Take a walk down the path of these entrepreneurs, business owners and progressive women.
Marianne Ladapo is the founder and head baker of Lenox Cupcakes, offering gourmet baked goods for corporate and private events in the metro Atlanta area. Lenox Cupcakes was founded out of a deep and abiding love for cupcakes. The company began its initial operations in 2008 from Ladapo’s home kitchen and shortly thereafter, a commercial kitchen. Since then, she’s settled into our licensed bakery in the Chamblee neighborhood. This Womeneur has proudly baked her deliciousness for a loyal fan base of customers, including corporate clients such as AT&T, Coca-Cola, CNN, Google, Microsoft, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
What inspired your journey into business?
I owe this journey to a serious craving for cakes when I was expecting my son. I couldnt eat a whole cake by myself so I started baking cupcakes. I went online looking for recipes and discovered blogs dedicated to nothing but cupcakes and I was hooked. Baking cupcakes became an activity that I found soothing, almost therapeutic. Whenever I had a stressful day at my full-time job, I would get in the kitchen and bake. One day, my sister suggested that I sell some to a friend of hers and the business grew from there.
What steps did you take to start your business?
The business started in my home kitchen with the eggs and butter in my fridge, using equipment I already owned, selling to people I knew. I tested my recipes extensively by doing taste tests with friends, family, and coworkers before offering them up to the public. I formed relationships online with other bakery owners to find out what it was like to run a bakery. After developing my products in my home kitchen, I met some amazing women who leased me space in their commercial kitchen. It wasnt until after a couple of years that I felt ready to lease my own space.
What are your biggest fears?
My biggest fears are falling short of our customers expectations. We have customers that have been with us since the very beginning and we work hard to continue to earn their business. We invite all feedback, positive or negative as they help us grow. Negative feedback can be difficult to absorb but we learn from our mistakes and put in place measures to ensure that we dont repeat them.
What do you do to stay motivated when you feel like giving up?
I have an amazing family and dedicated friends that wont let me give up. They are always there to lend an ear and offer advice. More recently, I joined a network of female entrepreneurs who truly understand the ups and downs associated with running a business. They are a huge support system and are instrumental in providing the motivation I need to stay the course.
What are your weaknesses in business and how have you worked past them?
My biggest weakness is delegating and trusting that things would get done right if Im not directly involved. Over time, I realized that in order to grow, I had to empower my team to act independently. My focus has been on simplifying processes and creating systems that are easy to implement.
Whats been most rewarding?
The most rewarding thing has been and still is hearing from people who enjoy our products. We exist to make our happy and knowing that we have met our goal is very rewarding.
Who were you before you started your business?
Prior to starting my business, I worked at a non-profit health organization and would have been happy to remain there until retirement. Life, however, had other plans for me when a layoff forced me into business full-time.
If you had to do it again, what (if anything) would you do differently?
I would worry a lot less. There are ups and downs in business and over time you learn the cycles. Slower periods are for now planning and preparing for busier times.
Whats one good software or application you cannot live without?
I cant live without my Square Dashboard app with real-time sales data. This allows me to be anywhere in the world and yet maintain a handle on how things are going.
Whats your secret to cultivating a relationship between you and your customers?
Our secret is learning as much as possible about our customers. We use this information to create products and experiences that are of value to them.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
In five years, I see us opening more retail outlets and expanding our product line.
What are 3 tips you can share with budding and current entrepreneurs/business owners?
1. Understand why you are in business in the first place. This helps you remain true to your brand and will motivate you during challenging times.
2. Learn as much as you can about your customers. Find out what their pain points are and create solutions to meet their needs.
3. Implement! Launch! Go ahead and do it. Don’t sit on your brilliant ideas forever or fail to launch because of over-analysis.