‘Wicked Good Cupcakes’ serves up recipe for success
When it comes to good ideas, this one takes the cake.
Seven years ago, while living in Massachusetts, Tracey Noonan wanted to find a way to connect with her youngest child, Dani Vilagie, who was preparing to move out and start her adult life. Tracey asked Dani to take a cake decorating class with her.
“I knew it was something that we both would be interested in and you could really be creative,” said Tracey, who moved to Daniel Island with her husband, Scott, last year.
Not only did Tracey and Dani enjoy the class, they began making elaborately decorated cakes and cupcakes and selling them via Facebook posts to family and friends. The recipes were all their own, passed down from family members (and in one case a childhood friend) and all were made from scratch with top ingredients. They named their company Wicked Good Cupcakes and opened a small bakery in a seaside town near Boston on a shoestring budget. To give the product a more nostalgic feel, and to ease delivery and increase shelf life, they began placing the cupcakes (layers of cake and frosting) in mason jars.
“They both worked tremendously hard,” recalled Scott. “Twenty-hour days. They didn’t pay themselves for the first year. Literally flew inches from the sun all the time, just trying to make it.”
But they did. And soon they would have what Scott dubbed a transformative, “life changing” experience. In 2013, two years after launching the company, Tracey decided to apply to present their concept to the panel of investors on the popular television show “Shark Tank.”
“At the time when Tracey went online, they had 50,000 people apply that year,” said Scott. “And just over 100 get selected to even film.”
Tracey was one of them. She and Dani went on the show to make their pitch – and investor Kevin O’Leary took the bait, funneling $75,000 into their company. It was a pivotal moment.
“He really liked us and believed in us and gave us a shot,” said Tracey, who has dubbed O’ Leary “Mr. Wonderful.” “…It was exciting, and scary, and exhausting, and emotional. So many things. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!”
“Things really exploded (after that),” added Scott, who handles the company’s operations, financials and technological side. “…It catapulted us into the national spotlight and made us a national brand. The night we aired on television we did a year’s worth of business in a week. We grew by 600 percent that year.”
The big challenge for many companies infused with cash from investors like those on “Shark Tank” is how to keep the momentum going.
“We always used to equate it with being put on top of a ski mountain in a sled and someone just pushes you down,” said Scott. “It’s great, but now don’t crash. So, after that meteoric rise, that’s when the real hard work began. We had to really build a company around that to sustain that moving forward.”
“If you don’t execute, you’re dead,” added Tracey.
But not only did Wicked Good Cupcakes execute well, they continued to grow the company exponentially. They were able to pay O’Leary back on his initial investment within six weeks (he continues to take a small percentage of the profits on each cupcake sale). Today, they employ close to 40 people and have two manufacturing sites – one in Pennsylvania run by Dani, and another in Massachusetts that is managed by an executive chef from Paris. Tracey and Scott work remotely from their home on Daniel Island, a community they describe as “close to perfect” with a lifestyle they love.
The company bakes about a million cupcakes a year for customers and ships approximately 500,000 mason jars (two cupcakes per jar) to every state in the U.S. Jars can be ordered with a minimum of two per shipment. Some corporate orders have numbered close to 20,000.
“Now we’re the largest shipper of cupcakes direct to consumer in the country,” said Scott.
With flavors like strawberry lemon, key lime, vanilla, red velvet, peanut butter surprise, sea salted caramel, and more – there are many tasty options to choose from. And just what makes Wicked Good Cupcakes live up their name?
“They’re all original recipes, all top ingredients,” added Scott. “Done from scratch. No mixes, no pre-mixes…We spend top dollar on ingredients. We want our customers to have the best product. We get literally thousands of stories, hundreds per week from people about what they use them for, what it meant to them…Some will bring you tears when you read how important this particular gift was to this one person.”
Today, Tracey does primarily media for the company, as well as a number of public speaking engagements, along with new product development (they also offer pies, cakes and brownies). She was headed to Indiana last Friday with Dani to celebrate one of their new franchise openings. For Tracey, the success of Wicked Good Cupcakes has been a wonderful journey, but the opportunity to spend quality time with her daughter has truly been the icing on the cake. They recently attended an event together at Google headquarters in California and the experience gave her reason to reflect.
“I said to Dani, while we were there, did you ever think we would be here? We’ve had so many experiences, we’ve been at the New York Stock Exchange, at the NASDAQ. We’ve been on tons of television shows, done tons of radio…we’ve been mentored by some really phenomenal people. All these experiences I am able to share with my daughter - and it’s really special. I still can’t believe it sometimes.”