Sehome High School ninth grade student Vivian Gonter wanted to combine two passions: Protecting endangered orcas and baking. So she founded Killer Cakes, a bakery that donates 80% of its profit to orca recovery programs. Vivian spoke with us about becoming a young business owner with a purpose. With less than 80 Southern Resident orcas remaining, these magnificent animals could really use the kind of TLC that goes into homemade baked goods. Take a look!
Interview transcribed below, edited for length and clarity
Shannon Wright, RE Sources Executive Director: Thanks for joining me, Vivian! I had the great fortune of learning about Killer Cakes by tasting them, and I was also impressed by your website. Tell us about Killer Cakes and how you came up with the idea to sell baked goods to help orcas.
Vivian Gonter, founder of Killer Cakes: I always loved baking when I was younger, my mom did it a lot. I always thought in the back of my head, “maybe I’ll go into culinary or baking.” Then in fourth grade, we went on a whale watching field trip to the San Juans. I always loved marine life, and we learned about the endangered orcas this way. Around sixth grade, I realized this was actually something I could do — so I put together two of my passions, baking and protecting marine life like orcas. Now we do cakes, cupcakes, and macarons. The macarons are flavored and named after three Southern Resident orcas — Oreo, Blackberry, and Cappuccino!
Shannon: Can you talk a bit about what these amazing animals mean to you, and why this issue of orcas in particular?
Vivian: When I first got into the orcas during that field trip, we each got to “adopt” an orca for a year. You get newsletters every couple months, and other info. It was so cool because it gave us more depth on the issue than what we learned in school. I adopted Blackberry, and felt like it was the coolest thing ever to have an orca to donate to and support. I knew helping these animals, not just one but their whole species, was important to do. They’re declining a lot.
Shannon: Now you have your own business! What are you most proud of?
Vivian: Probably the day we got an official business license. We had to go through a bunch of licensing like food handlers permit, Cottage Food Permit, and others. The day I’m most proud of was when our license came in, and we could actually sell food to people we didn’t know.
Shannon: In a world largely controlled by adults (many of them pretty clueless…) Why do you think it’s important for young people to take action?
Vivian: In the coming years, young people will become the face of the world. It’s important to learn how to take action when you’re younger — when you’re older, you can get more caught up in your own work and maybe forget about helping animals or other issues. When you’re younger, you have more free time. You can learn and put more time into these issues. If you act at a young age, you’ll always remember what you did. As you grow older, it’ll continue to be important to help the planet. It’ll help you continue donating and raising awareness — even if you’re doing something completely different as an adult, you’ll always remember acting as a kid.
Photo courtesy of Vivian Gonter