Michelle Patterson Nipp: realtor, baker and mother explores new territory

Michelle Patterson Nipp is no stranger to launching into a new career. She was a nurse from 1994 to 2004. She then became a realtor:a job with a flexible schedule, which meant that she could also stay home with her son full-time when he was born. When Daniel reached kindergarten age, Patterson Nipp began exploring the idea of changing careers again. 

Patterson Nipp loves baking. She said, “It’s always been a passion ever since I was a kid. I’ve taken a lot of cooking classes, so I’ve kind of been dipping my toe and exploring extra classes, but there’s only so much that those types of classes can teach you. I wanted to know more about the industry, especially if this is going to be an industry I was potentially going into.” 

In the fall of 2019, as Daniel started kindergarten, Patterson Nipp enrolled in NAIT’s two year Baking and Pastry Arts diploma program.

She said, “I thought the timing would have been perfect because Daniel would have been in kindergarten and then Grade 1.”

Covid hit midway through her second semester, just as “it was really starting to ramp up as far as what was expected of us and all the practical assessments that we had to do.” 

In the initial lockdown, NAIT students were sent home from classes. “We got notified by email that NAIT had decided to shut down. We were told to come in and clean out our locker and our benches.” Classes would be online for the rest of the term. 

“All of our instruction took place online. Both our theory and then our demos were online. We observed our instructors, but we didn’t get a chance to handle the product unless you did that on your own,” Patterson Nipp said. 

This lack of practical experience made the second year more difficult. Patterson Nipp said, “We found out in our second year there’s lots of stuff that’s expected, and certain techniques when it came to sugar work and other areas where we would have had at least a little bit of a foundation during our first year that we didn’t get. But yet, we’re expected to know it in our second year.”

September 2020 was a hybrid of online and in-person classes. Students did lab work in school. Normally, the practical work would be done from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m., but the hours were adjusted for the first year students. Instead, Patterson Nipp and her classmates started around 4 p.m. and finished at 9 p.m. “We also had to do evening service at Ernest’s [the student-run restaurant at NAIT], so that was part of that schedule, too.”

She added, “It was a little bit more consistent, as half the semester we spent in the lab and then the other half we spent at Ernest’s.” 

Michelle Patterson Nipp graduated from NAIT with a journeyman's certificate during the pandemic

Patterson Nipp finished her program in April of 2021 and received her journeymen certificate.

Determining whether her education was on par with someone who attended outside of a pandemic was “hard to assess.” She said, “For instance, at the end of the year we’re supposed to have a pop-up sale where we’re developing a business through the third and fourth semester. All of that took place online, so it was a little bit different.” She added, “There’s other things that I think we missed out on, like competitions.”

Patterson Nipp said, “For the most part, I wasn’t 100 per cent satisfied. I don’t know if the pandemic was the reason or if the instructors in my second year weren’t anything like my first year. I don’t think enough accommodations were made in terms of adjustments of what we needed to learn in our second year [as they missed instruction in the first year]. Plus, the program is so new. We were the second class of the two year diploma program for Baking and Pastry Arts.” Previously, the program was a one year certification program. 

“For our second semester, it was a pass/fail, and then you got an H if you got honours. They added the H because there were students who said, ‘Come on. I did more than pass and I want to get recognized.’”

Patterson Nipp continued, “This all kind of happened at a time when there were huge budget cuts, so there are lots of changes happening at NAIT before the pandemic, or right at the same time that the pandemic started. The chair of our culinary department was let go at pretty much the same time.” 

“Before the pandemic, people were concerned about whether they had a job to come to next year, so it was all kind of happening at the same time. It’s like this perfect storm. So all of that was happening while Covid was happening, so it’s hard to say. Are these changes because of Covid? Or are they changes because of the severe budget cuts that were happening?” (NAIT’s funding from the Alberta government decreased by 11.9 per cent in 2020-2021.)

Parenting, school, and Covid

When the lockdown in March of 2020 hit, like for all families with children, it up-ended their family’s plans. 

Patterson Nipp reflected back on the early days of becoming a mother. “Your priorities kind of change and you and your life change. It’s the whole structure of how you schedule your life, right? I think it’s something that women mainly have to do. Kevin would just go to work everyday. Nothing really changed for him.”

When the family was put back in the position of needing to care for a child 24 hours a day, Patterson Nipp prioritized her schooling and was able to share the responsibility a little more. “It was nice going to school, because he [Kevin] got to have a little taste of what it is like for [the other parent] to just pick up and leave.”

 Their parenting dynamic changed. “I don’t think it’s always on the man, because I think women are guilty of just picking it up. We take it on. We don’t ask for help.” 

When the family was put back in the position of needing to care for a child 24 hours a day, Patterson Nipp prioritized her schooling and was able to share the responsibility a little more. “It was nice going to school, because he [Kevin] got to have a little taste of what it is like for [the other parent] to just pick up and leave.”

 Their parenting dynamic changed. “I don’t think it’s always on the man, because I think women are guilty of just picking it up. We take it on. We don’t ask for help.”

She continued, “He’s very punctual and I’m always more last minute, yelling, ‘Okay, let’s go’ and probably driving to the bus stop. Kevin sets his alarms. This is the alarm for telling Daniel he should get ready. This is the alarm telling them they should be out the door. He’s more structured. I can learn a thing or two from him.” Patterson Nipp laughed. “He does things a little bit differently than I would, like he has no problem calling and getting food or eating out. Whereas for me, [I feel] home cooking is best. I put that pressure on myself.”

Patterson Nipp’s classes and work at the NAIT restaurant meant that she arrived home at 10:30 at night. She said, “Kevin would take [Daniel] to the bus, because I wouldn’t necessarily be able to get up. He [got] Daniel ready for school in the morning and [took] him to the school bus. He [made] sure his lunch is packed and his bag is packed. He did a better job at that than I did.”

Patterson Nipp said, “He was there and he did it. It was awesome.”

The real estate market

Patterson Nipp also continued to work in real estate while attending NAIT. 

The shift in how people worked in the first two years of the pandemic significantly increased the numbers of homes being bought and sold. In the spring of 2021, Patterson Nipp said, “It was even worse than 2006-2007, just for that snippet of time.”

“There were multiple offers. People made big changes. I think you realize when you’re stuck at home that either your home isn’t working anymore for you or you need a bigger space. People are looking for options as far as having home offices and spaces to work from home. There’s a few people I looked after who made big moves to come back to Edmonton from other provinces, just so that they could be closer to family. People are starting to realize what’s important.”


As she finished her education, Patterson Nipp began to solidify her plans. “I was finishing my second year and I kind of knew I didn’t want to do [baking] as a business. I don’t want to start any business. It’s hard to do that. I have a good real estate business that I love doing. I love being a realtor.”

Because of her time at NAIT, Patterson Nipp got involved in the Mawji Centre [Mawji Centre for New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship at NAIT] and their pitch competition for Black entrepreneurs. She said it made her start thinking about her plans. “How do I want to move forward? Do I want to do baking or do real estate?”

Patterson Nipp used the pitch competition as an opportunity to clarify her goals. “I want to have a community real estate business that is focused on telling people about the different things that they can do in this area, and things that you can do with your family in this area and get involved with it.”

She continued, “Maybe I can integrate some of my baking in there, too. And amp up my Facebook page and my YouTube and all that. Because for me, the service I provide has always been more person and relationship focused, not necessarily transaction focused.”


Patterson Nipp is working as a realtor and started the multimedia channel, This Edmonton Life. She acts as a resource for her clients and promotes local businesses. She continues to bake because she loves it. 

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