When I first met Justin Turner, he was working as the personal chef to then Houston Rocket Shane Battier. He was putting together a menu for a charity event Shane was hosting at his home and looking for some bite sized desserts. Shane was a frequent “fan” of our red velvet cupcakes, so we created an assortment of mini desserts for the event to compliment Justin’s delicious savory creations.
About a year later, he walked into the shop and re-introduced himself as Justin – the owner of Bernie’s Burger Bus. Being a fan of creative food truck offerings, I was thrilled that Justin had gone the entrepreneurial route and developed his own concept. And what a concept it is. Gourmet burgers…served from a converted school bus…complete with school themed menu item names. How could this NOT be the coolest food truck in town? We talked about some ideas for dessert on the truck and then it struck me, he’s looking for places to park, we’re on one of the busiest streets in the area, I love burgers, what can we do with this?
What we did was realize that his delicious burgers and our yummy desserts make the best lunch ever. Bernie’s Burger Bus now parks in front of Sugarbaby’s every Thursday and Saturday (unless he has a special event booked) and serves up about 8-10 burger options plus seriously good fresh cut gourmet fries. We combine our efforts with a cupcake combo (buy a burger and fries and get a cupcake for only $1.50), and Sugarbaby’s offers up drinks and a dining room for those that want to stay around for a while rather than take it togo. We love when the shop’s buzzing with happy burger fans – some of which may not have stopped in that day, and others that may be visiting for the first time. The staff loves have a fantastic lunch option twice a week too.
Be sure to visit the Burger Bus website for their menu and daily locations at www.berniesburgerbus.com
It’s been the thorn in my side for quite some time now. I’m talking about our website, or the lack there of.
I’m gonna be brutally honest, as many of our visitors have been, and say it was not workin’. It was cute and simple in the beginning, but as our business evolved, our site became more and more garbled with code issues and missing info that wasn’t exactly speaking the words I wanted to say about us on the World Wide Web. But let’s face it, when you are running a business and being pulled in many different directions at once, it’s hard to focus on something as big of an undertaking as a website. That’s why I decided over a year ago now that we needed to enlist the help of someone more skilled to handle the task.
Seemed simple enough, hire someone that does this for a living, tell ‘em what you’re looking for, the features you think your visitors would find useful, the look you’d like to interpret in a web image, and work together on making that happen.
LESSON #1 - don’t hire someone under the pretense that they are doing this “on the side” from their “real” web design job, even if it’s with the understanding that it will save you money. First FAIL on my part. We discussed the plan, laid out an interactive list of “to-do’s” for all involved, and slapped down a hefty deposit equal to 1/3 of the total quote. I made my 2nd mistake (hereafter known as LESSON #2) by leaving the target date loose so as not to push the cost any higher. At the time I thought this was fair, it couldn’t possibly take that long, but I found out the hard way it would be a real source of anxiety and animosity.
Now I’m not going to waste your time with the details of all the back and forth, show me what you’ve dones, it’s still not quite what I was looking fors, but I will say this: a YEAR later I was out my deposit and out of contact with a designer who basically went off the grid. No seriously… they moved to California claiming we would finish it up long distance, and just stopped communicating with me all together. I had NO WEBSITE and all I had to show for a year’s worth of “work” and my deposit was the little bit of info I could salvage from our notes, which were mostly my own editing down of page content. It was like a big slap in the face.
So to the many people who solicited me with offers to revamp our site and I said no, I say “I was an idiot and gave someone the benefit of the doubt. I’m sorry I didn’t take you up on your offer.” Thankfully, I listened to Larry at Wild Web Studios, bit the bullet and started over. After having time to think (and stew) about if for over a year, I had a REAL clear idea about what I wanted, and he was real clear about answering every question or idea I had with a “Yes, we can make that happen.” Oh how refreshing! Plus he felt horrible about what I had been through, and put some serious hustle into getting my site up quickly.
