Being an active participant in “cupcake wars” both on national television and on the streets of Southern California provides bakery owner Arleen Scavone with a unique vantage point to understand where the cupcake trend is heading. “Cupcake stores have literally skyrocketed in numbers over the past decade, but as quickly as the market has grown, competition has decided the winners and the losers,” says Scavone, the only three-peat winner of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and founder and CEO of Sweet Arleen’s in Westlake Village, CA.
“I’m now focusing on the real cupcake wars,” she says, when asked if she plans to return to the show where she enjoyed repeated success. Scavone is fully focused on growing her business and becoming a leader in the highly saturated cupcake segment. Sweet Arleen’s began franchising in May 2013 and has signed eight units in a little over a year. The ultimate goal is to sell an additional 100 units over the next three to five years.
“There is and will continue to be demand for cupcakes,” she says. “Cupcakes are affordable, offer gourmet taste and come in a wide number of flavors. Our focus is on delivering consistency. My business hasn’t seen any decline.”
In 2009, Scavone officially opened the first Sweet Arleen’s cupcake shop in Westlake Village, a Los Angeles suburb. She and her team are currently holding their first “Sweet Arleen’s University” where they are training the first of their signed franchisees, all set to open in the second half of 2014. The first was scheduled to open in July in Yorba Linda, CA, an affluent suburb in Orange County, CA. The second location is set to open in August in the Salt Lake City suburb of Draper, UT, and the third franchise store will open in the Dallas suburb of Plano, TX, in early October.
Sweet Arleen’s bakes boutique-style cupcakes and both sweet and savory bread puddings. The product line will remain the same at all franchise stores.
“We have sold eight franchises to date,” she says. “It is extremely exciting. It’s like having your sisters and brothers all together.”
Several years ago, Scavone started planning for this day. Prior to baking, she spent a career in banking and continues to run Operational Excellence, a nationwide consulting firm of mortgage professionals. “I’ve been a businesswoman all my life,” she says. “My profession is process management. Building systems around every procedure, and documenting every procedure. Our consistency of execution is the key to our brand message.”
So when the decision was made to franchise Sweet Arleen’s, they began to document procedures and build out systems. Scavone calls it “Sweet Arleen’s in box,” a turnkey manual on how to do everything. Then she learned an important lesson about how franchising has changed since the 2008-09 economic recession.
“Truly, the franchisee of today is a different franchisee than before the 2008 crash,” she says. “They’re going to need different support systems. The new transitional candidate has accumulated some wealth, but they want to do something different than traditional stocks and bonds investing. They’re looking for a model that you can make money doing while having fun. There is also the legacy franchisee who wants their kids close to them. For their kids, it gives them financial engagement now.”
Sweet Arleen’s is prepared to continue its expansion nationwide. “Our growth plan is to be in 20 core markets and ensure we have a system that builds velocity of growth,” Scavone says. For more information, visit http://franchising.sweetarleens.com/