The Student News Site of Ithaca College

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Cookies for a cause

Ithaca alum uses her baking talent to raise awareness — and resources — for students in need.

Olivia "Via" Carpenter sells her cookies at Via's Cookie Cafe, above Autumn Leaves Used Books on The Commons.
In addition to several retail locations, Olivia “Via” Carpenter sells her cookies at Via’s Cookie Cafe, above Autumn Leaves Used Books on The Commons. (Eva Salzman/Ithaca Week)

ITHACA, N.Y. —Via’s Cookies isn’t just a business that will satisfy your sweet tooth, it’s a business that gives back to the community. Olivia “Via” Carpenter, an Ithaca College alum, is baking to make a difference in the lives of students in need.

Carpenter crafted both her business and recipes from scratch when she created Via’s Cookies two years ago. Though she’s always loved baking, she decided to monetize her talents with the promise to give 5% of her profits each month to a struggling BIPOC or LGBTQ+ student. Carpenter selects donation recipients based on submissions, but donations are also accepted through the “Support a Friend” section on the Via’s Cookies’ website.

Via’s Cookies’ Mission

Carpenter said she was inspired to pursue the business venture based on her experience at college.

“I found myself in a position where I realized what it meant to struggle as a person of color and someone in the LGBTQ+ community, specifically within a college context,” Carpenter said. “And I saw that I could use my resources to help other people like me.”

Carpenter expressed her frustration with how many classes require students to buy expensive materials and how those unexpected costs add up fast.

“Say you’ve made it to the school of your dreams, and then you realize that they’re going to make you pay $600 to get the supplies you need to do your schoolwork,” Carpenter said. “And you’re like, ‘how do you expect me to pay $600 for supplies, when I just barely made it into this school, because I’m on a full-ride scholarship?’ So that’s what I try to help with, just give as much as I can to help with disparities in money.”

According to The Century Foundation, students of color are more likely to rely on loans than white students, potentially putting them at a higher financial risk both during and after higher education. Funds specifically reserved for minority students, like the donations from Via’s Cookies, are small but impactful efforts to make equitable change.

Local impact

Frankie Walls, an Ithaca College alum, was one of Carpenter’s donation recipients. Walls studied film, photography and visual arts, a course load that she said had several unexpected additional costs.

“My sophomore year, I could not afford to pay for any more film,” Walls said. “I spent over $200… it was ridiculous how much money you had to spend to be a film major.”

Walls' donation announcement and biography on Via's Cookies' Instagram. Frankie Walls received $100.
Walls’ donation announcement and biography on Via’s Cookies’ Instagram (Source: @viascookies on Instagram)


Walls said many scholarships to help students pay for course materials fly under the radar. This can mean struggling students miss them entirely or are forced to disclose their financial situation to their professors — which students like Walls, are uncomfortable doing.

“You never know about those scholarships until they’re announcing the winner,” Walls said. “The fact that there’s someone in the community who understands and is willing to help out if she can, is so important. And I think looking inward to your own community and your own friends feels better.”

Via’s Cookie Cafe

Though she started small, selling her cookies at a local coffee shop, she now runs Via’s Cookie Cafe every Saturday, located above Autumn Leaves Used Books on The Commons.

Noelle Cook, Ithaca College student, said they wanted to check out the cafe after seeing Via’s Cookies sold on campus. Cook was impressed with the reach of Via’s Cookies and was happy to support her cause.

“The fact that [Carpenter] has built and maintained such a prosperous business, even with the difficulties she probably faces doing it alone is so cool,” Cook said. “And what she stands for, helping with the difficulties that queer and Black communities face, that’s really important.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to Ithaca Week

Your donation will support the student journalists of Ithaca College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Ithaca Week

Comments (0)

All Ithaca Week Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *