Downtown Milford, Ohio has a sweet new addition this year. Sugar Cupcakery serves gourmet organic cupcakes and specialty teas. It is owned by sisters Krista Tevar and Karla Jennings and opened on Labor Day—after just six months of planning. They credit the business-friendly environment in Clermont County for their speedy open. They chose a charming building with a baking history—in the 1800s, it was Adam’s Bakery.
The idea for Sugar came late in 2008 when Krista and her family were in Delaware for Thanksgiving. They stopped by a cupcakery in Washington D.C., and she thought, “This would be a really fun business to have.” From there, the plan was set into action. She credits Karla for the creative energy behind Sugar Cupcakery’s design.
Karla, a photo stylist, develops the recipes and designed the trendy, colorful interior of Sugar. She explains that one of the challenges to effective design is creating a good plan and sticking with it, even in the face of contrary opinions. “Don’t listen to naysayers if you know your plan will work,” she advises.
Small business marketing focuses on relationships
Krista knows the importance customer relationships play in small businesses. She says,
“People who have never been here before are surprised by what they get. We deliver an experience with our cupcakes. It’s more than a take out place where you get a cupcake on a napkin. Our menu is very vague because we want to talk to people, and we want people to ask questions. We have a relationship with our clientele.”
Because they get to know their customers, Krista and Karla are able to help people with special dietary needs. They’ve worked with parents to create special recipes for children who’ve never had cupcakes—letting them share in the same birthday fun other children enjoy. They also offer special-order vegan and gluten-free cupcakes. Krista notes, “We only need a day’s notice for special orders. Just call us, and we’ll work with you.”
Social networking is a key marketing strategy
In an environment where many small business marketing departments can’t make heads or tails of social networking, Karla attributes Sugar’s success to two factors: location and social networking. She elaborates,
“Everyday, I post on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. I try to link them all together. We get a lot of feedback. Social networking enables our customers to tell us what they think. It’s so rewarding because customers come in and say, ‘I follow you on Facebook! I know what your specials are!’ We try to get people to share their pictures. You just have to know how to tag everything, so that it links back to who you are. Always make sure to include the city, state and name of the business.”
Developing social networking and local relationships together have allowed Sugar to expand its influence to other opportunities. They have several corporate accounts, including with PNC Bank. Recently, Sidewinder Coffee in Northside starting carrying their cupcakes.
Among their cupcake and tea offerings, they also have a private room for parties or meetings. It holds between 20-40 people, has a patio and a flatscreen television for presentations or slide shows.
As with all small business endeavors, it hasn’t been easy to achieve success. In the beginning, obtaining cost-effective, fresh and organic ingredients was a challenge—sometimes they had to settle for what they could get. But through much research, networking and negotiating, they finally have suppliers that meet their demanding standards and still leave room for profit.
In their final comments, Krista and Karla leave us with advice for entrepreneurs just starting out:
“Save your money and be patient. It’s a lot of work. You have to do all the work yourself at first. You have to make sure you’re really organized, motivated and know what your business plan is. You really have to plan and outline. It’s less overwhelming if you plan.”
Sugar Cupcakery is a great example of a small business that understands marketing, customer relationships and how to use technology to get closer to their customers (instead of further away from them). They realize that having a great product isn’t enough to ensure success– although I can attest that their product is amazing.
32 Main Street
Milford, Oh 45150
Tuesday – Thursday 11am – 7pm
Friday and Saturday 11am – 10pm
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