Sarah Shapiro’s life as an entrepreneur and philanthropist started when she was 8 1/2 years old. The Northridge resident was hanging out at the home of her zayde and bubbe and wanted to bake. They said no. So instead, Sarah, who has watched more than a few segments of “Shark Tank,” came up with a cupcake business. She called it SLSweets. The S is for Sarah, the L for Lelah, her younger sister. “She calls herself the taste tester,” Sarah said.
Sarah created fliers and a website (slsweets.org). Shortly thereafter, while at a family function, she started spreading the word. Within minutes, she had her first order: four dozen cupcakes. Her mom asked her what she planned to do with the money.
“I decided, ‘Why not donate to a charity?’ ” said the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School student, now 12. “One of my friends, her brother died of cancer.” Sarah gave all of the money from that first sale to the Oscar Litwak Foundation. Other orders soon followed. (Her parents cover the cost of all the ingredients.)
Sarah gives her customers the option of selecting a charity of their choice. But so far, everyone has been happy to let her choose. Among the charities she has supported are the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation — she knew a Heschel student with Type 1 diabetes — and Lucky Puppy Rescue and Retail, where she has volunteered.
SLSweets is not her only venture. Last year, Sarah saw an ad for a company called Booster, which enables users to create custom T-shirts to benefit the cause of their choice. Sarah’s design featured a globe, a cupcake, a heart and the words, “Fixing the world one cupcake at a time.” She selected the Hereditary Disease Foundation as the beneficiary of the project, in honor of her aunt who has Huntington’s disease. Quickly, 35 shirts sold. Then there was a lull. Sarah sent emails to several newspapers and TV stations, hoping for some coverage. No one bit. Then, while at her uncle’s and aunt’s house for a sleepover, she called KTLA.
“After one minute on the phone, they said, ‘We want to broadcast the story,’ ” she recalled. “That night, a reporter came.” When the segment aired, Sarah sold several dozen more shirts.
Next, Sarah staged a Booster campaign featuring tote bags benefiting the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.
Altogether, her efforts have brought in close to $10,000 for a handful of charities.
“She works toward a goal and succeeds in that goal,” said Molly Goldberg, an English teacher at Heschel. “She is exemplary in everything she does.”
Except P.E., Sarah might argue. “It’s not my strong suit.”
Right now, Sarah is on hiatus from charitable work to study for her bat mitzvah. She and her family are congregants at Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village. But the self-proclaimed perfectionist has big plans for the future. “My goal is to open a business storefront before I am 16,” she said. “I will donate 20 to 30 percent of sales to charity, probably around 50 percent.”