For Taylor Stump ’14 the sweet taste of success comes in the form of a cupcake.
In June 2014, less than one month after earning her bachelor’s degree in business from Manhattan College, Stump launched her very own business, Little Miss Cupcape, in Hyannis, Mass.
With the iconic backdrop of Hyannis Inner Harbor serving as inspiration, her creations deliver more than just flavors. From Lighthouse Lemon and Red Sox Red Velvet to Vineyard Vanilla and Dock Chocolate Raspberry, each signature cupcake is a delicious celebration of Cape Cod culture.
From the moment customers set foot in the pink and white candy-striped shop, they are greeted by cupcake-dressed employees and transported into a sensory menagerie that includes a Create-A-Cupcake bar, lively music, nostalgic candies, specialty drinks and other sweet treats.
For most recent graduates just starting out, the prospect of starting a small business seems daunting. But Stump, the daughter of two entrepreneurs, says she never imagined anything else.
“I love it,” Stump says of her 15-plus-hour workdays. “I always knew that I wasn't going to be the person behind the desk in a cubicle. I need to be out and about and not just sitting down.”
She adds, “I definitely got my wish.”
Maintaining this whimsical world is hard work, especially because all of her edibles are strictly preservative-free. Stump wakes up to her 5:18 alarm every morning and is in her bakery before 6 a.m. to prepare each cupcake from scratch. She is the last one to leave, often at 8:30 p.m. or when she sells out — whichever comes first.
Stump believes the fresh, quality ingredients and attention to detail — not to mention the unique ambiance and variety available in her shop — gives Little Miss Cupcape an edge where large chains have failed.
“What differentiates my company from any other cupcake company is that when people come into the bakery they don’t just come for a cupcake, they come for the experience,” Stump says, noting that creativity is encouraged. The event room is available for cupcake decorating parties and the Create-A-Cupcake bar is a place for the curious customer to get creative without the mess.
Little Miss Cupcape was many years in the making. Although baking has always been a big part of Stump’s life — beginning as a child with her Easy-Bake Oven — it wasn’t until she began taking catering gigs in high school that she discovered her business vision.
Stump honed her plans for the bakery as a freshman at Manhattan College, and benefited from the personal attention in small classes. She developed cupcake shop business plans for many of her class projects, getting ideas and input from her professors every step of the way.
“Every teacher that I had at Manhattan College was very inspirational and supportive of my goals,” she says. “They recognized me as an entrepreneur and thought it was really cool that I wanted to do projects on my company or cupcake companies in general. They wanted to help me make my dreams a reality.”
The additional benefit of the College’s New York City location helped when it came to field research, as hundreds of the most successful and iconic bakeries in the world were only a short subway ride away.
Today, Stump stays on top by constantly taste-testing and innovating. She relies on customer ideas and feedback that she collects face-to-face or via email and social media. The biggest challenge to date has been developing the perfect gluten-free cupcake. It’s a work in progress, she says.
Her advice to those with entrepreneurial aspirations? Plan ahead.
“Make a business plan,” Stump says, noting that being a boss requires you to have a clear vision and direction. “Also, don't let other people tell you have to run your business. At the end of the day go with what your gut tells you and do what you think would be best for the company.”