Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Business of Cupcakes

If I blog-posted every time I thought of something to say I would never leave my keyboard. Instead I have neglected this little entity of social networking for more weeks than I intended.
It's not from lack of subject. There is always some thought spinning in my head. If not a thought, then a song, or a line from some favorite sitcom or loved movie. Wow...I better stop with such confessions or y'all think I'm crazy!

With a post long overdue, I decided to take a moment and share a few thoughts on a subject that is not only dear to me, but a subject I get asked about a lot: small business.

From the moment we opened our doors in September 2006, Juaquin and I have been asked about 'our business'. Why did we start a business? Was it always our dream to open a cupcake shop? How did we come up with this? WHY did we go into business for ourselves? You both have college and graduate degrees, why cupcakes? (okay, I'm the only one that asks myself this Q now and then. =)

I won't attempt to answer all of these questions as that would make for a very long post, but I will answer the most FAQ this past 18 months: "How is your business doing in this economy?"

To answer this question let me take you back to when we first opened The Cupcake Cottage doors.

I cannot begin to explain why I've always wanted a business. As I've told many of you, my dream business would have been a children's bookstore. However, we needed a business that would generate the income we want, and more importantly, need to live. No matter how fabulous my vision for a children's bookstore might be, there was simply no way we could compete with the likes of Borders, Barnes and Noble and (the big-daddy of 'em all) Amazon. So, we went cupcakes!

We opened our cupcake shop at a time when there were only a handful of cupcake shops in the world. Today there are hundreds of these sweet shops scattered throughout this big blue and green globe and that's exciting! =)

Now, back to the 'this economy' question. From the time we 'visioned' our shop to now, we have made sure to run our business with great care and caution. We always bake each and every cupcake from scratch and we mix our buttercream frosting fresh daily. That practice will never change!

We go out of our way NOT to advertise, though the thought is exciting. I would love nothing more than to see our cupcakes and our wonderful baking/frosting team in a glossy magazine. Such exposure is exciting, but because we do not bake in massive quantities, such advertisements could serve as more of a tease to potential customers. It's challenging enough having customers visit only to find that we've "Sold Out", so spending money to advertise does not make sense for us. We have been blessed with sprinkles of complementary 'write-ups' and we are grateful for each of them.

We do NOT get over-our-head in debt. Could we run to a bank, or gather up investors and GROW BIG, build a staff of umpteen bakers and frosters and sell thousands of cupcakes a day, as opposed to the hundreds we sell a day? Sure we could! Is that something we want to do? No it is not. We completely understand that this route is very common for businesses to grow, but we are looking to operate a successful business that 1) keeps a roof over our head 2) keeps food on our table 3) allows us to create time for our family 4) continue supporting various needs thru our personal donations 5) allows us to squirrel away a bit for our future and (God willing) retirement.

The Cupcake Cottage is baking more cupcakes now then it has since the first day we opened. We are earning enough revenue (aka: money) to meet payroll for 5 employees and keep a cushion of savings for the unexpected expenses. (and) BOY have those unexpected expenses come! read on....

So, how are we doing in this economy? We're doing what we need to be doing in spite of the past 2 (economically discouraging) years.
Since 2009 we have seen an increase in Payroll Taxes, Health Department fees which have risen 25 % in 2009 and another 25% in 2010. State required business insurance has also increased 25 % in 2009 and another 25% in 2010. Cost of all fresh ingredients continues to increase....butter, for example has increased 40+% in the past 6 months. Our adorable pink boxes have inched upwards 10-20% in less than a year. I'll spare you even more detailed 'DRAGS', but when you track the reasons for these increases (and we do!), you will find that regulations at every level (local, state and national) are behind these added costs.

If it weren't for the careful managing of our own money in and money out, we would be looking at closing our sweet cottage door. The good news is we DO take care to run our tiny little shop within a budget that offers steady and careful growth. It's not always an easy thing, but by running our business with such care we sleep well at night and we meet our short term goals while marching onward to our long term goals.

Thanks to the each and every new and returning customer that recognizes, and appreciates our carefully baked and frosted cupcakes we experience a basic economic 101 principal: Supply and Demand.

