Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Simply Cupcakes of Naples: Living Life, One Cupcake at a Time

Simply Cupcakes' creations

I love success stories, which are usually the result of following a passion even when the odds are against you, and so when I discovered the successful Simply Cupcakes in Naples, Florida, I was curious as to who was behind it.
The woman behind this tasty business with four locations in Southwest Florida and soon to be a franchise, is Joanne Glasgow, supported by her husband Ken.
Joanne gracefully accepted to be interviewed for Success Diaries, to share her story and inspire other women entrepreneurs:

LCL- When and why did you decide to open Simply Cupcakes?
 JG- Soon after we moved to Florida I realized that although the cupcake craze was sweeping the nation it had not yet come to Southwest Florida.  Coming from a family of Italian cooks and bakers, I had a love of baking and I decided to test my cupcakes at the Third St. Farmer's Market in Naples in October 2006 where the response was immediate.

LCL- Were you afraid of making a career change?
JG- I really didn't make a career change in the traditional way. I had been a Pediatric Registered Nurse for over 30 years but when we moved to Florida in 2003, I had already retired from Nursing. When I was a nurse in Rochester, NY I helped a friend of mine part time in her dessert catering business. This satisfied my passion for baking at that time and ultimately gave me the courage to make a business out of it. At the time I started Simply Cupcakes, I was 60, which is the age when most people think about cutting back.

Joanne, loving her work
LCL- What were the biggest stumbling blocks?
JG- My biggest stumbling block was my lack of business and retail experience. It's one thing to bake a cupcake but another to sell it. Since the cupcake industry was young, there were few resources to turn to for guidance, so my business never really had a plan. Of course, I started my business at one of the worst times in the economic history of our country. At a time when businesses were closing, I was starting. Loans for new businesses did not exist

LCL- What are the greatest rewards?
JG- There is no greater reward than to have an idea and see it become a reality. In the cupcake business I get rewarded every day with compliments from our customers. [My husband] Ken and I have also had the satisfaction of creating a Simply Cupcakes training program to help others start their own cupcake business.

LCL- Who have been your best supporters?
JG- My husband Ken has been with me every step of the way behind the scenes although he loves to wait on the customers and schmooze with them. He has taken over the marketing of our business and has successfully created a brand with little or no paid advertising. I also have the support of my brother and sister in law and our children who are in awe of the fact that "mom" is a successful businesswoman.

Pink delight
LCL- How do you promote yourself?
JG- Although we had little knowledge of social media, we taught ourselves to use Facebook and now have over 12,000 fans on the Simply Cupcakes Facebook Page. We have been fortunate to have many articles written about us because there is little good news these days and mine is a "feel good" story. Mainly, we have used word of mouth. Our business plan was to get people to our store (which is in an out of the way location) and get a cupcake in their mouth. We have enough confidence in our product to know what the reaction will be. If we sell a dozen cupcakes, they go into a dozen mouths and hopefully we will have a dozen new customers.

LCL- Do you recall having any "aha" moments?
JG- I remember at the beginning at the Farmer‘s Market, when we sold a Key Lime cupcake to a customer and as he walked away he took a bite and yelled "OH MY GOD ! " It was the first sign that we had something good. The turning point for us was when we started the business without a store and just had a website. We took orders for cupcakes online and delivered them to customers in Naples. By the time we opened the store, we had over 300 customers already. We have been told that this was the reverse of traditional thinking. Most businesses open a store and then put up a website. We put up a website and then opened our store.   

LCL- What would you say to other women who would like to follow in your steps?
JG- I would tell them what we tell every person we train: "Unless you have a passion for baking, find something else to do.” Make sure that the passion you have today will still be there a year from now when you have a large order to fill and your mixer breaks down". I would also tell them to bake every cupcake as though your reputation depends on it, because it does. We are scratch bakers, using fresh eggs and butter. We don’t take shortcuts or use mixes. We bake only in small batches and our customers can tell the difference. 

Joanne and Ken, the team behind the dream
Some of Simply Cupcakes´ and the Glasgow’s many noteworthy accomplishments:

·      The business was started with borrowed money three years ago, and they paid it all back with interest in less than two years. They now operate a debt-free business.
·      Joanne has trained 36 locations nationwide in 24 months, to open their own Simply Cupcakes on a License Agreement from California to Puerto Rico. 
·      Ships Key Lime and Red Velvet bundt cakes worldwide including to the troops in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
·      Donates cupcakes to many worthwhile local causes including cupcakes for the homeless on almost a weekly basis.

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Diario del Éxito (Success Diaries) will be published in book form in February 2012 by ediciones Obelisco.To read about my books:

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