Tomball ISD Alumni Spotlight: Marci (Schiel) Lee (THS, '97)
For Marci (Schiel) Lee, being a teacher or eventually owning a cupcake shop was never in her original plans. With new ideas, came new opportunities, and because of that, Lee has forever embraced her love for hospitality and the love for her community.
Among a family who has established roots in Tomball for over 150 years, Lee, formally Schiel, has continued establishing roots and building connections along the way.
Lee currently serves as the owner of Smallcakes Cupcakery & Creamery in Tomball and while her path to owning a cupcake shop isn’t a usual path a business owner takes, it has made her cupcakes so much more rewarding.
A 1997 graduate of Tomball High School, Lee attended Decker Prairie Elementary, Beckendorf Junior High, and THS.
While in high school, Lee was extremely active in a variety of activities, having played basketball all four years, serving in German Club, the PALS program, and winning Reserve Grand Champion for her broilers her senior year at the FFA Show.
“My best memories were playing basketball all four years and building lifelong friendships with my teammates,” Lee said. “I also met my husband, David Lee, the year after I graduated high school. He is a 1998 graduate of THS.”
Following high school, Lee ventured off to Oklahoma State University where she started off as an agriculture business major. But it wasn’t long before her interest in the hospitality industry was sparked.
“It was during one of my classes they were talking about things in the hospitality industry,” she said. “It made me think that people always needed to eat and sleep somewhere, so I would always have a job for life. OSU has a great Hotel and Restaurant administration program, so it was an easy transition.”
After college, Lee returned home and pursued her first job as a front of the house manager at Pappadeaux, then quickly moved to the catering department at The St. Regis Hotel in Houston.
“While working at The St. Regis Hotel, I found my love for planning events.”
During her time working in the catering industry, Lee had her son, Tyler.
“After he was born, I soon learned how hard it was to have a child in the catering business. I worked late nights and some weekends for events,” Lee said.
Shortly after, Lee decided to pursue another career, working at Accenture, a consulting company that encouraged volunteering in the community.
“One of the major volunteering events for the Houston office was Junior Achievement,” she said. “This gave me the opportunity to go into different schools and teach government lessons. This is where I learned how much I enjoyed teaching and being around elementary aged students.”
From there, Lee decided to alter her career path a bit and enroll in an alternative teaching certification program and later become certified to teach Pre-K-4th grade.
Lee gave back to public education by dedicating 15 years to teaching in Klein ISD. During her last year of teaching her teaching partner wanted Smallcakes cupcakes for her birthday.
“I had never had them before, but once I tasted them I knew opening a store was going to happen for me,” Lee said. “I went to the website and clicked on the button to find out about how to purchase a franchise. It took about a year to get the doors opened, but it was worth the wait.”
With a little more time on her hands, Lee’s dream of owning a business and pursuing her love for the hospitality industry was revitalized and Smallcakes Cupcakery & Creamery was born in Tomball. Her son, a 2022 graduate from Tomball High School, is off playing football at West Point Military Academy and Lee is now taking advantage of the opportunity of being her own boss.
“I love being my own boss and will be able to go watch my son play football without having to ask permission to take off. Smallcakes is a great business to own with a lot of flexibility even though it is a franchise.”
Smallcakes is located at 9166 Farm to Market 2920 #325 and she chose that location because it was in close proximity to her hometown and to those she worked with for 15 years while teaching.
“It is so rewarding owning a business in the town I was raised in,” she said. “I am able to see so many people I have known my whole life supporting me. The best was seeing my PE teacher from elementary school. We started talking about Tomball ISD and then she realized who I was and that she was my elementary PE teacher. If it wasn’t for my shop, I would have never reunited with her.”
Since opening Smallcakes in February 2022, Lee continues to give back to the community in which raised and supported her.
As a company-wide initiative, Smallcakes pushes franchise owners to donate leftover cupcakes back to the community.
“Our cupcakes are made fresh daily,” Lee said. “When I have leftover cupcakes, I take them to the police department, fire departments, EMS, and schools. It is a simple way to put a smile on someone’s face. As a former teacher, I remember how a surprise treat could make my day.”
Through community engagement, Lee not only reads to children in schools but supports The Life 18 students from THS by allowing them to work in her cupcake shop on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for one hour.
“It is truly the highlight of our week,” said Lee. “They help make ice cream, pupcakes (cupcakes for dogs), cakes, and fold boxes. They have grown so much from the beginning of the year and I cannot wait to continue this partnership for the coming years.”
She has recently connected with the Tomball Education Foundation to serve and give back to Tomball ISD.
“The TEF has been a great way for me to still feel connected to education while not being a teacher anymore,” Lee said. “I know how expensive it is for teachers to supply their rooms with everything needed to give their students the best education.”
The Tomball Education Foundation raises money to reward teachers with educational grants.
“I will always help educators anyway I can and love that I give back to the school district I attended K-12,” Lee said.
Lee’s connection to her hometown hasn’t changed much but the growth and opportunities she has experienced along the way have made her life so much sweeter.
“Tomball is a special place because of all the people that live here,” she said. “I have watched Tomball grow my whole life, but the people remain the same. The community members look out for each other and will step up to help each other when needed.”
Source: Tomball ISD