Brooklyn

How Brooklyn Cupcake has survived and thrived as a small business: friends and household, the Food Network, and adapting to the pandemic

On the Tuesday earlier than Thanksgiving, Carmen Rodriguez, proprietor of Brooklyn Cupcake, was in Florida, in search of a location to develop the standard New York bakeshop to the Sunshine State. She’s spent the day coping with last-minute on-line vacation orders, and the subsequent few months are sure to be simply as busy. 

The small business proprietor launched the beloved bake store again in 2011, and has since grow to be a fixture in the borough and a useful resource to different native mom-and pops. 

Founding Brooklyn Cupcake

In 2010, the baking-loving Brooklynite’s friends and household began encouraging her to discover a approach to get her baked items out to the public after she was laid off. The economic system was nonetheless in tough form, and firms large and small have been struggling, Rodriguez stated. Many individuals didn’t have jobs.

She wished to take her family members’ recommendation however didn’t have the funds or data to dive proper into opening a retailer, so she began small — making cupcakes for “little jobs” like child showers and birthday events.

That was in October 2010. Two months later, a native church put in an order for 1,000 cupcakes. Every week later, they ordered 1,500 extra. Brooklyn Cupcake was off the floor.

Rodriguez began out as a dwelling baker getting orders for child showers and birthdays from friends and household — and those self same family members finally helped her increase sufficient money to open her store. Carmen Rodriguez

Finding a bodily location was nonetheless difficult, although — they have been costly, and most wished up to six months hire forward of time since the business was so new. Even funds devoted to serving to Latina business house owners instructed her she was higher off turning to household and friends — so she did. 

Her sister helped out, and her mom pulled money out of a financial savings account to lay the groundwork. They raised round $80,000 from different friends and household.

From there, issues moved rapidly. Brooklyn Cupcake was featured by the Food Network and the Daily News. Through a reference to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, she secured a spot for Brooklyn Cupcakes inside the Barclays Center.

“Then, we’re very lucky. A year into it, I’m at this business expo … and with my luck, I happen to be stationed right in front of Goldman Sachs, the foundation that helps 10,000 small businesses,” Rodriguez recalled. “They couldn’t believe how many people were coming to us at our station. Of course, we had cupcakes, we were the life of the party.” 

At the finish of the expo, the Goldman Sachs workers inspired her to apply for the program, which might actually deepen her data and understanding of business. She utilized, and was accepted.

“It was just an incredible experience, because I was in the room with 32 different types of businesses — it was construction, it was a hair salon, it was me, a baker, everything you could imagine,” Rodriguez stated. “It was interesting to find that we all had common problems. Employee retention, financing, obtaining financing to move forward, and things like that.” 

Years later, she nonetheless reaches again to her contacts from the program when she wants assist, or somebody to present florals for the store. It acquired her on the proper observe for achievement, she stated.

Pivoting to the web to survive the pandemic 

That coaching got here in helpful two years in the past, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the metropolis and shuttered almost all the pieces. Rodriguez instructed her workers to keep at dwelling as she and her husband dealt with the bake store’s on-line orders themselves.

After a few weeks, individuals began knocking on the door. As a meals business, Brooklyn Cupcake was nonetheless allowed to be open, in order that they began making some in-person gross sales, although foot visitors was gradual.

Online visitors, although, took off. Before the pandemic, they averaged about $3,000 in on-line orders per 30 days. Rodriguez stated. In 2020, these numbers skyrocketed to up to $25,000. By the time the second spherical of Payroll Protection program funds got here out, Brooklyn Cupcake didn’t qualify, as a result of they hadn’t been working at a loss. 

Two years later, web gross sales are nonetheless excessive, and Brooklyn Cupcake has outgrown their space on Union Avenue. Her household in Florida stated they’d assist her out if she expanded there – in order that’s the plan. There are nonetheless 5 years left on the Williamsburg lease, she stated, so Brooklyn Cupcake will nonetheless be in the metropolis for fairly a whereas.

Staying afloat and holding workers as a small business

Despite the store’s success, Rodriguez “isn’t rich off the business,” she stated, and she is aware of she will be able to’t at all times sustain with the salaries and advantages provided by bigger firms. In the starting, the Brooklyn Cupcake workers was principally made up of members of the family — and Rodriguez’s sister, Gina, continues to be concerned to this present day. 

“What happened is I said, ‘Wow, there are a lot of great people out there,’ and I wanted to obtain some of them,” she stated. “I had to figure out a way because you have a company like Amazon, and they come into the neighborhood and start offering $15 an hour when we weren’t at $15 an hour.” 

When minimal wage went up in New York City, small companies had two years to work their approach up to $15 per hour. Any of Rodriguez’s workers may have left to get a higher-paying job — however they didn’t. That was when she realized she had a nice time, and wanted to preserve them blissful. 

“These are moms, so they have children, and they like the flexibility of being able to be home with the child,” she stated. “That requires a certain kind of schedule,” that Brooklyn Cupcake was ready to present. 

hochul in brooklyn cupcake
Governor Kathy Hochul and Brooklyn Borough President visited the bake store in August. Rodriguez stated that whereas she will be able to’t sustain with all the pieces the large firms supply, she works exhausting to preserve her staff blissful and cared for. Brooklyn Cupcake/Facebook

She stored up that flexibility with all of her workers — a few of them began as youngsters, and are actually working via school or graduate college. A number of are actually moms themselves. One worker, who has been at Brooklyn Cupcake for ten years, has stated she’s by no means leaving, Rodriguez stated.

She additionally tries to get them collectively for normal staff outings — meals or different little journeys. If she hears considered one of her workers members saying they haven’t been to the motion pictures in a few years, she’ll purchase them a film ticket. 

With Small Business Saturday on the horizon, Rodriguez stated the most vital factor for brand spanking new or potential small biz house owners to do is know their competitors, and differentiate themselves.

That’s a part of Brooklyn Cupcake’s success, she stated. At the time when she began the business, cupcake outlets have been booming — however many have since closed, even when they have been bigger or wealthier. She stayed away from what was widespread and used completely different sorts of icings and fillings, and that set her aside from the competitors. 

“Before you go out there and spend your hard-earned money — it’s one thing to do research, that’s great — but it’s about developing a relationship, or social media, all those are very important,” Rodriguez stated. “If you can, find that one thing that makes you different.”

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