Motherhood & Cupcakes
May 03, 2016 02:13PM
● By Dia
There’s a new cupcake shop in town: Gigi’s Cupcakes. But there’s more than flour and frosting behind this Park Village bakery; there’s Gigi Butler, its faith-filled, go-getter founder who’s also a single mom.
Balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship? Butler’s got it in the bag—or rather, the cupcake box. Gigi’s Cupcakes has grown from one shop in Nashville, Tennessee, to more than 100 franchise locations sprinkled throughout 23 states. There’s an international store in South Korea and there are also plans to grow the business to 250 locations in the next five years.
“Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires persistence,” says Butler. “Not only in your passion for your product or service, but also in following your dream.”
Country Songs, Cleaning ... and Cupcakes
Since childhood, Butler had dreams of becoming a country-music star. She sang in bars all over California and then moved to Nashville, hoping to be discovered. To make ends meet, Butler also started her own cleaning business, Gigi’s Cleaning Company. She cleaned homes, offices and construction sites while singing on the side.
When her music career didn’t take off as she had hoped, Butler turned to baking. She grew up in a family of bakers and had a knack around the kitchen. So she thought, “Why not start a bakery?” Butler opened the first Gigi’s Cupcakes in 2008 with only $33 to her name. She prayed customers would come. They did ... and they loved the cupcakes. In 2013, her gross revenue was reported at $43 million.
So how did Butler create a booming business while raising her daughter as a single parent? Hard work and a whole lot of prayer. “I lean on my faith at all times,” Butler says. “I ask God for the guidance to help me lead this company and my family in the right direction.”
Butler remembers the moment she knew she had something special with her blossoming bakery. Interestingly, it was her first customer complaint. A woman had traveled over an hour for a Scarlett’s Red Velvet cupcake and was furious when she learned the flavor wasn’t on the menu that day.
“She was so upset we didn’t have it and informed me she’d driven specifically to my bakery for that one cupcake,” says Butler. “Someone was emotional about a cupcake flavor I had created. At that moment, I knew I had created a product that people were passionate about and really wanted to buy.”
A Taste of the Brand
While Butler knew she hit a sweet spot with cupcakes, she also knew the value of diversifying the menu to differentiate her shop. Walk into Gigi’s Cupcakes and you’ll find a sugary smorgasbord of stuffed cookies, bread loaves, muffins, cakes, cheesecakes, pies and specialty coffee. The shop is also rolling out cake bites, quiche and ice cream in a few test markets.
As for the cupcakes, customers can choose from a mind- boggling 300 rotating flavors, including gluten-free and sugar-free varieties. Each treat is topped off with Gigi’s signature swirl of sky-high icing. No matter what flavor or indulgence sweet seekers opt for, they’re in for something special.
“We focus on creating a full sensory experience at Gigi’s Cupcakes, providing freshly baked items that are finished with an artist’s touch,” Butler says. “I want people to instantly recognize our box, like they do a Tiffany’s box, and get excited knowing there is an incredible dessert waiting inside.”
Butler got a taste of her own company from a different perspective when she appeared on the hit CBS series "Undercover Boss" last year. On the show, Butler got in disguise and worked alongside her employees as a cupcake decorator, baker, cake manager and customer service rep.
At the end of each episode, the CEO or “Undercover Boss,” offers financial gifts to selected employees as a token of appreciation. Butler helped one employee launch a charity and provided funds to help another employee start a family.
Giving back is important to Butler—and it’s something she hopes to impart to her five-year-old daughter. “I want to leave a legacy of love for my daughter,” she says. “I want her to know there is strength and a sense of community when you give back to people.”
Ingredients for Life
Butler also wants her girl to know the value of hard work. When times got tough, Butler persevered, changing course from singing and housecleaning to baking and entrepreneurship. She admits there are challenges when simultaneously running a business and raising a child, but these can be overcome.
“[As] a single mother, balancing work and life is a constant struggle. It’s something that every working mom or dad struggles with,” Butler says. “I always read my Bible and exercise regularly to keep myself sane.”
She has also accepted that she can’t (and shouldn’t) try to do it all. “For a long time, I thought I could be involved in every aspect of the business, have a social life, and care for my daughter,” admits Butler. “By hiring others to help me manage and grow the Gigi’s Cupcakes brand, I’ve learned to trust in others’ expertise and experience.”
With talented professionals helping her run the business, Butler has more time with her daughter. They’re often whipping up cupcakes and other homemade treats in their kitchen in the Nashville area. In fact, that’s probably what they’ll be doing for Mother’s Day this month. Butler says she plans to attend church and cook, bake, and host friends and family.
For Butler, the best moments are those shared with her daughter. “I enjoy creating sweet memories with her,” she says. “Every day has its challenges, but the relationship I have with my daughter is worth more than I could ever achieve in my professional life. Both are hard work, but worth it.”