As “socially” active as we strive to be on the internet, our old website was NOT representing us for what we are – creative, whimsical, versatile, sensitive to our customers, service-friendly, and most of all great cupcakes. I think our new site is definitely more in tune to who we are now and I hope you find that to be true too. Feel free to send us comments and suggestions. See our new look at : www.ilovesugarbabys.com
And to that “other” designer who will probably read this, thanks for the lesson. I learned a lot.
I’ve always thought our classic pink pastry boxes made a nice presentation. They have that old fashioned feel and of course fit in with our theme and decor. We can dress it up with a little of our black logo ribbon for some extra pizzazz…. but I always wanted something a little over the top for those extra special clients that want to impress THEIR extra special clients, for the guy that wants to do a little something special for his gal, for the gift that says “This is a gift in good taste” not just a box of cupcakes.
So I set out to design a box that would be the epitomy of what Sugarbaby’s stands for – classic, old fashioned, a bit of whimsy, sweet surprises, and over the top. Being a lover of all things vintage, I went looking for shapes that had a nostalgic feel and voila… I found some old hat boxes that I once purchased from an antique shop and the wheels started churning. After meeting with a rep for a local packaging company that was just as inspired by my idea as I was, we set out to create the ultimate cupcake gift box.
Now unlike most cupcakes boxes out there that are simply disposed of once they are opened, I wanted my box to have a useful purpose thereafter. Not just recycling, but upcycling. I also wanted to incorporate a way to serve the cupcakes from the box. So I dreamed up a little serving tray – with slots for each cupcake and handles to lift the tray out of the box – so the inside of the box would stay clean and it could then be used again for something else. Now in my house, a couple of my boxes still have old hats in them, but others hold old ribbon and notions, photos and cards, and one currently houses a wardrobe of Barbie clothes my daughter loves to dig through. I imagine some of our gift recipients might find similar uses for their box too.
So after numerous drawings and revisions, our gift box has now been crafted. With a classic black and white stripe – bold and noticeable, but appealing for all sorts of occasions – and a damask gift tag (for personal notes) tied on with wide satin ribbon in a choice of colors, it’s as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. I hope you like it as much as I do!
We’ve been in business a little over 3 years now, and we really appreciate the fact that many of our great customers have become regular visitors. Whether you visit us once or twice a week, or once or twice a month, it’s important to say thanks for spending your hard earned dollars with a local company like ours and continuing to give our staff a reason to come to work each day.
Sooooo… as our way of saying THANK YOU, we’ve put together an exclusive program we call Sweet Perks customer rewards. It’s easy to do – just continue to be the great customer you are – and it doesn’t cost you anything extra. In return, we want to reward you for your continued support of our business and give you more reasons (or Perks) to return. How does 10% back sound? Pretty good for just being you, right?
We’ll be launching the program the first week of November, but you can pre-register for your free Sweet Perks Card by using our online form to answer a few simple questions. For all the details about our Sweet Perks customer rewards program, and to complete our quick pre-registration, CLICK HERE.
Just for you and ONLY at Sugarbaby’s.
Yes, we’re a cupcake specialty bakery. We focus the majority of our time on these adorable little cakes and all their many personalities…but occassionally someone gets a wild hair and says “hey, what if we made ______ or I bet we could make a great ______.” So we whip up some fun stuff from time to time and once we’ve shared enough of it in the kitchen to put everyone in sugar overload, we whip up another batch and put it out in the case, twitter or facebook it, and wait. Wait to see who comes in to try it, how quickly they disappear, and who asks for more. It’s the little surprises in life that keep things interesting right? Of course it is. So some of those little “new things” have become fairly popular and a bit more common in our weekly schedule. These include our yummy tarts and mini pies, mini cheesecakes (to DIE for), cupcake bonbons(aka cakeballs), frosting shots, whoopie pies and yes, our homemade twinkies. They are scattered throughout the week randomly and if you really like something in particular, we can probably make some up for you if you special order it with a little notice. Here’s a few pics of our OTHER delicious goodies…
I know. I know. It’s been a while since my last post. We’re redesigning the website and so I thought I might wait till that was done, but it’s taking a little longer than expected to get it all in check.
