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Updated: March 6, 2023 The Hustle is Real

Don’t compromise quality, no matter the cost

Renee Diaz
Read Renee Diaz' other The Hustle is Real and The Struggle is Real columns through the links at the bottom of this article.
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The past three years of business have been less than ideal. Having previously grown our sales each year we were in business, to having fewer and fewer sales since 2020, it has been an eye-opening experience. Last year especially had some scary times. Even though I had the opportunity to obtain a few grants and loans, the expenses piled up, and The Queen’s Cups went through a lot of cash. That is the thing about owning a small business, there is always an underlying worry about finances, costs, payroll, and – quite frankly – just making it.

During the COVID pandemic and then everything that followed, it has not crossed my mind to buy lower-quality ingredients or products to save a dollar. I made a promise to myself when I first opened The Queen’s Cups in 2012 I would always use real butter and fresh fruit. If I wanted to, I could buy premade cake and cupcake mixes, frosting out of a bucket, and frozen cookie dough and sell it as our own. Although that may work for other businesses, it is not in my nature. Instead, I have eaten the cost of the ever-rising butter and egg prices because that is what my customers are used to.

Since the pandemic, businesses have had to pivot. I hate hearing from people they went out to eat somewhere and the quality has gone downhill. That is a great fear of mine. Instead, I looked through my costs in other areas and made minor changes not jeopardizing the products we make. For instance, instead of having fresh flowers delivered each week, I changed to potted plants just needing to be watered. Instead of having our Dumpster emptied three times a week, I had it changed to twice. Rather than ordering hundreds of dollars’ worth of sprinkles, we started to make our own. None of these changes compromised our products and remained true to the values I set a decade ago.

Starting off the new year, our sales are finally up. Seeing the percent sign in green, rather than red, in our point-of-sales system has boosted my confidence. Hearing the door open often, seeing repeat customers, and having more orders weekly has caused an excitement through my staff we have been missing.

We are not comfortable yet. We know there is more work to do. But I can see the wheels turning. Each week, we are coming up with new cupcake flavors or bringing back some of the creative ones. We are looking for new recipes for cookies and French macarons. We are sharing different cake ideas with each other. We are thinking ahead for our Mother’s Day menu. Everyone working in the kitchen is committed to quality products that taste and look great. Nothing makes me more grateful than being able to share a handwritten letter sent in the mail, or a thank you email, with the members of my team. I cannot forget about the front-of-house staff either. They may have the hardest job, answering all the questions from our customers, taking phone calls, packing online orders, individually wrapping orders, restocking the case, and always wiping the cases down because streaks are my biggest pet peeve. I’m thankful for my team, and I am so happy the year has started off great.

I am thankful to have such a great management staff who is fully invested in The Queen’s Cups. Eva Drozdowski, my right hand and general manager, is extremely creative and talented. Kristine Tartaro, the most organized person I have ever met, is my kitchen manager and has the best eye for quality control. Together, the three of us work like a dream team. I trust them, their opinions, and work ethics like they are my own family. We have started the year off strong and are excited to introduce more changes and products. We are slowly starting to get back to pre-pandemic life. We are looking forward to having customers stop by for a cup of coffee and sit at one of our tables with a friend or bring the kids in after school. We will work on our marketing and branding, which we have been doing throughout the store. For the first time, we may even look into sponsored posts on our social media, something I had been against. With the world changing so much, we are trying to change with it while remaining true to ourselves. We see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Renee Diaz is the owner of Worcester bakery The Queen's Cups.

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