Good times or bad, cupcakes remain a timeless treat! Good times or bad, people still celebrate birthdays, graduations, babies, weddings, anniversaries, engagements, team victories and more. Good times or bad, people still need a pick-me-up for those days when there is loss, defeat, and discouraging news.
Good times or bad, our cupcakes are keeping life sweet for YOU and for us and we are incredibly grateful for it all!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Our Creative Customers

It is always exciting to hear from customers that have shared our cupcakes with family and friends. Our cupcakes are part of all sorts of celebrations and gatherings, and that makes us smile! We thought these might make you smile, too!
visit us at: The Cupcake Cottage

Our 'baby' cakes are frequent participants at baby
showers and sip-n-sees!

Moms can get pretty creative when it comes to graduation celebrations!Flags with messages and pictures add a personal touch to the cupcake.

Above is Crissa, and she visits our shop now and then with her grandmother.When Crissa declared "Let's play Cupcake Cottage" with her play-doh set, I'm guessing she surprised her family with some pretty impressive skills. The piping on her 'cupcakes' look amazing!
Thanks Kathy and Nancy for emailing such sweetness. =)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vintage Wedding ~ another sweet share

I continue to be amazed at the creative direction that so many couples take when planning their wedding. Melissa, an events planner and owner of Emerald Events and Weddings set a Vintage mood for her guests when she and Erich married in October.
Melissa was sweet enough to send some of the above pictures along with this lovely email messgae:
"Hi Sandra, I know it's been 5 months but I'm finally getting around to getting you some photos from our eco-chic vintage wedding! Our guest absolutely loved all of the different kinds of cupcakes and even though we over-ordered, there was not a single one left!! We were highlighted on a couple websites and we made sure to let everyone know where we got our yummy goodies =o) Thanks again for helping to make our day so special!! M. Love, Laughter & Happily Ever After . . . . . Melissa (aka the new Mrs.)

We like to think our babycakes added a teeny bit of sweetness to this wonderful day!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our Connecticut Connection

Happy Birthday Papa!

You want MY cupcake!?
Hey, I thought you were going to give me that!
I can get my mouth around this, NO PROBLEM
These don't last long...
I told you they don't last long.
Your #1 Connecticut Fan!!!
With so many amazing customers that come thru our door it was only natural that we have gotten to know a little (sometimes even a LOT =) about many of you. This little entry ~ Our Connecticut Connection ~ features a wonderful young mom, Joy, her two sweet children and her dad who is affectionately called Papa!
Joy's parents live in Connecticut and became fans of The Cupcake Cottage last summer while visiting Fort Worth. Joy was sweet enough to share the above photos with me and agreed to let me share them with you (whoever you may be). The captions under the pictures were included in the email and capture Papa and the kids perfectly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Sweet Proposal

It's a real privelage to learn that The Cupcake Cottage cupcakes have been part of some pretty special celebrations. It's especially exciting when we receive notes and even pictures sharing those special moments with us. I thought it would be fun to share some of those with you!
This first 'share' ~A Sweet Proposal =) ~ comes from a recently engaged young lady, Emmelie. She wrote:
"I’m a longtime fan of the cupcake cottage. I have often come in to buy birthday treats for friends, Christmas cupcakes, or “just because.” My long time boyfriend knew this, and when it came time to pop the question this past weekend, he did it with a box of your delicious cupcakes! (See attached pictures).
I just wanted y’all to see the photo and let you know that your delicious cupcakes made such a special moment even sweeter

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Belated Valentine

One of the orders that had to be postponed during the Valentine's weekend was simply rescheduled. This customer was perfectly happy delivering these belated Valentine cupcakes a few days after February 14th. When you place a preorder we are happy to customize frosting colors and design. Some of these designs are subject to additional cost, and we are happy to take your order if we have room on our schedule.
Sweet and thoughtful gifts are always welcome!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Guess Who Called!

A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a production company in L.A. They work with the Food Network and were calling us about a new reality show Cupcake Wars. The gal on the other end of the phone explained that the pilot for Cupcake Wars aired in December and repeated in January. She asked if I had heard about it and I sheepishly replied "no". You see, way back in 2006 when we first opened our little shop I was amazed at how many people asked me about various cooking and baking shows on TV. I had no idea who Bobby Flay was, and had never seen Ace of Cakes or any food challenges. Our family was so busy we never bothered to pay extra for cable TV so we were quite out of the loop with the yummy food scene. I have since seen at least one episode of each of these popular and quite impressive shows, but do not follow any of them on a regular basis. I digress...

