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.
We recented started offering a daily assortment of traditional French Macarons at Sugarbaby’s as a gluten free alternative to our usual sweets selection. So far, they’ve taken off smashingly and we are starting to see people coming back specifically for these miniature confections.
Now, if you haven’t tried these fashionable little goodies before, there’s been some talk about macarons being “the new cupcake” (see NPR article HERE). I don’t know if I would go that far. They do have the same appeal of the “individual size” and can be created in a never-ending assortment of flavor combinations similar to cupcakes, but they don’t exactly offer up the personalization opportunities or bring back the nostalgic memories of birthdays and baking at home.
French Macarons – VERY different from the American coconut macaroon you may be more familiar with – are not an easy undertaking. To be completely honest, I considered wrastling with this little morsel myself and making them in the store, but considering our crazy Houston climate that flip-flops from dry and cool to drippingly humid and hot, plus the nightmare of getting them perfectly consistent in size and shape for a retail environment and avoiding expensive waste, I thought it best to leave it to the experts and sought out a macaron master. Being one to support LOCAL business whenever I can, I found some Houston macaron specialists that had a decent selection, but they too know the challenges of preparing these goodies in this climate and weren’t willing to offer me a discount for ordering wholesale. It’s just not good business for me to offer something I can’t even make a dime off of, or to sell something at a higher price than the actual maker sells it for, so we had to scratch that idea and move on. Turns out I found a couple of French pastry chefs in NYC that have made it their primary focus in life to perfect the macaron, and their selection and quality shows they are doing a darn good job of it.
We now offer about 6 different flavors each day, and carry about 12 flavors in and out each month. Our selection ranges from the simple sweetness of lemon, raspberry, or almond to more adventurous flavors such as orange chocolate, earl grey and whiskey chestnut and we’ll have some seasonal flavors for winter and summer. As it turns out, we’ve actually priced them LOWER than pretty much everyone else in town that offers macarons (while still affording to pay to have them shipped from NYC). Go figure.
Macarons are small by design, but don’t let the size fool ya. They pack a flavorful punch of sweetness, taste and texture, so it’s not the kind of thing you would sit and eat a boxful of… and because ours are made from almond flour and all natural flavors, they are gluten free and perfect for those that have to decline most of our other tasty baked creations due to gluten sensitivities. I highly recommend trying one – maybe in a more traditional flavor for you first-timers – and then you can move your way up the list as you acquire a taste for them.
At Sugarbaby’s, we see opportunities for our macarons to make great gifts and party or wedding favors in individual packaging. They come in at a lower price point than an individual cupcake if you’re trying to budget those crazy wedding expenses, and are fairly famous in European countries as classic bonbonierres/favors. A gift in good taste is always a nice touch, even on a budget.
On a side note, I hear McDonald’s in France is offering macarons in some of their McCafes (WSJ article HERE), causing a bit of bashing from die hard macaron fans that think it’s bad for the delicacy’s reputation to go so “main-stream.” Let’s hope we don’t find them in our Happy Meals anytime soon!