of her sales come from in-person fairs, where she said she’s raised roughly $300 to $400 in a few hours. So far this year, she’s participated in two fairs, with a number of other online sales in-between. She said she can’t devote herself to baking full time, as school takes precedence. But her hope is to one day be able to expand Penplatter into a brick-and-mortar shop.
As a senior at Sage Hill School, she said she’s planning on majoring in a STEM field while minoring in business or entrepreneurship.
This summer, with her supportive parents cheering her on, she plans on taking a more extensive culinary course to expand her repertoire. Anand said, as of now, all net proceeds of her baking efforts go to charitable causes.
How did she choose the name Penplatter for her baking company?
“Penplatter is made of two parts. Pen, and then platter. Platter has two associations — when you serve a dessert, you serve it on a platter, decorate on a platter. You’re serving someone, and that’s where our volunteer work comes in part. Pen is a way for me to show my writing and through my website and on Instagram. Sharing my thoughts out … that’s how that [name] came together,” Anand said.
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