Small Business Owners at PHS


Joaquin Gonzalez

Sueño Maria stand at BBQ Beach Boogie

Kira Pan, Staff Writer

To make quick cash, most high schoolers babysit, work front desk gigs, or water plants. However, some students take a more entrepreneurial route, and launch their own small businesses as a source of income. Students Joaquin Gonzalez, Amy Derr, Henley Lorin, and Farris Saffouri are just a few of the blooming business owners on campus.


Sueño Maria


Junior Joaquin Gonzalez opened his churro business in April 2022. Gonzalez offers catering services for events and occasionally runs a curbside stand for students. 

“The name of the business is Sueño Maria, after my great grandmother who passed away due to COVID. It’s a way to honor her legacy and [explore] the roots of my Latino background,” Gonzalez said. 

Gonzalez’s stand has served students at several school-run events, including Day on the Green at the high school and the BBQ Boogie at Beach Elementary.

“The churros are really good and it’s nice to see a student-run business,” said junior Derek Schleuning, who sampled Sueño Maria at Day on the Green last May.

When Gonzalez needs help with his business, his dad and friends will step in.

“It is primarily my father and I running the business, but when I’m actually selling a product, I’ll have friends help [out]. My dad helps in the cooking process, making the churros and picking up and dropping off supplies, ” Gonzalez said.

The reality of Sueño Maria looks different than what Gonzalez had originally envisioned.

“We didn’t think [that] we would be doing churros –I thought I would be selling at a farmers market. Originally, we wanted to do tamales, empanadas, or other Hispanic foods, but we had issues with getting a permit,” Gonzalez said.

Before Gonzalez could sell any churros, he had to obtain a Cottage Food permit, which allows California residents to prepare approved food products in their kitchen and sell them to the public.  Due to these restrictions, Gonzalez and his dad settled on churros, one of the approved Cottage Foods that still ties back to his Hispanic background.

Despite initial struggles in establishing Sueño Maria, the business broke even in May.

“The business was never really about making money for me, but rather the life experience of creating a business,” Gonzalez said. 

Gonzalez started Sueño Maria in hopes of optimizing his talents and becoming more independent. 

“Starting this business actually helped me increase my self-assurance, and recover emotionally and physically from what I was going through at the time. In some ways, it started to become a coping mechanism and a healthy distraction. This passion to be entrepreneurial came from a desire to follow my dreams, and execute them,” said Gonzalez.



Instagram: @suenomarias


Butter & Sugar

Lorin and Derr frosting Butter & Sugar cakes (Henley Lorin)

Juniors Amy Derr and Henley Lorin launched their handmade cake business, Butter & Sugar, in Oct. 2022. Butter & Sugar offers a variety of custom cakes and cupcakes, with flavors ranging from chocolate and vanilla to lemon and carrot cake. The designs of each cake are curated to specific themes and occasions. 

“Having a small business is a good experience because you use different skills than you would in school. You have to use interpersonal skills and communicate through email,” Derr said. 

Derr and Lorin started Butter & Sugar due to their shared love for baking. Lorin attributes this passion to her mom, who she would make treats with during the holiday season.  Derr grew to love baking after she decorated her dad’s birthday cake at nine years old. 

“I threw random sprinkles and colored gels out all over it, and at the time, it was my greatest creation,” Derr said. 

Throughout the process of starting Butter & Sugar, Lorin’s aunt, Patty Lorin, has been helping the pair.

“We are grateful for Henley’s Aunt Patty’s help. She has helped us from the beginning by making our website, steering us in the right direction, and helping us with the proper steps in certain situations,” Derr said.    

Having two owners has been helpful in managing the business.

“I think because there’s two of us, it’s a lot easier,” Derr said. “Sometimes, Henley has to do a little bit more baking because she has a free sixth and seventh, but so far, the orders have been manageable, especially since we will decline orders if we think we can’t do them.”

“[The cakes] taste great, are well done, and look beautiful,” said junior Lily Caldwell, a friend of the owners’. “It’s a well-run business, especially for two girls in their junior year of high school. They do a good job of splitting the work up and finding time to do it all.”

However, working as a team has its downfalls.

“Amy has all the supplies at her house, so it can be inconvenient when I have to get them from her house every single time,” Lorin said. “We are hoping to get more supplies soon though.”

Most of Butter & Sugar’s customers are Piedmont families, but the company hopes to market to a wider audience. 

“Facebook families were our way to get out there, but our latest posts have disappeared and the initial wave of orders has kind of stopped. We are currently figuring out another marketing technique to reach people,” Derr said.

 “I think it’s satisfying to hand off the finished products,” Lorin said. “I used to not give my cakes to anyone. I would make it and it would just sit there, but now I get to give it to those who get to enjoy it.”



Instagram @buttersugar.handmadecakes



Saffouri wearing an Embr hoodie (Farris Saffouri)

Senior Farris Saffouri established his business, Embr, in early 2022 –a clothing line catered to high school students. Embr sells clothes ranging from tank tops, T-shirts, and hoodies.

“I’m selling clothing products based around fire. That’s the whole theme of the brand,” Saffouri said. 

Saffouri was inspired to start Embr by his uncle, who is an entrepreneur who helps small businesses grow.

“Right now I’m independent. I think it’s a lot easier. I mean, I need to break even and it’s a lot harder to get profits when splitting up between two people,” Saffouri said.

Saffouri got interested in graphic design by making stickers during quarantine.

“I used Adobe Illustrator to make all my designs, not really putting them anywhere. I thought, ‘How can I implement these into something that we can wear.’” Saffouri said. 

Saffouri said that he makes an intentional effort to cater to his peers. “I wanted to make a brand that can make good quality clothes, but of what I like and what people my age want to wear. I sort of did that by including community ideas, like I got my friend Cairo to draw a picture of a poppy on fire and Aryana Fisher to draw this logo.”

One of Saffouri’s sweatshirts features Arabic scriptures covering the back, a direct link to his background.

“The writing is in Arabic and I chose that because those are my roots. I’m Palestinian and Lebanese, so I thought that was sort of cool to incorporate that. I got my grandpa to translate the scriptures, so it says ‘let it burn, let it burn’ over and over and over.”

“I think he did a really good job with [Embr],” said sophomore Quentin Shafroth, Saffouri’s water polo teammate.  “I can tell he has a passion for it.”

Finding the right manufacturer for his products has been an obstacle for Saffouri.

“There’s a lot of online manufacturers who want to have you spend a lot more money than you need to. Local manufacturers are what I’m looking at, but there’s a lot of online places that will tell you the price is one thing, then right before you buy it will just jack it up by like 20 bucks.”

As his senior year progresses, college applications have begun to take up more of Saffouri’s time. 

“Since college apps have started, it’s been a lot harder and I’ve slowed down, but I’m definitely planning to get back up and running, releasing more clothes when college apps are done. I think second semester will be a lot easier.”

Embr recently broke even, and Saffouri is looking to invest profits into making a new website.

“I’m planning to use my money to put it back into the business. Making a website is my next step because it costs money for a domain.”


Website: [coming soon…]

Instagram: @embr_inc