Small Business Spotlight | The Cupcake Shoppe

Stephanie Bryan Photography -Raleigh Photographer

Being a small business owner myself, I love to connect with others and hear their story. Each person always has their own unique path and finding out the whys and hows of a business has always been so fascinating to me! Over the next few months, I'll be sharing local small business that I've crossed paths with and love. Hope you enjoy this fun series!! And if you have a small business you'd like to be featured, let me know! 


Today's small business spotlight is Sara from The Cupcake Shoppe. I came across Sara's amazing cupcakes at a wedding one evening and it was love at first bite! The Cupcake Shoppe is located in downtown Raleigh and if you are anywhere in the US, it's worth the trip! From the french aesthetic and design, to the treats themselves, a visit to The Cupcake Shoppe is an experience in itself! I may or may not have left with (and eaten) a half-dozen of my own yummy cupcakes. Let's take a trip to The Cupcake Shoppe!

Tell us a little about your business. What do you do?

We are an independently owned/operated custom boutique bakery specializing in small batch, scratch baked confections including custom cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, breakfast pastries and more!  We source local ingredients for our menu items which are baked in house each morning by our team of bakers and proudly serve Joe Van Gogh coffees and espresso in our cafe which are locally roasted as well.  We bake a large selection of cupcakes (including some Gluten Free options), cookies, brownies, breakfast pastries and seasonal goods each morning to fill our bakery case for our walk in clients and also design and decorate custom cakes for all occasions including birthdays, weddings, baby/bridal showers, and corporate events.  We also host private parties and events in the shop on Sunday afternoons which is a beautiful space to host an event!  When we opened 10 years ago I was doing a little bit of everything....baking, helping customers, icing cupcakes, bookkeeping, etc. but after 10 years I spend more of my time marketing and handling the day to day logistics of the business and have built a great team of women who assist with the baking, cake design, and customer service.

Stephanie Bryan Photography - Raleigh Photographer

What makes your business unique/special?

I started the bakery just over 10 years ago from a passion to bring the highest quality sweets and an impeccable customer experience to our clients.   At that time we were Raleigh's very first cupcake bakery and have established ourselves as one of Raleigh's finest in a time where many have come and gone.  When I first started dreaming of the shop I knew I wanted to invoke the feeling of a slower time with a bit of a vintage feel to the space and pulled from a slightly french aesthetic when designing the space.  I wanted customers to feel like they were really treating themselves from the moment they stepped in the front door and smelled the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen to the last moment when they selected their pastry and sat down in our cafe or on the patio with a cup of coffee and took their first bite!  The "overall experience" is of utmost importance today even ten years later when we still strive to win over each and every person that walks through our doors.  In a time when everything is moving so quickly in life and much of what we do on a daily basis is impersonal we wanted to remind people that it's important to slow down, eat the cake, enjoy the coffee, and every bit of what we do here is personal!  We live by the motto that "Life is short...eat dessert first!"

Stephanie Bryan Photography - Raleigh Photographer

How do you stay inspired?

With all the resources available at our fingertips these days there is no shortage of inspiration out there.....we pull lots of recipe inspiration from seasonal food trends and the "local" movement. When it comes to design we seek inspiration from some of the most unusual places like the artists and designers who work with other mediums like paint, watercolor, fashion, and even sometimes interior design.  You just never know what might strike a cord but travel also inspires me to see what is happening in other corners of the world. While we love to embrace whats trendy and hot in the food market we also stick pretty closely to our original mentality of "doing a few things really well versus trying to be everything to everybody".  We feel like the most important thing is to put out a good product and sometimes that means seeking out something a little different than what everyone else is doing.  

Stephanie Bryan Photography - Raleigh Photographer

Who inspires you?

My father and grandfather both ran a small business growing up and while it wasn't in the food arena I was always inspired by their hard work and drive to grow it for our family and commitment to their community and the people that lived in it.  

Stephanie Bryan Photography - Raleigh Photographer

What do you love most about running a small business?

The people!  From the staff who works by my side daily to the sweet customers that grace us with their presence each morning it is definitely about the people and the personal experiences to me.  I have built amazing relationships with my team and have always felt like "you build the team of people and the people on your team build the business".  My girls are the best and I wouldn't be able to do it without them.....in terms of our clients it is such an extreme honor to be part of their daily lives and their celebrations. There are some we just get to know and chat with each morning over coffee when they pop in and share a little bit of their day with us and then there are those we get to help celebrate birthdays, retirements, anniversaries with, those we get to see on their wedding day as they start a new life with their love, and those we get to help with revealing the gender of their new baby to their families.  These are such personal and tender moments and I feel blessed and honored everyday to get to be part of them.

Stephanie Bryan Photography - Raleigh Photographer

When did you know you wanted to go into this business?

I went to work for a corporate company right out of college and about 5 years in started to realize I was just "missing something" creatively.  While the corporate experience was wonderful for me I started to think I just wanted something more....I had always loved baking growing up but had never really thought of it as anything more than a hobby.  In 2006 I knew I wanted to make a change but was still unsure as the jump from the safe corporate world to running a small business seemed uncharacteristically risky for me but I also knew I wanted to get back to the triangle area and was very intrigued by the "slow waking up of the downtown area" that seemed to be on the cusp of happening.  I was visiting a friend in NY and wandered into a small bakery for a coffee and just thought "I COULD do this!".  I started putting together some ideas and when I was home for Thanksgiving spent some time driving around downtown with it's vacant storefronts and warehouse spaces and came across the space we are in now.  I truly felt like the big windows and "neighborhood feel" spoke to me......the space got me and I was hooked.....even though it was a dirty, dingy antiques refinishing warehouse space I could see the potential and my wheels just wouldn't stop turning.  I could smell the cakes in the oven, the coffee brewing, and a mother/daughter enjoying our sweets on a sunny day outside after school....and then the "real work" began ;)

Stephanie Bryan Photography - Raleigh Photographer

What else do you love to do?

Outside of work there is nothing better than spending time with my boys (5 and 3) and my husband Paul.  Travel is my therapy and I would visit a new city each week if time/funds permitted :) I also love to run and do hot yoga when the stress of running the business gets hectic and on a typical Saturday night I love to try out new restaurants in the area as both my husband and I are big "foodies".

Stephanie Bryan Photography - Raleigh Photographer

Describe your perfect day.

The perfect day would start with hot croissants and coffee on a sidewalk cafe in Paris! (well you asked so I'm going to dream big right!!) Then spending the day just wandering the city taking in the sights, smells, food and artists with no real schedule at all (that is the ultimate luxury in my eyes is just having the time and freedom to go where the day takes you).  I would probably sneak in an afternoon nap and then cap it off with a dinner with all my closest friends and my family of course because whats the point of all the great stuff in life without the special people to share it with!  ...and of course a great slice of chocolate cake before bed ;)

Stephanie Bryan Photography - Raleigh Photographer
Stephanie Bryan Photography - Raleigh Photographer

Anyone else craving a dozen cupcakes now?? No? Just me??

Thank you so much, Sara, for sharing a little bit of your passion with us! To keep up with The Cupcake Shoppe, visit them on their websiteFacebook or Instagram