The Fresh Take Talks series returns to this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in September with a series of 20-minute presentations from industry experts. These sessions will be hosted over the course of four days and topics will focus on baking industry issues, consumer concerns, and the future of food.
One of the key topics that will be discussed as part of the series is how to build a brand. Experts on this subject, sisters and Georgetown Cupcake founders Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne will speak to how they’ve turned their bakery into a destination for cupcake lovers across the globe. In just over a decade in business, they’ve turned Georgetown Cupcake into one of the biggest names in baking and have expanded it to retail locations in six major U.S. cities.
Speaking with Bake Magazine, the sisters gave a preview of what they will cover at IBIE 2019 on Tuesday, September 10.
Bake Magazine: In a little over a decade, you’ve turned Georgetown Cupcake into one of the biggest names in baking. What has been the biggest key to the company’s success?
Our focus on creating a best-in-class product – by using the highest quality ingredients in our baking while staying true to our core recipes – has definitely been the biggest factor in Georgetown Cupcake’s success. Over the past decade in business, we have always made our product quality our primary focus and strived to create best-in-class cupcakes that our customers crave.
How did Georgetown Cupcake become involved with the TLC Network, and how has that deal affected your business?
Doing a television show was not something that was initially in our plans. We were approached by a TV producer who visited our bakery, witnessed the fast-paced nature of it, and asked to film some footage. Very quickly, the footage was shown to TLC and before we knew it, we were filming DC Cupcakes. Our show resonated with many viewers around the world, particularly people at home who had the same entrepreneurial dream we had – to chase their passion and start a business. The show definitely helped spread our Georgetown Cupcake brand with viewers across the world and it is wonderful to hear that for so many visitors to our bakeries, their visits are “bucket list” stops. When your bakery is on television, there is a higher bar to meet for your customers. When customers watch our business on TV and then visit our actual bakeries, we want them to leaving saying that Georgetown Cupcake was as amazing as they thought it would be, that our cupcakes were as delicious as they imagined, and that their visit was as magical as they had hoped. We want to exceed their expectations every time.
The Cupcake Cam is such a unique idea. Do you believe that it is a strong marketing tool for the bakery?
The Cupcake Cam is a great way to allow our customers behind-the-scenes at our bakery. We had 6 cameras streaming live from our bakery, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 3 years straight – non-stop. Customers could literally see the eggs being cracked and the batters being mixed, the cupcakes being frosted and decorated, and then finally packaged for each walk-in customer, all in real-time. For us, it was the ultimate level of transparency as food business and that ultimately builds customer trust in your brand. We are now working on the next iteration of visual technology to share the behind-the-scenes Georgetown Cupcake experience with our customers in an even closer way. Customers care about how their food is made and even though we are a bakery, we try to use technology to connect to our customers in an authentic way and make them feel like a part of our baking and decorating process.
Georgetown Cupcake sells a line of cupcake, layer cake, and frosting mixes in partnership with Williams Sonoma. What role does merchandise play in growing a brand?
For us, this is a wonderful way to further share the Georgetown Cupcake brand with our customers. We love being able to share our mixes with our customers so that they can bake their favorite Georgetown Cupcake flavors together at home with their families. For us, as sisters growing up, it was our grandmother who taught us to bake and it was from her that we developed our love and passion for baking. We spent much of our childhood at her side in her kitchen – helping her to bake. To this day, the memories of baking together with her are still vivid in our minds to the smallest detail – from her old-fashioned egg beater to her embroidered aprons, and even the tiny pans she had for us to bake our own tiny cakes and breads with left over batter and dough. Our grandmother was a very profound influence on us. From her, we saw and experienced the joy that we could bring to others through baking – the notion that something that we made with our own hands could bring happiness to others. So, for us to be able to share our Georgetown Cupcake mixes with our customers and fans so that they can bake them at home with their families and create their own special memories – is something that means a lot to us personally, and also allows us to connect with our customers in a powerful and authentic way.
The company now bakes over 25,000 cupcakes a day and ships its cupcakes nationwide. How have you stayed motivated to grow the business and increase that output?
We have always taken a very measured approach to growth in order to be able to meet our growing customer demand. In the baking business, however, it is critical to remain focused on product quality as you scale, and this is something we are always focused on. Over the past decade, we’ve always considered the right approach to growth based on how our customers are ordering our products. When we first started our business, we didn’t deliver or ship our cupcakes, the iPhone had just hit the market, and social media had just begun. Now, ten years later, delivery and shipping are key components of our business, and mobile devices and social media play a key role in online ordering and marketing. As a business, we’ve always tried to keep our pulse on technological changes and how they can affect how we do business. The most successful businesses are those that are able to adapt to change. How customers ordered cupcakes ten years ago is vastly different than how they order them today and how they will be ordering them ten years from now. Our ultimate goal in our growth strategy is to keep Georgetown Cupcake a cherished baking brand for decades and decades to come.
Georgetown Cupcake regularly participates in community events nationwide and actively supports numerous local and national charitable organizations and foundations. How has that contributed to your brand?
The most rewarding part of starting Georgetown Cupcake has been the ability to give back to our communities in which we operate and to see the tangible impact that our cupcakes can have on people’s lives. When we first started our company, it was hard for us to imagine that something as small as a cupcake could make such a large impact, but as we’ve grown our business over the past 10 years, we’ve learned that it’s not just about sugar, flour, and eggs – it’s about spreading love, comfort, happiness, and joy to others. We focus on working with charitable organizations committed to children fighting serious illnesses such as the Hope For Henry Foundation and Make-A-Wish Foundation. Since 2010, we’ve also continued our annual “Operation Cupcake” – a partnership we have with the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – in which we send 10,000 cupcakes to our troops serving abroad each December, so that they can have a little taste of home while deployed over the holidays. At its core, Georgetown Cupcake is about spreading happiness and that feeling of happiness means a lot to our customers.
The Fresh Take Talks session Building and Maintaining a Passion Brand in the Baking Industry takes place Sept. 10 during IBIE. To register for this event, click here.