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Side Gig Thursdays: Aprille Cole, Cups ‘N’ Cakes

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Aprille Cole, Cups N CakesCupcakes are all the rage these days and it’s not surprising that more and more people are taking advantage of that craze by opening up bakeries as a side gig. Today’s Side Gig Thursday is with Aprille Cole, owner and proprietor of Cups ‘N’ Cakes, a bakery in Collegeville, PA that grew out of her “small domestic bakery.” With the help of her husband and three children, her side gig grew to the point where she was able to open a storefront.

Not everyone is able to turn a hobby into a business but Aprille has and we discuss with her what she did to make it happen.

What is your day job?
I am the Director of Leasing for residential and student housing for GMH Capital Partners located of Newtown Square Pa. I have been in the property management industry for approximately 20 years.

What is your side gig?
I am the owner of Cups ‘N’ Cakes, a small bakery that specializes in custom cakes and cupcakes located in Collegeville Pa.

Why this business and how did you start it?
I have always made cakes and cupcakes for friends and family. When my daughter was young I ordered a specialty cake for her and while it was very pretty, it tasted horrible. So I started making all of my kids’ cakes from that point on.

Years later, while at work one day a co-worker had mentioned a very well known bakery where they had a specialty cake made and stated that it “looked great but tasted bland and was dry”. I offered to make their next events cake and my co-worker was so pleased with the look and taste that he convinced me to make a website and make cakes in my spare time. I am artistically inclined and wanted and I desperately needed an outlet for my art. So in April of 2010 I began branding the business and I set up my website.

By April of 2011 I saw that I had outgrown my homes kitchen and that the orders for specialty cakes and cupcakes were increasing so I began to look for a “bricks and mortar” location.

After doing a few market studies on three areas and doing a number of cost analysis I decided that Collegeville would be the perfect location. Not only because I lived in Collegeville but also because I already had a good size customer base from the local area.

How do you find new customers? Is it word of mouth? Advertising?
You would be amazed how word of mouth really helps. Every cake or cupcake we make for a customer in essence is its own form of advertising. When a person shares their dessert with someone and a person asks “where did you get this?” they are able to give our information. We also participate with many local events through Collegeville Main Streets programs. Lastly social media is HUGE for us. We have custmers who place their orders via Facebook. We also have a twitter account, mobile website and Yelp accounts. We participate in many events that have a high amount of exposure. Currently we will be on a billboard on 422 East for the next 4 months.

How much does it make each month?
The “bricks and mortar” location will have been in operation for a year in December of 2012. Our average income thus far is about 10K per month.

Do you have a plan to try to turn it into your full time gig?
I would eventually like to do that. Currently we are adding more products and selections to our store front and have increased our wedding cake production. We are also increasing our marketing efforts to a targeted audience.

6. What resources did you rely on in starting the business?
While in my home Cups ‘N’ Cakes funded itself. When I opened the store front I used my home equity line of credit. It is very important to me to recycle, renew and reuse. So 90% of the front of the stores furnishings was from thrift stores and auction sites. The kitchen is 80% used equipment. By shopping around and buying predominantly used items I was able to save a considerable amount of money.

I purchased sinks, prep tables and shelves from a Borders café and book store that went out of business. Other items were purchased used from another baker and eBay. Lastly I purchased a mix of used and new equipment from John F. Brennan, Inc in Souderton Pa.

What was the most interesting cake you’ve made?
There have been a number of interesting cakes over the years and it is hard to pick just one. One that stands out was a cake designed by an 8 year old girl. She drew the cake in crayon for us and it had three tiers with crazy patterns and colors and she insisted on a big red and whit polka dot wire bow on the top. I mean HUGE! At the last moment she then asked for Taylor Swifts picture be added to the front of the cake. It was definitely interesting :)

Any funny bakery/cake related stories?
Sometime while baking in the kitchen we have music playing and we have been known to start dancing and singing along. While my 17 year old daughter and I were baking one afternoon we decided to have a Disney song marathon. Unbeknowst to us we had a group of parents and children watching us through our kitchen door, while we danced and sang to Aladdin and the Genie’s Prince Ali song. We were even acting out some of the scenes. When they started to clap and were laughing we took a bow and continued to bake (red faced I might add).

