Recipe for Success: Baking Tech Into the Business Plan
Education and Careers For these renowned bakers, technology adds a new flavor to customer service, convenience and even their cupcakes.
Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne / Katherine Kalinis Berman: We grew up baking with our grandmother, who was from Greece and who baked everything from scratch. Our parents both worked full-time, so we spent much of our early childhood with our grandmother. She was a very profound influence on us growing up. We developed our passion for baking from her, and ever since we were young girls, we always talked about one day opening a bakery together. Our grandmother was the inspiration for us starting our business.
Buddy Valastro: I come from a long line of bakers; my father taught me everything I know. It wasn’t really so much a decision as it was taking a path that felt so natural and fulfilling.
MP: What initial business problems did you face?
SKL/KKB: From the first day we opened, we had a steady stream of customers. But sometimes having too much business at the outset can be just as devastating as having no business at all—if you are not able to meet the demand. We quickly had to change our business model and operations and scale up to adapt to the large number of customers who wanted to order our cupcakes. Over our 7 years in business, we’ve realized that the key to success is being able to quickly adapt to change in order to best serve your customers.
Buddy Valastro: My ultimate goal was to achieve my father’s vision of having Carlo’s Bakery become a household name. You can’t go from having a shop in Hoboken, New Jersey to reaching millions of people without facing quite a few challenges. I think, ultimately, the biggest challenge all business owners know is trying to find enough hours in the day to take care of everything you need to get to where you want to be.
MP: How did technology help you overcome those challenges?
SKL/KKB: Technology played a critical role in helping us scale our business nationally. Early on, it became apparent that customers wanted to be able to order online and ship cupcakes as gifts to friends, family and clients across the country and we developed an e-commerce platform where our customers could order and customize our cupcakes online and have them arrive at their doorstep across the U.S. We also launched a mobile app allowing customers the convenience to pay for their orders via their mobile devices and allowing them to earn credit towards future purchases. Technology made the ordering process for our customers easier and also more enjoyable.
Buddy Valastro: Technology offers the convenience of being able to conduct business on the go and streamlining the acquisition of the necessary items you need to do it.
MP: What forms of technology do you utilize most?
SKL/KKB: We use technology in every aspect of our business, from our front-end online ordering platform for our customers to our back-end database that we use to fulfill, track and manage orders. The point-of-sale systems in all of our stores allow us to collect detailed analytics on the popularity of individual flavors and to track key performance metrics in real-time.
"Even in the bakery space, we’re always focused on innovating and using technology to connect with our customers and grow our business."
Our UPS software enables us to automatically print, sort and manage our national shipping orders seamlessly. And our Georgetown Cupcake mobile app allows our customers to pay for their purchases using their mobile phones and earn rewards with their purchases.
Buddy Valastro: I think my smartphone and POS systems would probably be the most obvious answer but really, ecommerce technology has become such a huge factor in the business’ day-to-day now that we offer nationwide shipping. The fact that we can get our products into the hands of everyone nationwide is so wonderful, and really a dream come true.
MP: How has technology changed for business owners since you started?
SKL/KKB: Since we started Georgetown Cupcake 7 years ago, technology has advanced rapidly for business owners. Right now, our focus is on mobile and bringing our online ordering experience to our customers’ phones.
Social media is another area that has exploded since we started our business and we’ve made it a priority to use social media platforms to be able to connect with our customers. Instagram has been an especially wonderful platform for us to be able to share the visual nature of our business with our customers. Even in the bakery space, we’re always focused on innovating and using technology to connect with our customers and grow our business.
Buddy Valastro: Wow. It’s changed in a lot of ways—from not having user-friendly ecommerce platforms, advanced in-store point of sales systems, widespread internet accessibility, social media, etc. It really is so incredible how technology has allowed businesses to engage with and reach the consumer. Carlo’s Bakery is so lucky to have this phenomenal online following that acts as this inadvertent focus group—I can tweet a cake or something and get instantaneous feedback on it. That’s powerful.
MP: What is your favorite thing to bake? To eat?
SKL/KKB: Our favorite cupcake flavors are the Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter Fudge and Chocolate Hazelnut. However, we have the most fun making our Banana Split cupcakes. We get to core out the banana cupcakes and fill them with hot fudge and decorate them with frosting and a ton of sundae toppings. They’re definitely the most fun and decadent cupcakes on our menu!
Buddy Valastro: I love to bake—that’s not something that will ever change and it will always be my favorite thing to do. As far as eating, anything my wife makes is spectacular, but her Sunday gravy is seriously special.