Anyway, I found myself answering yet another email request from one of those group coupon companies, and I thought I would share my thoughts on the topic as it relates to our business.
I’m sure you’ve heard of them, seen them in your inbox, and maybe even purchased a deal here and there. It’s all fine and dandy and I think they can really work wonders for some businesses to bring in new clients, but unfortunately, you’re probably not going to see Sugarbaby’s in one of these offers, so don’t hold your breath. Why not? Well, to be honest, the numbers don’t pan out for a business like ours. We’ve been called or emailed by every one of these companies – sometimes repeatedly – and I tell them all the same thing. There’s probably 8-10 different ones now just in the Houston area, and all of them claim to bring nothing but success to every business they work with. I’m not falling for it though. I’ve done the math.
Now, a business based on services – with little overhead or built in costs to offer those services – can probably afford to take a hit with a big discount in hopes of earning a new customer or gaining renewed interest from an existing customer, especially if they are new to the market. Keep in mind though that the “middle man” here – the coupon company – wants their cut too and up front, and that’s usually a 50/50 split with the vendor’s remaining profit. In other words, if it usually retails for $20 and the “daily deal” is get it for only $10, then the business owner is only making $5.
I don’t know if you’ve been to the grocery store lately, but food ain’t cheap. REAL ingredients are expensive, and they’re expensive even when you buy them in large quantities. This is probably why a lot of bakeries succumb to the idea that using mixes will save them money. Sure it will! It costs a lot less than baking from scratch with individual ingredients and you save on labor on top of that. Well, I simply refuse to go that route. We bake everything from scratch at Sugarbaby’s and I don’t cut corners and never will. That’s not what we’re about. I know and taste the difference, and my customers do to. It’s just a standard of quality we have, and intend to stick by. So, that being said, it costs me more to make my cupcakes than some of the other places. Milk, butter, flour, eggs – they’re all expensive these days. Throw in things like gourmet cocoa and chocolate, organic carrots, etc. and don’t forget the packaging – imagine the price of the paper products – heavy cases of paper products - that just drown in shipping costs too. You get my drift.
So let’s be real then. If my avg dozen cupcakes retails for $33 and we offered the “suggested” 50% discount, the deal would be $16.50. The coupon company gets half of that, so we’d make only $8.25 on that dozen. Some of these companies with a large subscriber base sell a LOT of these coupons – 2000 or more in fact. I saw a cupcake deal in another city that sold over 8000 coupons. Multiply that out by the average say 2000 deals, and this coupon company just made around $16,500 on my one deal (that’s a lot to shell out of your marketing budget in one hit for a small business by the way), and they get their money up front. My business on the other hand, may only get it’s portion in installments over a 3 month period. Meanwhile, all the cupcake hungry coupon buyers that all just got a great deal, start flocking in to redeem their coupons. Since they’ve already paid the coupon co. by credit card for the deal, not a penny is going into my cash register while I wait for “my cut”. I’m still buying the ingredients, paying the staff to make them, and the bills to have the store open to come and get them, but now I am waiting to get paid…only 25% of what I would normally make.
And let’s think…how many of the people that buy this deal are actually NEW customers? I’d imagine the vast majority are customers who already know us, since they recognized the value of the deal in the first place, and we’re not talking about some brand new business that’s trying to get the word out. We’ve been in business over 3 years now.
When you look at the dollars “donated” to the deal – $33,000 in a 50% discount and $16,500 to the coupon company to simply blast it out – I am PAYING people to eat my cupcakes. It makes much more sense to offer MY OWN discounts and promotions to my clients and fans from time to time (which we already do) and cut out the middle man.