Back to the phone call... This sweet young lady went on to tell me that Cupcake Wars was in the process of filming it's first season and that they had heard about The Cupcake Cottage and "hoped we would consider being a part of the show". My immediate internal reaction was: "HECK YEAH! How cool would that be!!! I'm up to a good challenge and new experience...bring it on baby!!" My actual reply to her was: "I'm very flattered, now tell me what all is involved."

She went on to explain what went on in the pilot challenge. Basically, 4 teams were given a challenge to use sweet and spicy ingredients in their cupcakes. Eventually, a winner was chosen and would bake 1,000 of their winning cupcake for a Hollywood event. When I asked her "what would I have to do at this point", she explained that I needed to send (ASAP) a photo of myself, my assisitant, my store, and my cupcakes. This was on a Thursday and we were facing a very busy Friday and Saturday of baking. Making sure we do the very best we can with our baking is our top priority and this was all that popped into my head at that point. I thanked her for calling and told her I would email her with my decision before the end of the day.

It didn't take long for me to face another reality. Did I really want to subject myself to the stress of such an experience? What if I completely bombed on the challenge? What about those cameras?! You know that saying "the camera really likes you"...yeah, I've NEVER been told that! =) Most importantly, I have absolutely no desire to be recognized on a national level. We have a very successful business and prefer to grow it carefully. If recognition comes, it comes, but to actually seek such attention would most likely keep me from sleeping at night. For me, peaceful slumber, and managed stress is far more important than 15 minutes of fame and the enormous demand that could possibly come from it.

So, I emailed my regret and told the Food Network recruiter to feel free to contact me should there be another season. She kindly wrote back that she completely understood and would keep The Cupcake Cottage in mind for future projects. That was cool. =)
I must admit that I did a little searching about Cupcake Wars since and was amazed at how many audition recordings are on YouTube. Clearly, there is a process for being considered and I'm guessing that had I made it thru 'round 1' I would have been asked to send in such a tape. Here's a clip of the actual Cupcake War Pilot and Here are a few auditions...some I really liked and some I found to be 'interesting'. Check them out!

Click: Highlights from Cupcake Wars Pilot episode

and here are some Cupcake War audition tapes: Dippidee ~ Crystal Roberts ~ Girl Veteran ~ TootSweet ~ New York Cupcakes

Want to see even more auditions just search Cupcake Wars on YouTube.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Snowstorm 2010 Epilogue

I cannot believe the last post I made here was regarding our snowstorm 2010 Valentine's weekend situation. I thought I would begin the update with some fun pics from that exciting weather event! These were taken Friday morning, February 12.
In need of a basic phone, that did not require electricity, we made our way to Walmart and were welcomed with this gorgeous parking lot scene at 4:30AM. I loved how the black, wintry sky shows up here!
Once Juaquin and I called customers to let them know we were unable to bake due to the electricity outage we made our way home...taking a scenic route!

Made it home only to learn that we were still without electricty there too!

Valentine's Weekend 2010 will not be one we forget anytime soon.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Effects of a Snowy Wonder!

The fabulous snowfall on Thursday has effected our operation for this Valentine weekend. Here's a quick recap and update for those of you with preorders and those that are just interested in how this is all playing out.

Thurday 11 February: Lots of gorgeous snow fell here in Fort Worth and our shop plugged along as normal. Our electricity at our home near TCU went out around noon that day. We were welcomed to spend the night with the in-laws...I have the best in-laws ever. =)

Friday 12 February: At 4:00 AM I arrived at the shop after driving thru lots of fresh snow. I was hopeful that we had power since a little lamp was dimly shining in our front window. Unfortunately, the power was struggling and there was not enough electrical "umph" to keep phones, appliances, ovens, heat, etc.... on. We were without electricity as were 175,000 people in the DFW area. I called our amazing baking assitants letting them know they needn't come in. The temperature in the shop (around 45*) was dropping quickly and Juaquin had joined me there by that time.

5:30 AM: we ventured to WalMart to get an old-school, $5.00 phone to plug directly to our phone line. We knew we would need to call customers that had preorders to let them know that we would not be able to bake for them that day, and offered to include them with our Saturday orders (should we have power to bake).
The 20+ customers I spoke with were wonderful and very understanding. We hated to let them down, but sometimes things are simply out of our a record breaking snow storm!

