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A Creative and Tasty Business

Value Added: Sprinkles is the world’s first cupcake bakery and is credited with the gourmet cupcake craze.
A Creative and Tasty Business

A Creative and Tasty Business

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Sprinkles Cupcakes

Show Details

Show 1623: A Creative and Tasty Business
Air Date: June 5, 2016



Rob McClendon: Today, the two are founders of the Los Angeles-based cupcake chain, Sprinkles. Using the best ingredients and baked fresh throughout the day, Sprinkles has grown from a single store front in Beverly Hills to twelve locations nationwide, and a traveling Sprinkles Mobile cupcake truck.

Rob: with long lines of devoted fans, including many celebrities, Sprinkles has also made a celebrity out of Candace nelson. She is a frequent guest and celebrity chef on shows around the tv dial, as well as, one of the five judges on the food network’s hit show cupcake wars, success that has helped them take their brand international with 34 Sprinkles bakeries now opening in the Middle East, a busy life that, they took a break from to headline this year’s creativity forum. So my first question is how does someone move from investment banking to making cupcakes?

Candace Nelson: well it doesn’t seem like the most natural progression. But for me, it was natural. Baking was a passion of mine. And really it was about an obstacle that became an opportunity. Out of college I went into investment banking, and then an internet startup. Well then the dot com bust happened, and I was without a job. And so I just really looked inward and thought what is it that I really want to do with my life? I love to bake, and I figured, what the heck, I’ll give it a try. I didn’t think I could really make a living doing it, but I decided to go to pastry school and give it a shot.

Rob: Charles, how important is passion to spark the inspiration that gives you the innovation?

Charles Nelson: I think it really is the key, you know one of the key drivers of success because, for Sprinkles, Candace and I from day one have lived, eaten and you know breathed Sprinkles. And so when you’re starting something from scratch, especially something where no one has ever done it before, if you want to try to do it eight hours a day, you’re not going to make it. It’s about giving all you have every hour that you have available. And so and something you’re passionate about, Candace was passionate about baking, I love desserts. So that made it easy for me. And so it really, we’re working all the time. We’re talking about work all the time. But it doesn’t feel like work because we love it.

Rob: So how does one keep up their creativity to run a business like Sprinkles when you are working all the time? Does it go back to, you have to love it?

Candace: Absolutely, it becomes a lot easier if you love it. Because instead of feeling like you’re, you know, going uphill, you’re sort of rolling downhill. And, you know besides that, we really try to stay open. We stay open to ideas. We brainstorm constantly, you know at work, at home, and we brainstorm, you know with our amazing employees and with our customers. We try to keep our lines of communication open through social media and in the store and at the office.

Rob: Yeah, now since the time you started Sprinkles, we’ve seen the cupcake business, per se, really blossom. What has that meant for you all?

Charles: I think, certainly, you know it changes things. When we first opened, we had to explain to people, what is, what is a cupcake bakery? Or why, what is a premium cupcake? And that question, you know no longer exists in pretty much any city in America or for that matter in the world. We opened our first international store in the Middle East, and so there are stores everywhere now. But we, I think it really is about staying on top, and that is about creativity and continuing to be creative. Our first idea was created to start Sprinkles, and then moving on to our cupcake ATM and other things. So you have to continue to innovate and keep creativity in your business because people are going to do what you, copy what you do pretty quickly. And so you can’t just, you know rest your laurels on one idea.

Rob: And I have to ask, you’ve got to tell me more about this cupcake ATM. I mean, that could be dangerous, yeah.

Candace: Well you know it’s funny, because as we said we brainstorm all the time whether it’s the office or at home. And I remember being pregnant with my second son. It was maybe eleven o’clock at night and I was just in the worst mood because I had such a hankering for a cupcake. And I thought, you know I own cupcake bakeries and even I can’t get my hands on a cupcake at this time of night. So we just started laughing and kind of tossing these ideas, what if ideas, back and forth. And in the past these what if crazy ideas have always been good to us. So we’ve learned to really sort of embrace those and not just sort of say, oh that’s a crazy idea, we’re not going to think about it. We thought, what if you could get a cupcake at you know anytime of night. And we started to think about ideas to make that happen.

Charles: She says embrace the crazy.

[All laugh].

Candace: It’s been good for you.

Rob: When, in terms of having employees, there’s a certain amount of managerial things that everyone has to do whenever you have a business. How do you merge those two?

Charles: I think that, we have 450 employees now. We started with two, and it’s grown quite a bit. I think, we want to make sure our employees stay creative, but we also have very high standards. And I think that is something, we set our expectations from the day people start, and it’s very clear what we need them to do to maintain the Sprinkles standard. But we also try to keep a very flat company where people are, know, that their ideas are welcome. And we may not, you know they may come up with a cupcake flavor that we may not want to offer, but it’s something that we will, you know receive, and well, and we’ll try it, and give it a shot. And we do the same as Candace said with our customers. It really is open lines of communications. If you think that every great idea comes from the founder, you know we wouldn’t be very far. We have so many great ideas that come from our employees, and our customers, that’s what’s really made our company special over the last nine years.

Rob: Yeah, well a final question, and it may be that it’s getting close to lunch, but what is some of your most popular cupcakes that you sell?

Candace: Well I’ll take this one because, red velvet is hands down our most popular flavor. And I have to say, not growing up in Oklahoma, I didn’t really have a lot of history with red velvet. And the red velvets I’d had I didn’t love so much. So, when I was developing the menu for Sprinkles, red velvet was not on the menu. And Charles said, I mean I’m just going to be laughed all the way back home if I don’t have red velvet on the cupcake menu. That is just part of growing up in Oklahoma, you have to have that. So I thought, alright, I’ll make a red velvet that I can live with. So I amped up the cocoa and made a really special butter and cream cheese frosting. And, thank goodness I did, because that ode to Oklahoma has been our number one selling flavor at every store.