The 3 Things I Want You To Know About Being A Cupcake Entrepreneur

August 19, 2013

I’ve opened businesses and I’ve closed them. I’ve succeeded and I’ve failed. I’ve rebranded more times than I ever felt was necessary. The mere thought of the amount of money I’ve wasted would make you sick. My Dad’s basement is packed with unused stickers, cases of branded wine glasses, buckets of flour, and pouches of fudge. Shelving units, A-frame signs, boxes of jars, and fliers upon fliers upon fliers. I’ve dubbed his basement my ‘business graveyard’. Throughout the years, I’ve learned a lot about entrepreneurship. As I’ve been thinking back through it all I’ve noticed three main lessons that have continued to circle. The 3 Things I Want You To Know About Being A Cupcake Entrepreneur 1. You’ll often feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. When I first started my business I had no idea what I was doing. Five years into my business I still had no idea what I was doing. When North American Breweries asked if I could bake 1,000 sugar-free cupcakes with the Labatt and Genesee logos on them I said “yes!” But I had absolutely. No idea. What I was doing. There’s often an underlying fear that those who think you know what you’re doing, the people who expect and trust that you know what you’re doing will one day uncover the dirty truth—that you’re a farce—and that your whole ‘charade’ and world will come crashing down. But the truth is you’re not a farce and you won’t be ‘found out’ because those people wouldn’t have any clue how to do what you (and not them) are driven enough to be doing. And since you’ve already started something that most people wouldn’t have the guts to start, you have in actuality already ‘made it’. 2. Success is not always determined in dollars. If you go into the baking business solely for money, you will be sorely disappointed. In fact, if you go into the retail/restaurant/café business solely for money, you will be sorely disappointed. When people ask me what I did with the $10,000 I won on Cupcake Wars I have to feign enthusiasm while they venture a guess that I took a vacation or bought myself some fancy new aprons. In reality (a reality that includes taxes), $10,000 turns into $7,000 and $7,000 pays for some ingredients and the extra labor and payroll taxes you incurred while you were preparing for and competing on a television show. So what’s the upside of peddling $3 cupcakes if it’s not the almighty dollar? Well it wasn’t until I opened and worked day in and day out in a sweet shop in my own hometown that I felt a part of my community. Dishing out sugary treats to families and businesses really connected me to something greater than my own small circles and myself. Between selling cupcakes at my retail shop, catering weddings and corporate events, delivering to dorm rooms, and donating to many amazing causes, I gained a better understanding and a deeper richness of what my community was all about. And you really can’t put a price tag on that. (Although you’ll eventually need to quit being so philanthropic and make yourself some money.) 3. Nothing feels better than building something from nothing. When I first started my business I didn’t even own a mixer. The only cupcakes I ever made were baked in an Easy Bake Oven. I was starting from scratch in terms of supplies, knowledge, and even money. But the excitement was fresh and the stakes were low so I jumped in with two feet and my fingers crossed. Throughout the years of learning and growing and failing and rebranding, the one thing that has remained constant is the astronomically awesome feeling of taking nothing more than a smidgen of an idea and turning it into something great. Whether it’s taking sugar and butter and whipping it into something delicious, stringing words together in a way that strikes a chord, or even building a business that you ultimately close, it’s the act of creating, regardless of the outcome, that is truly what life is all about. What's stopping you from starting your own thing?    

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