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Risk/Reward: The Entrepreneur’s R&R: The Little Red Riding Hood of Cupcakes

Citron & Cerise

Citron & Cerise

This a.m. I sat at Cafe Momus in Old Montreal and enjoyed one of the best cupcakes of my life. It was creamy and chocolaty and just the right texture and consistency.  Across the table from me was Nadine Spicer, the woman responsible.  She owns Les Cupcakes du Chaperon Rouge  (Little Red Riding Hood Cupcakes) .  Her cupcakes are made with fresh ingredients, precision, creativity and love.

Immediately I liked this woman. Her cupcake business, which she started 1.5 years ago, was inspired by her grandmother with whom she used to bake. Her grandmother died three years ago and the cupcake business idea was born after. 

Nadine’s story shares many parallels with Michael Gerber’s fictional character Sarah who runs a pie shop.  In his famous book The E Myth Revisited (E is for Entrepreneur), Michael encounters Sarah when her business where she is up to her eyeballs baking pies because she hasn’t yet designed the business to be a “mature business” in which she doesn’t have to be the chief pie maker, entrepreneur and manager all at the same time.   At the moment, Nadine is the chief cupcake maker, marketer and business manager.

Nadine has grown incredibly as a person during her first years in business. She has become a skilled networker who can speak proudly of her business and her product. She’s had success securing corporate clients who love her cupcakes for events and she has become a regular host of a cupcake workshops at Ateliers et Saveurs, a cooking school in Old Montreal.  I note that while her next workshop is already sold out, there were 5 spaces left for September 27th when I looked! She also does cupcake parties for kids and adults.

Her biggest flop and her biggest lessons came from baking 30 dozen cupcakes to sell at a sampling event and selling only two dozen.  She felt devasted at the time but learned a great deal.

I learned that people don’t buy a dozen premium cupcakes for dinner that night just because they had a bite.   Tasting can lead to orders but it’s not necessarily immediate as premium cupcakes are for special occasions.  Anytime I do sampling going forward, it will strictly be sampling and I will take orders.

What keeps her up at night is cash flow and how to wow her clients (all her cupcakes are original designs and she often creates special recipes and decorations depending on client need).  And what’s been harder than she ever imagined is how much time everything takes to accomplish.

When I asked her what she feels she needs most she said that beyond money she feels she needs an advisor or coach to help her put everything together.  She knows her product inside out and she knows what her clients want.  Now she just needs to take it to the next level. 

My recipe for Nadine is straightforward:

  • Get really clear on her vision going forward
  • Put everything she knows about her business on paper in the form of a business plan that will take her to the next level;
  • Focus on one niche (and at most two) to build Les Cupcakes du Chaperon Rouge;
  • Take time every week to strategize, initially perhaps with the help of a coach or business advisor; she could consider group coaching if her budget doesn’t allow for one-on-one coaching right now
  • Find more help with baking and decorating to free up her time to work “on the business” instead of “in the business” to the extent that she does
  • Continue to create cupcake masterpieces and become known as “the” cupcake woman to ensure that many more people get to enjoy the delight I had this morning
Au chocolat

Au chocolat

I end with Les Cupcakes’ tagline: Grand-maman les aurait adorés, si le loup ne l’avait pas mangée (Translation: Grandmother would have loved them if the wolf hadn’t eaten them!!).  May the Little Red Riding Hood of Cupcakes ride on!

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • D. Russell September 27, 2009, 3:23 pm

    Congratulations to Nadine for her amazing enthusiam and her devotion to growing her business. I have had the chance of meeting Nadine in person and it was clear from the get go that she is driven and motivated as well as kind and attentive to those around her.

    As for the coaching advice, it all makes sense and I am convinced that most small entrepreneurs (myself included) face the same growing pains as Nadine and that access to basic business financing is exactly what is missing from the equation….moneys that can help pay people to assist with the inumerable duties that tie up the entrepreneur’s time and eat up the resources that should be devoted to working ON the business as the author so aptly points out.

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