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Q-and-A: How to globally franchise a neighborhood cupcakery

4 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

This post is by SmartBrief’s Doris Nhan.

Smallcakes, a cupcake shop based near Kansas City, Kan., gained fame after owner Jeff Martin appeared on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and ABC’s “The View.” Now the self-dubbed neighborhood cupcakery is teaming up with Beautiful Brands International to franchise the shop in a global co-branding effort with other BBI brands such as FreshBerry and Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe. Martin spoke with SmartBrief about why he decided to franchise his business and how the cupcake business can stand the test of time.

What moved you to franchise the business, and what makes Smallcakes more suited to franchising than other, similar stores?

Martin: After appearing on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” season one, we had people from all over the country calling the store, mailing letters, posting on our Facebook page, tweeting and even stopping in telling us how badly they wanted a Smallcakes in their neighborhood. People that have never tried Smallcakes! But they were reading the overwhelmingly positive chatter happening on Facebook, Twitter and in the media and that, coupled with the appearance on “Cupcake Wars,” really created a loyal following of fans all across the world. We have Facebook fans from Ecuador, Thailand, the Netherlands and even the Cayman Islands.

The positive response only increased after appearing on “The View” in a “Whoopi’s Favorite Desserts” segment. It was after this that I really considered franchising Smallcakes in order to fulfill fans’ Smallcakes cravings. Smallcakes will continue to be a neighborhood cupcakery with roots that extend deep into the community. We’ll just be in a lot more neighborhoods now!

The biggest factor Smallcakes has going for it in terms of franchising is, again, the fan base that’s already in existence all across the world. Our fans have spoken. Now it’s time for Smallcakes to take action and respond.

Many say the cupcake is a passing fad, and that we’ll soon be on to the next new thing. Is this a concern you’re considering as you head into franchising a cupcakery on a larger scale?

Martin: There will always be a “next big new thing.” I’m dedicated to producing the highest quality cupcakes day in and day out and building a staff that provides Smallcakes guests with exceptional customer service, while creating a welcoming atmosphere. Longevity in any business is dependent on those two factors — a quality product with outstanding service.

Smallcakes will initially be co-branded with existing stores, such as FreshBerry. How do you plan to partner Smallcakes with other stores while maintaining the cupcakery’s own identity?

Martin: I don’t look at it as a co-brand as much as I do a “business synergy.” FreshBerry will continue to have its own identity, as will Smallcakes. And both will continue to operate according to its respective business models. But the brands play off each other so well. It makes sense to the business and the consumer: Grab some fro-yo and box up a dozen cupcakes to take home.

What type of marketing strategies will be used as Smallcakes gets moved onto a national and global scale?

Martin: The marketing strategies on a national level versus what we’ve done locally won’t change. I work with a very talented marketing agency that has really helped me understand that consumers are plentiful. It’s just a matter of how we’re going to reach them. As I said before, Smallcakes is ingrained in the community. We love it when people come to us and become a valued customer, but we also go to the people through community outreach, very robust social media, strategic advertising and philanthropic support.

Photograph of Jeff Martin courtesy of BBI.