Take it From Me: CamiCakes Cupcakes

When CamiCakes Cupcakes (404-748-4288) opened its doors in 2006 in Orange Park, Florida, owner Andra Hall’s longtime passion became her entrepreneurial pursuit. Today, with three stores in operation (the Jacksonville, Florida location opened in 2008 and the Atlanta store opened in 2009), the business is delivering sweet success. In 2009, CamiCakes, named for Hall’s daughter, Camille, grossed nearly $1.1 million in revenues and expects to generate $2 million this year. Of course, Hall’s path to business ownership wasn’t all sweet, and the 38-year-old admits she’s still learning. Read more about her efforts to see how they can influence and inspire yours.

On doing her homework

From her research, Hall discovered that cupcake shops that did well in New York and Los Angeles received a lot of foot traffic. In Orange Park and Jacksonville, “the only place that had high foot traffic like that was in a mall,” she says. So that’s where she opened her flagship store in Orange Park. In Atlanta, she used a different strategy; she chose to open the store on the city’s most famous street. “Anyone in Atlanta knows Peachtree,” she says. “On Peachtree, people can find you.”

On standing out from the competition
One thing immediately set CamiCakes apart from other local bakeries. Hall sold only cupcakes, an idea that had not yet gained popularity with bakeries across the country. “At that time, cupcake shops were mainly in New York and California,” says Hall. She then capitalized on that distinction by sending out a blizzard of press releases announcing that the cupcake craze had landed in Florida. She believes the publicity fueled the first store’s success, leading to the capital and customers to open more locations.

On taking the recession in stride
While some small businesses were grappling with the recession, Hall believes the economic collapse helped her. “Before, people would have splurged on a $60 cake for a special occasion. Instead, they can stop by here and pick up a treat for $2.50,” she says. With 18 cupcake flavors–the most popular being red velvet, sweet potato, and carrot cake–CamiCakes’ rapid growth became one of Hall’s greatest challenges. She realized she needed to delegate and loosen the reins.

On the perks (and pains) of being her own boss
While being her own boss affords Hall the flexibility she craved, the baking aficionado admits it’s a mistake to think business ownership will give you more time for yourself. “There are going to be some days when you have to pull a double,” Hall says. “I may have had to work a 17- or 18-hour day while my child was sick.”

Look for more on Andra Hall and CamiCakes in the August 2010 issue of Black Enterprise.