To top it all off, one of these companies happened to hit me up right after they posted a coupon for another local cupcake business which they sent me as an example. Oddly enough the cupcakes in their ad weren’t even their cupcakes. It was a pictures of another national chain bakery’s signature cupcakes. I recognized them immediately, and while it was a nice photo, I can only imagine how many people bought the coupon thinking they were going to get those good lookin’ cupcakes. Good luck with that one. For the sake of their subscribers, I hope the coupon company does a better job of checking their businesses before they offer deals in the future.
I also found a picture of MY CUPCAKES in an online ad to drive customers to one of these group coupon sites. They just copied a picture off our Flickr page (which clearly states each photo is copyrighted), and created a banner ad for their own business without my permission. How’s that for good business practices? I’m sure there were plenty of people that clicked on the banner thinking they were going to get a deal on those cupcakes only to be taken to some sales pitch webpage asking them to sign up for some junkmail…until I kindly asked them to stop using my photo anyway.
This economy is tough on a business like mine. Costs are going up, clients are being more careful with their money, and competition is always looming in the background. Yes I want to find creative ways to bring in new business and keep bringing in existing business, but throwing money away is not going to be the way I choose to do it. If my readers are disappointed they won’t be getting one of those “great daily deals” in their inbox with Sugarbaby’s name on it, all you have to do is subscribe to our enews, Facebook page or Twitter page, and we promise you’ll see some good deals in your future.
Originally uploaded by Sugarbabys
We recently had a mom come in to order cupcakes for her son’s birthday. He’s in that pre-teen stage where “character cakes” are no longer cool and colored icing is for “kids”. The staff suggested some Rock Star themed decorations we happened to have in stock and simple traditional vanilla and chocolate buttercreams (no color) with some coordinating sprinkles. A little flash of cool, but nothing over-done. Mom loved them and hopefully her son did too.
Not every cupcake has to be “girly” you know. In fact a surprising number of our regular customers are in fact MEN. Yes, the pink walls may be a little daunting at first, but it’s been said that the way to man’s heart is through his stomach, so once they taste the cupcakes, they’re hooked. What flavors do our gentlemen customers like? Well, they tend to go for the chocolate – the more chocolate the better. So the chocolate truffle which is baked, filled, frosted, dipped and covered in various chocolate deliciousness is a fave. They also love the Dippity-Doo-Dah which is filled with vanilla buttercream and dipped in dark chocolate (and which I love to hear a man say with a straight face). Your basic vanilla with chocolate, German chocolate, and of course the St. Arnold Stout Chocolate (when in season) are all popular too. Do you see a trend here?
So yes, guys eat cupcakes too and it doesn’t make them any less cool for doing it. In fact the man who brings cupcakes from Sugarbaby’s will always be surrounded by friends – well at least until the box is empty.
We love creating orders for our clients that really GO with their event. Yes, we can coordinate icing colors and sprinkles, but for a little extra you can have hand dyed, individually cut edible decorations that say “these cupcakes match the party.”
From baby feet or longhorns to butterflies and unicorns, we’ve got a tiny little cutter for a wide range of shapes. Bring us an invitation to the event and we can find SOMETHING that will work. Ok occassionally we do run across a shape we can’t match, like an oil rig or a rocket, but maybe something as simple as spelling out a message with individual letters or stacking colored dots to get a dimensional effect with color and your cupcakes WILL make a statement – “dessert has arrived, and it didn’t just come off the shelf.”
Check out our flickr page to see lots of our personalized designs in action!
We are often asked if we can put a complete logo or photo on a cupcake. Due to the time involved in hand detailing certain logos, we have to decline some of the more complicated designs. Yes…I’m sure you have all seen those sheet cakes with pictures on them. Maybe for a graduation cake or a child’s favorite cartoon character. Those images are printed on “edible paper” that basically bleeds into the icing it is placed on to create an edible image on a cake. The taste and texture can sometimes be unpleasant, and the cost of the imaging system and upkeep are not very pleasant either, so we declined to install that little ball of trouble too.
