Fabulous Female Friday – Heather White from Cupcake Girls
I’m really excited to feature Heather White from Cupcakes by Heather & Lori today on City Mom.
If you haven’t seen their hit show Cupcake Girls on W Network, here’s a quick summary of what these two fabulous females are all about.
Heather and Lori have been friends since they were 15 years old and grew up on Vancouver Island. In the fall of 2001, their jobs as sales reps for an odour control company brought them to NYC during the time of the 9/11 tragedy.
Amidst all the sadness they took a break for a little ‘pick-me-up’ and ended up at a famous New York bakery; Magnolia Bakery. After buying some cupcakes their mood lifted a little and this held the key to their future. Heather quickly realized that if a cupcake can bring happiness at a time like 9/11 then it’s something that must be celebrated. Since that day they haven’t stopped celebrating.
There are now eight Cupcakes stores throughout British Columbia. And the good news (for me at least) is that Heather and Lori are working on an eastern location. They hope to have their first Toronto store open just before Christmas. I will travel for these!
Today we get a unique opportunity to catch up with Heather who is not only a fabulous female and entrepreneur but also a new mom to her son Spencer.
Tell us how Cupcakes came about.
Lori and I had always discussed opening a business together; we’re both from retail so we thought it would be in the clothing industry. Instead, we created a brand with Cupcakes and followed it up with a very consistent product.
We were most excited about the fact that nobody in Vancouver was doing anything over the top with cupcakes or cakes. There have been businesses built around the doughnut and the cookie but nothing done around cupcakes.
Here in Canada everybody seems to be bringing Tim Hortons to the office, mainly Timbits so everyone can have a little bite-size of something. I thought ‘you know what, why not do something a little classier’
Everyday there seems to be some sort of celebration, so I wanted to do something fun with a variety of flavours like Timbits but something a little different.
We have now become the upscale Timbits in Vancouver and people are bringing them to all types of occasions. On day one when we opened the doors, we had a line up outside the store. No one could believe what we were doing. We were sold out of cupcakes three hours later.
You broke the three golden rules of business; you didn’t have a business plan, you didn’t know much about cupcakes and you went into business with your best friend. To what do you attribute your success despite this?
The fact that we did break all three of those rules; the beauty of it was that we didn’t have a business degree or an MBA, we learned everything from the ground up. From day one in business you learn how to be the janitor, accountant and baker all at the same time. We learned through our mistakes and through feedback from our customers; we put our noses to the grindstone.
It’s pretty cool to have your own TV show. How did that come about?
Lori was approached about the show before I was. Lori takes care of the PR side of our business, so she got an email about it from someone who had seen us on a local show we were doing. The network saw the dynamic between the two of us and said they wanted to write a show about women in business.
They thought it would be a good idea to combine the fact that we were the first ever cupcake shop and best friends and business partners with the fact that we didn’t have any baking experience.
It took Lori about six months to talk me into doing the show because I wanted to protect the brand. All I knew about reality TV at that point was Jon and Kate Plus 8, and that was just a tragedy on television and I didn’t want to do that. But we both agreed to shoot the pilot and once we saw it, we really liked what we saw. It was fun and entertaining, bright and colourful and the store was being shown in a very positive and bright light.
Tell us about your ‘personal distractions’ pact that you and Lori committed to.
We decided that the business needed 100 percent of our attention so in order for us to give it that we agreed that for the first 5 years of business we would commit solely to that. So no one was going to be distracted by a pregnancy or planning a wedding or leaving the store. That was our biggest concern; one of us leaving for a long period of time.
Now that pact is over, how do you manage your family life and your business?
Well it’s interesting, I just had my baby, he’s four months old and Lori has a one year old and she’s now six month pregnant.
It definitely changes things with your schedule. We both have to be flexible and work around each other’s schedules.
Lori’s son goes with his dad to his office everyday. He works with his parents so Max has his own room and gets to play and do his own thing while Lori’s mother-in-law looks after him.
My little guy comes to work with me everyday as I’m very fortunate too because my mom works here as well. She takes him around town running errands etc. I get my work done, but we’re not working super-long days but we do enough so that we both feel we’ve gotten enough done.
How do you and Lori maintain your friendship?
We went through the struggles of being business partners and best friends but we really do consider our relationship like a marriage. We’re in a legal partnership and agreement. At the end of the day we’re not always going to agree but one of us has to agree to disagree and we take turns doing that.
It’s worked out for the better; it’s built an amazing business, partnership and friendship. It’s been almost 10 years now and we’re tighter than ever. We’re very, very good friends and we are like family to each other.
Some have said that cupcakes are a fad, what do you say to that, and how do you keep your business fresh and on trend?
They were calling the doughnut a fad all those years ago and they’re still around.
As I mentioned in the beginning, everyday there is a celebration or there’s a wedding. That wedding turns into a first birthday or a second birthday and it goes on like that. We are really part of people’s everyday. We also do a tonne of corporate accounts and we’ve even done Cupcakes at a Wake. It’s so diverse and it doesn’t have to be for just one particular occasion.
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs?
Lori and I were in a position that we really had nothing to lose. And we wanted to know how people would respond after we put our idea out there. We’ve had the best 10 years of our lives, because we put our hearts and souls into it. Our return was bigger than we ever expected.
We only live one life, why not do it that way that you should or the way you feel is the most exciting.
Do it from the heart!
What’s the last book you read?
Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp M.D., it’s why I’m able to be back at work.
What’s the last song you listened to on your iPod?
Rolling In The Deep by Adele. It’s the only song that will quiet my son if he’s crying while driving in the car.Thank you so much to Heather for taking the time out of her busy life to share with us on City Mom!