Business and Operations
Guest Column: November 2011
By Melanie Abdilla
By Melanie Abdilla
There are particular challenges and solutions to building your brand as a caterer.
|CutiePie Cupcakes & Co. specializes in bite-sized gourmet cupcakes that mimic the tastes of other desserts.|
There are key ingredients that pretty much every cake or cupcake has, such as flour, sugar, butter and eggs. These staple ingredients are the cornerstones of every cake batter. That being said, not all cakes are created equal. What determines which batter will rise above the rest isn’t the basic ingredients, but their specific proportions, the technique involved and the addition of flavour and flair that makes each cake or cupcake unique.
These principles of magnificent dessert production are the same principles involved in developing a new business, one that will hopefully rise above the rest. As the owner of CutiePie Cupcakes & Co., I am happy to share with you some of the particular challenges and solutions I encountered in starting my growing catering company in Toronto. We specialize in bite-sized gourmet cupcakes that mimic the tastes of other desserts. We have an ever-expanding menu of over 32 flavours and also focus on corporate, theme, logo, branding, etc.
Just as the ratios of ingredients in a batter contribute to the uniqueness of the final product, the specifics of your business model provide the framework and act as a lens through which to view and direct company growth. This involves understanding what your business is just as much as what it is not. CutiePie Cupcakes & Co. is an event-based catering company. Orders are booked in advance for either delivery or pick-up. We do not service walk-in clients or offer single cupcakes. Everything is made to order, allowing for a larger than usual menu selection with minimal wastage. Knowing specific times that orders are to be provided allows everything to be baked as close to the presentation time as possible to provide the highest degree of freshness. It is an honour to be involved with so many people’s celebrations, but with every positive there comes a negative. In the case of a catering business, it’s the challenge of generating company awareness without a storefront. People must know your business exists in order to seek service.
A business plan will provide insight as to who your potential clients are but next you have to find out how to reach them. Without a fancy storefront, potential clients cannot stumble across your business, nor are they able to drop in on a whim to see what you are about. Sales require a bit more planning and commitment, and generating a client base can take more time.
Our fan base for CutiePie has grown quite organically. In early 2009, we began introducing our product and service to family, friends, former work colleagues, acquaintances and other businesses in the area. Through endless samplings, meetings, self-promotion and word of mouth we began to ignite a spark of interest among those around us. It seems word of mouth, above all else, truly is the best form of promotion. Nothing holds more value and influence than the praise and recommendation of trusted peers. From there, participating in trade shows, sponsorships and charities, we found an outlet to further reach the general public.
Another great recourse is the online world. Not only does a website showcase what your establishment offers but also, with social media networks growing at lightning speeds, businesses can build online relationships with potential customers through open dialogue and communication. Building an online fan base can extend to the offline world. For a catering-focused bakery, your online presence is your virtual storefront. Our website allows our potential clients to communicate with us and get a feel for what we offer through pictures, examples of past events, related press, written reviews and online feedback from our fans and followers.
Going through the motions of reaching the public cannot, in itself, bring business growth. Just as bakers incorporate additional flavour and flair in recipes to produce fantastic and unique treats, a company also needs that “something special” to stand apart from the crowd. It is your product that will speak louder and longer than anything else, and company branding can serve as a voice to communicate this to consumers. Businesses gain brand awareness as clients begin to understand the so-called “language” of the company and to recognize and pick it out from the crowd. Again, knowing what you are as well as what you are not makes this voice clearer and more recognizable to the public. Part of creating something unique is offering something different from what currently exists. Introducing something new to the market can be challenging, as potential clients may assume you are just like the rest and can even be taken aback at first upon realizing you are not. As Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.” Perseverance, endurance, dedication and consistency will help your fantastic product gain familiarity and desirability in finding its niche in the market.
It takes time to create the perfect recipe; it’s never an easy feat. Be it a recipe for a fantastic cupcake or a recipe for a fabulous company, bon appétit!
Melanie Abdilla is the owner of CutiePie Cupcakes & Co., which is an event-based catering company.