Now, when a client brought me her own personalized M&M’s with baby pictures to put on mini cupcakes for a 40th birthday party, I thought I just gotta share this one. You can get your very own personalized M&M candies at www.mymms.com and add words, logos, faces, etc. and choose your own candy colors. I think they’d be great on a candy “buffet” table for a theme party, wrapped up in favors, or just as a gift in and of itself (they offer a gift box online). Or…of course…you can put them on cupcakes.
I am a bit of a color perfectionist. I have always had a thing for colors – crayons, markers, pencils, paint, pixels – whatever. If you’ve seen my hair, which happens to currently have some rather large streaks of electric pink, you’d know I am not afraid of color.
The same goes for my cupcakes. Now at times, depending on the customer I am speaking to and what I can read from them about their attitude, style, etc., I sometimes have to guide people away from certain colors. For instance, moms love to come in and order shades of primary blue, red, green, etc for their elementary aged children’s birthday party at school. Being a mom with 2 kids of my own, I sometimes have to remind parents that their son or daughter’s teacher might not be so fond of asking the janitorial staff to clean that up off the floor and out of the carpet, and there may be some other moms that won’t be too pleased to see little Suzie’s face and school uniform in a new shade of blue for the rest of the evening (or longer). Those kinds of primary, deeply saturated colors take A LOT of dye to get that way, and dye is another word for stain.
BUT, give me a challenge and I am usually up for the task. Since I try to make a point to at least be a visual partner to every single special order as it is being made, if you give us a color to create a cupcake design with, I am going to try as hard as I can to get my crew to match it perfectly. Seriously. My staff probably thinks I tend to overwork it – that the customer isn’t going to care if it’s a tad lighter or darker – but I want it perfect. I love this stuff. There’s nothing better than a client seeing the order for the first time and saying “it’s absolutely perfect!” Why yes, it is…or as close as we could get to it with buttercream anyway.
I learned a lot about color in college actually – with projects I had for interior and retail design classes, fabric, and textiles. I fell in love with the colorwheel and how colors combine to make various shades of new colors. So it’s always fun when one of the baker’s is trying to mix a color to match an invitation and can’t seem to get it right. We have a shelf full of color gels to work with – including for example about 5 different shades of blue and 6 different shades of pink alone. But mixing colors is where the real fun is. I get a kick out of looking into a bowl of blue and saying “it needs a drop of purple to flatten it out”. I often get a look that quietly says “what is she thinking,” but it works. Trust me. It was too turquoise, which is a little green, which means it has yellow in it and the exact opposite of yellow is purple. There. That’s better. I told you.
Now, I have come to realize that my familiarity and understanding of color is not universal. One person’s sage green is another person’s olive green, turquoise and teal are often used interchangeably, and fuschia…ugg…we won’t even go there. Yes, these are all colors of icing we create on a regular basis and with every order we have to interpret them differently. Why? Because they mean something different to every customer and that’s what makes what we do unique. How do I best solve that problem? Ask for a sample. A swatch of ribbon, an invitation, a photo from a magazine. We once had a customer drop off 2 Halmark cards with colors she wanted for her cupcakes. Did the cards have anything to do with the party? No. But she liked the colors on the cards and that’s what matters. Did we match it? Heck yeah we did. And darn well of course. Sometimes if there’s no sample available, we find one. If its not in our photo book, we walk through the store and find things that fit the bill. The order might end up reading something like “the color of the purple butterfly on the trinket box on the shelf by the door”. It’s not very scientific but at least the customer and the person that took their order saw exactly what color purple those cupcakes were going to be. Yes, it’s that important to us…to me.
The flaw in the whole “give me a sample” plan is when the sample arrives via email. Colors never seem to print the way they appear online. And then you gotta wonder, if they scanned it, did it look all together different from what I am seeing online too? You should see me with a gaggle of bakers comparing icing to a pic on my computer screen in my broom closet of an office.
Yes, that’s dedication…and you are not going to find THAT at our so called competitors’ shops, because clients have asked them, been told no, and come to us to get it done right. Just sayin’.