Any words of warning/advice for any prospective bakers?
Everyone thinks they have the best recipes in the world, but it is not what you think, it is what the customer thinks. If you are going to try a new recipe, make sure you have impartial taste tester. Be open to their suggestions and never be afraid to learn something new. Your customers opinion can make or break you. That being said also be aware that not ever customer is YOUR customer. There are customers who you will not be able to accomidate or make happy. Be able to recommned someone else to help them with their needs.

Do you have any advice for people looking to start something on the side?
Yes, be passionate about it. There will be days that it may seem more like work than fun and that is completely normal. Anything worth doing is work! Always be open to learning from others because what they are willing to share with you could save you time, money and make your business better. Make your decisions carefully and weigh the raw product cost, production time and your expertise into the final retail price. Do your research and shop your competition because they can make or break your business. Lastly establish a good working relationship with your competitors. They can be your greatest source of information and be there to help you in the long run.

I hope you enjoyed the chat with Aprille – if you know someone who would like to talk about their side gig, let us know!

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17 Responses to “Side Gig Thursdays: Aprille Cole, Cups ‘N’ Cakes”

  1. Jim M says:

    Wow! Average income of 10k/month after only a year in your bricks and mortar location. Well done Aprille.

    Love this series on side gigs Jim.

  2. aua868s says:

    this is impressive!…but i understand it takes lotta hard work.

  3. MJB says:

    Thanks for this story. I’m interested in doing something similar but everyone tells me that I need to have a test kitchen or a pro kitchen. It’s good to know that I could do this on the side without the expense of renting a test kitchen.

  4. That is amazing! How much are the expenses and the costs to make cakes? I imagine it isn’t cheap by any stretch.

  5. Betty says:

    Wow – Almost seems impossible! You must’ve had some great help.

  6. admiral58 says:

    I do home repairs for others in the neighborhood to bring in some extra money for my son’s college education

  7. Neil Peart says:

    whatever happened to Claudia?? she was the best!!!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Amazing that YOU did all that work yourself….don’t know how you sleep at night. Yes, Neil, what did happen to Claudia??? Maybe Aprille will answer but even if she does it won’t be the truth. Claudia WAS Cups-n-Cakes.

    • Danielle says:

      I remember Claudia. She worked there and then flaked out and quit one day.

      • Laura says:

        No Danielle, maybe that was the story you were told, but Claudia was forced out by her co-owner after working 60+ hour weeks, alone, for 6 months, building the business basically on her own. She was served with papers referring to her as an “employee” and still has yet to be repaid any of the money that SHE put out buying the kitchen for the shop from Borders as Aprille claims to have done herself in the article above. It’s really not that difficult to get the real story if you ask around the station.

      • JL says:

        Yes, Claudia Stemler and her team (also no longer at the shop) were the heart and soul of the previous Cups ‘N Cakes. She worked round the clock to build that business. Any success this bakery has now is because of her. Flaked? Ha! That sounds like more lies from our very own Brutus. Ousted is a more accurate term.

  9. Geddy Lee says:

    You’re right, Neil Peart. Claudia was amazing — she seemed to be there night and day, offering a smile with her delicious recipes.

  10. Kathy says:

    I never saw Aprille…I don’t think I knew who she was. I only saw Claudia, she was awesome!!

  11. Kara says:

    Ask around. Aprille’s true secret to success is not such an inspiring story in the end.

  12. lee says:

    there are many “cracks” in this “brick and mortar” story cupcake lady. Give credit where credit is due! Claudia was the foundation of this business. She had your back and reached out to her customers. She made her cupcakes from scratch, can you say the same? You threw her under the bus. You are an artist, yes? An artist in deception. Now it is out of the “box”, shall we say?
    “The truth will set you free”,John 8, 32, NLT.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Claudia filed a lawsuit yet? How does someone “force” you out if you are co-owner & can show purchases (Borders equipment)? If Claudia were in on “bricks and mortar” location purchases, was she involved in lease? Did she bring expertise but no $$, have a written partnership agreement? If not, she should sue & open a business of her own, very close to this one. I would certainly hope any specialty bakery & associated costs wouldn’t be pre mixed crap. Though, that might work for Claudias advantage in her own location.


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