9:30ish AM: Juaquin and I drove around our amazingly, wonderful city looking at how beautiful and almost magical the snowfall looked. The streets were quiet, the city was quiet. What is it about fresh snow that makes the world seem reverently calm, still and hushed. We took a few pictures and marveled at the covered tree branches. Simply goregous!! =)

10:30 AM: We ventured to the Alpaca show going on at Will Rogers....chatted with a few Alpaca ranchers. This was something we wanted to go to but knew we wouldn't be able to with the busiest baking holiday our shop experiences in the year. Perhaps it was meant for us to be there after all! =)

11:00ish AM: Went to Taylor Rentals to get a tablecloth for the Reading Rocks event and then went to Ridglea Country Club to decorate a table for Saturday's luncheon that raises money for the I Have a Dream Foundation. This is my second year to participate in this wonderful happening. Click here for Reading Rock details!

We continued to check off and on at the shop to see if Electricity was back on. It wasn't... =(

8:00 PM: Made our way to our home and happy to have electricity back on. I fell into bed ASAP, hoping that power would be back on at the shop for Saturday.

Saturday 13 February 4:00AM: Juaquin drove to the shop to see if electricity was on. He called to tell me it was not. I called my baking assistants to let them know NOT to come in. Reset my alarm for a little more sleep.

6:00 AM: Rolled out of bed, got ready and headed for the shop. Still no power, so gathered my thoughts, and all the preorder information of customers for Friday and Saturday. Waited a bit and began calling customers around 8:30 as not to wake them to early!

9:30 - 11:00: Spoke with customers, left messages, answered the phone.... Shop temp - 41 degrees...brrrrr....

"OH How I'd Rather Be Baking!", became my inner mantra... =(

I needed to contact about 40 customers that had preorders for this weekend. With the exception of 1 customer, every single person I spoke with expressed amazing understanding for the situation. I realize that each of them had special plans for the cupcakes today, yesterday and perhaps tomorrow and I hate letting them down. Many of them reminded me that with a record-level-Snowfall "this was a once in a lifetime event for North Texas". Busy wanting to set things right with our fabulous cupcake fans I wasn't thinking about that cool fact, and I appreciated that reminder!

In the event we get power restored before tomorrow, Sunday 14 February, we will be baking! Yes, for this one and only Sunday, IF we have electricity tomorrow, we will get on with baking the orders we have missed and then some.
For updated information visit our Facebook Fan Page and Twitter, wait... A lot of times in life there are happenings that are simply out of our control and the only thing we can do is control how we react to such events.
We deeply apologize that we have not been able to bake our sweet treats these past 2 days and we appreciate your patience.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cupcake Flags

Some Flag ideas for Valentine's Day

I used the lavendar paper while playing, but any colored paper would look great

Craft supplies + imagination = fun flags!

I first came across custom Cupcake Flags a couple of years ago on the internet and thought they were just adorable. These wee flags have since become a very popular way to personalize a message that can be placed right on top of a cupcake!

The photos above are some I made as examples for those of you out that might want to get a little creative with your next gathering that include cupcakes! It's fun, relatively simple and extremely cute. =)
Here are a couple of links that you might want to explore for further ideas and instruction:
and you can always just google ~ cupcake flags ~ for additional ideas.

Please note: we do not make or sell these in our shop

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Year brings a few New Flavors

The Cupcake Cottage has some new flavors to add in this new year!

Chai (pronounced Ch + a long i ~ as in tie) : The word chai actually means 'tea' in many parts of the world. Chai tea is a blend of black tea along with spices, and we add a bit of allspice and cardamom.

German Chocolate : Okay y'all, I'm stepping outside the German Chocolate tradition a wee bit here. Let's face it, the signature on German Chocolate is that amazing frosting that includes pecans and flaked coconut. We we will NOT be mixing that frosting. Rather, we will include the pecans and coconut in the traditional German chocolate cake batter and top this cupcake with our delicious buttercream, sprinkled with pecans and coconut!

Vanilla Chocolate Chip : A vanilla cake with semi-sweet chocolate chips sprinkled in the cake. This vanilla cake is different from our regular vanilla in that we use whole eggs and whole milk. Our regular vanilla cake calls for egg whites only, and buttermilk.

Keep an eye on our Flavors page for more new flavors as we introduce them...