The Small Business Administration (SBA) has named Jennifer Lee LaSala – a Chelsea High graduate – the 2020 Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Massachusetts and New England.
LaSala founded her first business in 2011 when she was 17 years old, as a senior at Chelsea High School, after taking an entrepreneurship class and winning the business plan competition.
Jennifer Lee’s Shoppe started as a bakery, now also specializing in allergen-friendly and vegan, meals and treats.
“We’re excited to recognize the achievements of Jennifer Lee LaSala as this year’s MA and New England Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Jennifer has built a strong following since the early age of 17 and is continuing to demonstrate true entrepreneurial skills with navigating today’s challenging Covid environment,” said SBA Massachusetts District Director, Robert Nelson. “Her unique story of perseverance and adaptability is inspiring, and we look forward to following the success of the business as she continues to expand.”
LaSala has never taken out a bank loan or credit card for the business.
She started completely bootstrapped, selling products at Revere Beach, farmer’s markets, and other events.
In 2016, Jennifer Lee’s opened in a 120 sq. ft. stall in the new indoor Boston Public Market located in Haymarket, outgrowing it immediately and moving into a 250 sq. ft. stall five months later. In February, LaSala moved once more to a bigger 420 sq. ft. space, where the company has begun wholesaling.
“Every day, I realize how far the bakery has come from a small little dream I had in high school, to having two locations, and plans of expanding further,” said LaSala. “Without the help of NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) during my senior year of high school, and then taking the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small business program, Vistage, and SBA Emerging Leaders Program, I would not be where I am today.”
In 2019, LaSala completed the SBA’s Emerging Leaders program as part of the Worcester cohort, expanding again to a second location in the new Worcester Public Market.
LaSala was nominated by Alison Berglund, Instructor for the SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative.
LaSala was honored virtually at the annual SBA Massachusetts Small Business Week Awards event on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Rescheduled from May, National Small Business Week will be a 3-day virtual conference from Tuesday, September 22nd to Thursday, September 24th.