Gigi’s Cupcakes shares recipe for growth, success

While 2008 was a year of company closures and bank failures, it was the first taste of success for cupcake entrepreneur Gigi Butler.

Still, it took 14 years for Butler to find the right business recipe. In 1994, she moved from a small desert town located between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, California, to lend her voice as a country singer in Nashville. Only 15 at the time, sang at night and cleaned houses during the day to support herself.

A year and a half before the Recession, Butler decided to hang up her honky-tonk hat and focus on her cleaning business, which she had operated for nearly 20 years. When she decided to try her hand at a bakery, she thought her business experience and good credit would land her the right financing.

As Butler puts it, however, she was laughed out of four banks. With only a little in savings, she took a $100,000 advance from her credit cards and opened the first Gigi’s Cupcakes on Feb. 21, 2008. The shop was located on Music Row, close to the clubs where she used to sing.

Since then, Butler has climbed out of credit card debt and to roughly $40 million in sales in 2016. The cupcake business has also expanded to 96 locations in 24 states, 82 of which are franchised by 62 franchisees.

And this year, the company will tack on another 20 units, hoping to grow by another 35 annually.

“Our goal form a corporate standpoint is to own 20 percent of Gigi’s, with 80 percent franchised,” said Jack Sibley, Gigi’s vice president of franchise development.

Behind the cupcake company’s growth is a partnership with private equity fund KeyCorp. The firm bought Gigi’s in June last year. Its affiliate, Sovrano LLC, owns Mr. Gatti’s Pizza.

It also moved the company’s operations to Fort Worth from Gigi’s original Nashville home.

“They’re a family business, and I’m a family business, so it was a perfect fit for me,” Butler said of KeyCorp’s acquisition. “I wanted (the business) to go into another family business that really cared and would grow it.”

She and Sibley told us more about Gigi’s expansion, including plans for a new restaurant prototype, and how the business stands out among other sweet treats.

What’s behind Gigi’s growth?

Butler: The cupcake craze was what it was a few years ago, but people see Gigi’s as more than cupcakes. It’s also about birthdays and weddings and events. It’s occasions and catering. We do a lot of business-to- business with logos for Mercedes Benz and Dell and UberEATS. People are realizing the cupcake trend has worn a little bit, but it’s still part of people’s lives.

How has KeyCorp helped your growth?

Butler: We have the manpower now, and some money behind us to do more advertising, including live TV shows. When your footprint grows, you have to grow your awareness, so it was necessary (to partner with KeyCorp).

How do you differentiate from other cupcake concepts?

Butler: I went from cleaning toilets to being one of the biggest franchisees of cupcakes in the country in eight years. So there’s the story of the brand.
And there’s also my grandparents’ and family’s recipes that I’ve taken as pies and turned into cupcake form. If you can have a cupcake that’s from a 100-year-old recipe, that’s special.

What does your new store prototype entail?

Sibley: Some of the things we’re incorporating are a new type of casing so there’s a display for customers to see the products. We’re also incorporating an expanded line of baked goods so it’ll be more of a destination, rather than a pick-up.

All new stores will be part of the new prototype. We’re working on (retrofitting) our corporate stores. When lease renewals come up, part of the lease negotiation is remodeling the stores. We’re working on a rolling basis.

What else will be new at Gigi’s this year?

Sibley: We’re rolling out an online ordering capability. We also have the Sweet Lane, which is a pick up lane. There’s a lot of new technology that allows us to go to the customer rather than relying on the customer to come to us.

Article originally written by Korri Kezar, Staff writer for the Dallas Business Journal

Why now is the time to own a Gigis Cupcake franchise

Gigi’s Cupcakes Franchise Owner Profile: Stephanie Easterling

Madison, Wisconsin, franchisee’s successful bakery is personally and professionally rewarding

For Gigi’s Cupcakes franchise owner, Stephanie Easterling, her memories of childhood and baking are virtually inseparable. Family time meant being together in the kitchen, cooking and eating. Professionally, Stephanie trained as a CPA but wanted an outlet for creative expression and the opportunity to use her sales and marketing skills. When a Gigi’s Cupcakes came on the market in Madison, Wisconsin, almost two years ago, she jumped at the chance to own it.

“I saw Gigi’s being a really good fit for me — with my love of cooking and baking,” Stephanie says. “I knew that franchising with Gigi’s would mean I would have support from the franchisor, but I would also have some ability to be creative with my own business, as well.”

For Stephanie, the love of baking is second only to the love of business, staff development and helping others. It’s deeply gratifying for Stephanie to work closely with her store manager and staff to find creative ways to help others and grow the business. Each month, the store sponsors some type of themed charity event designed to collect donations for worthy recipients.

Stephanie’s Gigi’s Cupcakes franchise has paired cupcakes with several different causes, including warm clothing and non-perishable food drives for the Madison community. The latest was brunch and happy hour events. The happy hour featured cupcakes with drink themes, as the bakery collected donations for Smile Train, a charity that gives surgeries to needy children with cleft palate issues in Third World countries.

“The greatest reward of this business is that I get to sponsor really cool events that help people and make Gigi’s a relevant part of the community,” says Stephanie. “We approach our work by thinking, ‘What can we do to make us part of Madison?’ I feel like whatever we give, we get back tenfold. Seeing the joy on my team members’ faces makes it all worth it.”

Stephanie is also passionate about investing in her team. As owner, she feels a responsibility to help them develop professionally and to guide them to reach their career goals. “That’s fun for me,” she says. “I love working with them, helping them and growing the business, while making coming to work something they love to do.”

