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October 2, 2017 Shop Talk

The joy & pain of selling 300% more cupcakes

Photo | Brad Kane Renee Diaz, in her The Queen's Cups bakery in Worcester's Canal District

On Aug. 1, Renee King completed the relocation of her small Millbury bakery to a 3,200-square-foot space in Worcester’s Canal District.

How has it gone since the opening?

Crazy. It is like a whole new ballgame compared to Millbury. The first day, the line was out of the door for five straight hours. Every day after that was just the same. Now, it has calmed down a little.

Have revenues increased?

Sales are about four times what they were in Millbury. It is all relative to the fact that there are 20 employees and all our bills are bigger. I knew it was going to be busy, but I didn’t know it was going to be this busy.

This is more of a slower period, too, because nothing goes on in September. Once October and the holidays roll around, it is going to get much busier.

I put myself in a lot of debt doing this, so it is going to be a long time before I see anything.

How much debt?

The city gave me a $5,000 small business grant and a $10,000 microloan, and I worked with Cornerstone Bank for a small business loan. But, if I were to do it again, I would have researched a little bit more. They always say, “It takes longer than you think. It costs more money than you think,” and that is so true.

It cost me like $50,000 more than I thought, unexpected things like having to redo all the plumbing and electrical work. It was a lot of things I didn’t account for. All of the sudden, I would show up, and the people I was working with would be like, “You have to do this.” Then, I’m like, “Does money grow on trees?”

It all worked out. Thankfully, I had my parents, and everything worked out.

Are you more profitable?

I think so. Now we are able to see everything after the first month, so we should be. Our waste ratio is so much lower than in Millbury. There, we had 750 square feet, but our work area was 300 square feet. We didn’t have the ability to take everything we would have thrown out before and turn it into something like cake balls. Eventually, we are going to be more profitable.

I’ve been saying, “I’m paying all my bills, and that’s why I don’t have any money.” But at least I’m paying them.

Did all your staff make the move?

Some came, but most of them have not. I made some changes because I wanted the best of the best. I really wanted a strong team.

Right now, my staff is the best it has ever been. It is the people I trust the most. Just the talent is amazing to me. Sometimes, I just look around at what they do, and I say, “You guys are crazy.” I have to kick them out of the kitchen; they don’t want to go home. I’m like, “You’ve been here for 10 hours. Just go home.”

Why are they the best?

All their personalities mesh really well. We are together 50 hours a week. The main thing for me when I interview someone is you have to want to learn. If you don’t want to learn and get better every day, then you aren’t going to be able to work for me.

Especially now because we seem to be THE bakery, we have to stay on top. People ask me about competition, and our competition is ourselves. I’ve finally found a group of employees who really want to be better every day.

How are you doing, personally?

I’m having a lot of fun. In Millbury, I cried every day for the first two weeks after opening because I hated it. I was 23 and had no clue what I was doing. Here I cry because I am so grateful.

It is not all rainbows; some days are frustrating. Sometimes people are brutal with reviews. It is hard when you work 14 hours a day, and then you finally get home and read someone wasn’t happy with something. Sometimes they aren’t very nice about it. I will think about that all day and all weekend. It can really mess with your heart.

Some days have been better than others, but – for the most part – I am so thankful to be here, and my staff is so happy to be here. We are at a good point.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by Brad Kane, WBJ editor.


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