Thursday, April 2, 2009
In recent years, cupcakes have gone from being simply small cakes to flat-out cultural phenomenon. It seems that a new cupcake shop is opening just about every hour on the hour, and the obsession has spawned not only bakeries but a number of businesses which cater to the cupcake lover (including, um, this website). One natural progression is cupcake accessories--such as the sweet, textile-inspired cupcake wrappers made by local startup Bella Cupcake Couture. We recently got a chance to talk cake with proprietress Carrie Middlemiss--let's learn a bit more about her business and thoughts on the compelling little cakes and their place in culture, shall we?
CakeSpy: Let's start with the basics. Who are you and what is your company / product?
Carrie Middlemiss: I am the owner of Bella Cupcake Couture. We make textile-inspired cupcake wrappers printed with soy inks on recycled paper. Our theme is “Have your cupcake and adore it too.™” Each wrapper has boutique-style design to add a touch of sophistication and elegance to your cupcake for any special occasion; weddings, bridal and baby showers, birthdays, holidays and just because.
CS: What initially attracted you to the cupcake community?
CM: Originally I didn’t realize what an enormous community there was for cupcakes. I had just always loved baking and hadn’t done a lot of internet surfing about it. However, in 2008 when I was inspired at a small business seminar (CRAVEbusiness) I knew online research was important. I became seriously addicted to reading about cupcakes day and night. I came across tons of websites and blogs all dedicated to cupcakes. I read about cupcake tastings, cupcake meet ups, cupcake shops and thought “what a neat group of people!”.
On my next vacation to our friends in Austin I read on Cupcakes Take the Cake blog that a new cupcake shop was opening, so I started to plan my own cupcake tasting tour there. It was soooo much fun! As I went around I also asked each owner what innovation would they like to see invented for the cupcake community. It was all very enlightening.
CS: When we first crossed paths last year, you were thinking about starting a business that had to do with cupcakes, and now here you are with a product and webstore! Can you tell us a bit about how you went from "what should I do" to "I'm gonna do it"?
CM: Yes, back in August I was trying to determine what the product should be. I had a couple strong ideas and the importance to me was it needed to be unique, innovative and a stylish decoration for cupcakes. I wanted it to be something a home baker, cupcake shop owner, bride or mother-to-be or an event planner would find easy and chic enough to use for extra special events.
A month later, my company (a large bank in Washington state) I worked for since high school was bought by another bank. It was a very difficult time for so many of us. Many of us were unsure if we would have jobs and what would come next.
For me, I saw this as the ultimate motivation to get my business started. So I quickly put together strategies for next steps, continued researching day and night and reached out to several in the cupcake community and other women-owned business leaders for advice. I moved as fast as I could on my ideas. Now I have my business up and running as well and I’m loving it!
CS: You're transitioning to the role of small business owner from a role as an employee in a large corporation. What are some of the up and down-sides to this transition?
CM: Since I’m still working for the bank, I know some of my answers may be different in a few months.
• Creative free-reign
• Ability to incorporate all my passions and strengths into one role.
• Although I work for a large corporation, I work out a relatively small office. So I don’t feel that change will be much of a shift for me; except a darling dog (Baxter, our 4 yr old Yorkie-Maltese) will be allowed in the office.
• The not knowing of how successful the product will be.
• The long hours which come with running your own business. However when you love doing something you are passionate about, how can you call that work?
CS: What made you decide to settle on cupcake wrappers as your first product?
CM: Many who know me, know I LOVE to think outside the box and come up with new ideas. When tossing around cupcake product ideas, I kept coming back to developing something for that would provide more of a chic look than the cupcake liners they were baked in. Every time I would look at photos of cupcakes, I always envisioned beautiful boutique-style designs around them.
CS: How do people typically use the cupcake wrappers? As a decorative touch for party cupcakes? For presenting them at bakeries? Etc?
CM: A decorative touch for all occasions and to accentuate the décor theme of celebrations. They create a great presentation for a dessert table, cupcake stand or simply as a delicate little favor in a box tied up with a pretty bow. It’s also a great hostess gift for a housewarming; include a favorite cupcake recipe, sanding sugars, sprinkles and these special cupcake wrappers. They are fun, easy and fashionable.
CS: Do you have plans to add other cupcake or baked good accessories to your offerings?
CM: I will be selling 3” x 3” clear boxes to provide a nice presentation of the wrapped cupcakes, new colored cupcake liners for baking in and always keeping ideas open to continue to grow the product line.
CS: In the Seattle area, we've got a wealth of awesome cupcake shops. Which one--and what flavor--do you favor?
CM: Oh this is a very tough one. There are a few shops I haven’t tried yet that I still need to get to. There are three I frequent the most and here is my favorite from each:
• New York Cupcakes in Crossroads: Tie between Back in the Day Butterscotch and Candy Store Salted Caramel
• Trophy Cupcakes: Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting
• Cupcake Royale: Salted Caramel
CS: Where can we buy your products retail? How about wholesale?
CM: Bella Cupcake Couture wrappers can be purchased retail from our website at bellacupcakecouture.com and also now sold at a fabulous boutique near University Village called Curtsy Bella as well as at New York Cupcakes in Bellevue.
For those interested in wholesale, they can visit our website for details or email firstname.lastname@example.org for special pricing.
CS: What's next?
CM: I definitely have to thank everyone who provided support, feedback and inspiration to me while beginning this new venture. Including you! ;)
Also I have a few new cupcake wrappers designs I’m really interested in launching later this year. Right now though, I’m focused on fulfilling orders, providing great customer service and collecting feedback on what designs people would like to see.
Ready to suit up your cupcakes with the cutest wrappers around? Visit bellacupcakecouture.com.