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This year my daughter’s birthday was a big deal. After living two years through a pandemic, we finally felt comfortable enough to host a party with our closest friends. In her view, the party had to consist only of cupcakes. so we turned to cake girl And ordered a variety of flavors, including its Craven Cup and my daughter’s favorite find: chocolate overload.
“As a young girl growing up in Puerto Rico, I was obsessed with sweets and baking,” said Christina Lovely, founder and CEO of The Cake Girl. “I would beg my parents to take me to the grocery store so I could see the cakes and baked goods. Surprising and delighting someone with a cupcake would become the calling of my life.”
Baking continues to have its moment. Our obsession with watching reality shows where bakers are in a race to create the most realistic shoe cakes or come up with the most innovative flavors doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The US baking industry, which includes approximately 6,000 retail bakeries and 3,000 commercial bakers, generates over $30 billion in annual revenue. and although percentage of americans Those who identify as health-conscious have nearly doubled in the past five years, something we could all use a moment (or two) to indulge our sweet tooth.
When she started The Cake Girl in 2009, Lovely was eager to enter this market. Their popular Craven Cups (which were a hit with my daughter, her friends, and their parents) put a new spin on the traditional cupcake. They are made from cake layers and frosting in jars that ship nationwide from The Cake Girl’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Flavors include Chocolate Overload, Unicorn, Cookies ‘n’ Cream, Lady in Red, Cookie Butter, and more. Lavallee also offers gluten-free and vegetarian options.
“I’m on a mission to share my passion for baking with the world,” says Lovely. “I continue to build my business focused on one cake at a time, and one customer at a time.”
The three most important lessons he has learned in more than a decade of doing business.
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“Word of mouth is your strongest marketing tool.”
Lovely’s journey to make The Cake Girl started from her kitchen. “I was out of my house making cakes for friends and family,” she recalls. “I learned firsthand what many people say: Word of mouth is your strongest marketing tool. Friends would refer friends, and I couldn’t fulfill all the orders people were requesting. Only then did I know that We have to scale the cake girl.”
When Lovely moved to Tampa and married, she and her husband continued to push the brand beyond their circle of friends and family. They went to festivals and farmers’ markets. Talk about Cake Girl kept spreading. Customers said they would make the one-hour drive to the farmer’s market to buy Lovely’s famous carrot cake. “We kept experimenting before starting a food truck, and then eventually a brick-and-mortar store,” she says. “My advice to entrepreneurs is to build a strong community of fans before you grow too fast.”
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Image credit: Cake Girl
“I don’t want anyone to feel like they don’t belong.”
Early in her career, Lovely worked in a bakery, where she helped an elderly co-worker. The woman only spoke Spanish, so Lavallee would translate requests from customers into Spanish for her. Lavalli remembers receiving a strict order from a then-supervisor: “You can’t speak Spanish here. You need to speak English all the time.”
Lovely the floor was done. “All of a sudden, I was forbidden from speaking my first language and helping a colleague, or for that matter, communicating with clients in Spanish,” she says. “From that moment on, I knew I wouldn’t treat my employees the way we were treated. I’m focused on building a business where everyone brings the best version of themselves to work. and feel that how you treat your employees is just as important as how you treat your customers.”
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“I would not sacrifice quality for quantity.”
In one of her first corporate jobs, Lovely worked at Publix, where she learned how to bake cakes fast. “We were focused on speed and quantity; if a customer wanted a cake, we’d whip something up in 30 minutes to make them happy,” she shares. “At the same time, details and quality matter for a cake. As I teach my team, you can never sacrifice quality. Because when customers come to us, they expect the highest quality, And we always work on that.” That’s why each of Cake Girl’s Craven cups are individually hand-packed, and the label on the bottom of the jar is signed by the baker who created the product.
The focus on quality has certainly benefited Lovely and his team. Cake Girl has tripled its business in the past three years despite the pandemic. As Lovely looks to the future, she is interested in finding a strategic partner who can help her grow and grow business across the US as a franchisee. “We want a partner who has the same level of commitment to delivering high quality products,” she says. “I would love to take the joy of Craven Cups to upmarket grocery stores and retailers across the country so that everyone can experience the joy and happiness you felt at your daughter’s birthday party.”
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