February 4, 2019
The struggle is real

Want vegan cupcakes or fondant wedding cake? Check out my competition

Renee Diaz, owner of Queen's Cups in Worcester.

The Struggle is Real

In 2017, Renee Diaz moved her upstart cupcake business The Queen's Cups from Millbury into a larger space in Worcester's Canal District. With a year of lessons learned, she now writes the monthly advice column The Struggle is Real to help entrepreneurs and business owners navigate their own trials and tribulations.

I was recently a guest on a podcast I've been obsessively listening to since the summer called "Keeping Shop" by Rachel Wentworth. The podcast details the lives of business owners, their start and their story. I have gained a lot of knowledge listening to so many others who have previously been guests on the show, and I was beyond excited to chat with Rachel myself.

We discussed the story behind The Queen's Cups, its evolution over the last six years, my employees and many other topics. The conversation flowed easily over an hour-long segment, and I loved the mutual respect and admiration we had for each other. At the end of the episode, Rachel asked me if there was any advice I could give to someone who wants to start their own business, mainly a bakery. I wanted to pass along advice I believe separates my business from others – competition.

You should see the look on the faces of those who ask me who my competition is. I tell them we don't have any competition, except for ourselves. People are often surprised when I tell them instead of competing with others, I actually think there is room for all of us to succeed and grow. I am not one of those bakeries that will take every single order so I can hoard all the money in our community. We are not equipped to take it on. If a customer approaches us for a five-tiered beautiful fondant wedding cake, I let them know we do not specialize in that, but Gerardo's Italian Bakery in West Boylston or On The Rise in Worcester does. If we get a call from someone needing vegan cupcakes and we may be out of stock at the time, I let them know that The Bean Counter in Worcester carries gluten free and vegan options daily. Want something traditional? Crown Bakery is a Worcester staple, as well as Wholly Cannoli! Keto treats? We try to get them done, but The Cupcake Girl in Hopedale has them every day. Live out near Leominster? I heard a great new shop called The Central Cup just opened.

It seems like a simple notion. Let's all bond together to all be successful and happy, but this is not often the case. We are trained to want to be better than the others in our industry, rather than compliment them. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard how I supposedly hate one bakery or another, or even a home baker. I laugh when I hear these comments because I generally have no idea who the person is I supposedly have such strong feelings towards. There is no hate in my heart (only when I want to order a pair of shoes I've been eyeing online for a while and they are out of my size). That makes me upset; but everything else, I do not have the time or energy for. I want to help others, so they do not make the mistakes I made along the way. I do not have an ego. I just know who I am.

When I was 23 and had just started my business, I thought I had to compete with other bakeries. We were almost always in the same sentence as Sweet when that Worcester bakery was on Shrewsbury Street, and I just wanted to have a name for myself. But recently, I listened to a Pop It Worcester podcast with former Sweet chef Alina Eisenhauer, and she noted how people always thought she was standoffish or snobby. She, in fact, is actually pretty shy in public if she does not know you. At that moment, I realized after years of not wanting to be compared to Sweet, we really were a lot more alike than I thought.

No matter what industry you may be in, I hope you take a vow to help those in your community. Focus on the strengths of your business, work on the weaknesses, congratulate the success of others and never stop learning from mentors. Other businesses are not here to worry us; they are here to help us create more jobs and raise strong leaders in our community. Worry about what makes your business better, not what will make someone else's worse.

Renee Diaz is the owner of The Queen's Cups bakery in Worcester, which generated more than $1 million in revenue last year.


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