What does it take to be a successful a Gigi’s Cupcakes franchise owner?

Success for Stephanie is about far more than a bottom line on a ledger, although she reports her first 18 months in business as financially successful. Stephanie points to the progress she’s made making a difference in the lives of people around her, including her team, community members and strangers near and far who need her help. Pursuing creative ways to use her business to help others is paramount to doing well success, according to Stephanie.

“To be successful as a Gigi’s Cupcakes franchisee, you need to be entrepreneurial, driven and passionate,” she says. “And not just passionate about our product, but passionate about coming up with ideas about how to sell more, how to offer better customer service, how to retain customers and provide a customized experience. You definitely need creativity and the right team around you to be successful.”

Stephanie highly recommends the franchise model — specifically, with Gigi’s Cupcakes — to entrepreneurs. Owning a franchise is the best of both worlds, she says.

“Being a Gigi’s franchisee is really rewarding,” says Stephanie. “The best part is you’re able to run your own business, but it’s within the confines of a support group that can help you in a lot of ways. I knew nothing about food or labor costs when I started, but now, I feel like I understand it.

“I also think there’s enough flexibility that allows you to make your business a success in the way you want it to be a success — meaning setting your own prices and specials and deciding what events you want to do. They are always open to new ideas. It’s a partnership that I have with them that I really treasure.” With no plans to slow down, Stephanie’s future with Gigi’s Cupcakes is bright.

She’s planning to expand her business with a second location that would be a designated space for her wedding cake decorator to work, selling the customized wedding experience to couples. It would also serve as a place for gatherings: birthday parties, cake decorating classes or vendor events.

Now is the time to join Gigi’s Cupcakes franchise

Gigi’s Cupcake franchise is the ideal opportunity for entrepreneurs who are passionate about pursuing a business endeavor that’s personally and professionally rewarding. If you’re like Stephanie Easterling — you love baking, you’re seeking a creative outlet, you love people and you want to help your community — then Gigi’s Cupcakes franchise ownership may be perfect for you.

Learn more by exploring the opportunity on our research pages or requesting a copy of our free Franchise Information Report.

 

Gigi's Cupcakes Founder Gigi Butler

Gigi’s Cupcakes Founder to Make Special Appearance at Oak Creek Location’s Grand Opening Event on Saturday, May 20

Oak Creek, Wisconsin (May 12, 2017) – A special guest appearance by Gigi Butler, Gigi’s Cupcakes founder who was featured on the hit television show Undercover Boss, will highlight the grand opening celebration for the new Gigi’s Cupcakes in Oak Creek, Saturday, May 20 from 12:00 noon – 6:00 p.m. The event will feature special giveaways including a KitchenAid mixer, free samples of Gigi’s mini cupcakes and raffle prizes from other local businesses. Gigi’s is also donating 20% of sales from grand opening day to Royal Family Kids, an organization that provides volunteer support through camps, clubs and mentors for pre-teen children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

Ms. Butler will make a special appearance in-store from 1- 3 p.m., giving Oak Creek residents a chance to meet the culinary creator behind the popular brand.

The store is owned and operated by Wisconsin natives, Tina and Larry Haase, marking the third Gigi’s Cupcakes location to open in Wisconsin. The grand opening will take place at the store, located in Drexel Town Square at 330 West Town Square Way.

“I’m so excited to introduce Gigi’s Cupcakes to Oak Creek and cannot wait to share how wonderful our cupcakes are at our grand opening celebration,” Tina said. “From the first moment I walked into a Gigi’s Cupcakes location over 4 years ago, I fell in love! Larry and I are truly honored to now be part of the Gigi’s family and have our founder attend the grand opening to share her passion for the Gigi’s brand with our guests.”

Best known for its signature “Gigi’s swirl” and an incredible variety of gourmet, over-the-top cupcakes with icing piled high and exquisite decorations, the bakery offers a variety of gourmet desserts that guests will have the opportunity to try, including 300 rotating cupcake flavors with gluten friendly options, mini cupcakes, custom cakes, cheesecakes and stuffed cookies.

Ms. Butler’s story is the American Dream come true. Moving to Nashville in 1994 from California to pursue a career in music at 15 years old, Gigi supported her dream by cleaning houses during the day and singing late nights at the honky tonks. While she loved music, she also had a
passion for the culinary arts and baking. As years went by, she decided to take a chance on baking. She took a huge risk by opening a cupcake boutique in a high rent area just off of Music Row on Broadway in Nashville on February 21, 2008 – not far from the bars where she sang. 
 
Soon after opening, Gigi’s Cupcakes became Nashville’s delicacy dessert of choice and now nine years later, it has expanded to locations across 24 states – making Gigi’s the largest cupcake franchise in the country.

More information on Gigi’s Cupcakes is available at gigiscupcakesusa.com.

About Gigi’s Cupcakes

Founded in 2008 by Gina “Gigi” Butler as a local boutique bakery in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Gigi’s Cupcakes has grown into America’s largest cupcake franchise with over 100 locations nationwide. In 2016, Gigi’s Cupcakes was acquired by an affiliate of Fort Worth-based FundCorp. Gigi’s Cupcakes offers a wide variety of high-quality, freshly baked goods, including cupcakes, cakes, pies, cookies and more all made from recipes created by Gigi, whose American Dream story has inspired people across the country.
More information on Gigi’s Cupcakes is available at gigiscupcakesusa.com. Gigi’s franchise information is available at gigiscupcakesfranchise.com.

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