We all know that the cupcake craze is alive and well. Cupcakes are the perfect addition to any party, and Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle, WA. has definitely won over the hearts of cupcake lovers all over the nation. We’re thrilled to have had the chance to chat with Jennifer Shea, the founder of Trophy Cupcakes, to find out what got her started. We chatted about what it’s like to be a successful female entrepreneur, and what exciting plans Trophy Cupcakes has for the future.
What was your “aha!” moment when you realized that you wanted to go full throttle with your passion?
It was simply walking into a cupcake shop in NYC in 1998 that did it for me. I had just finished my nutrition degree, but was feeling like something was missing. I hadn’t really found my passion. The moment I walked into that shop, I realized I’d been baking and party-making my whole life. For some reason it hadn’t occurred to me that I could make it my career – until that moment!
What does a day in the life of Jennifer consist of?
I get my son off to school, throw on something cute and then head to our flagship store where my office is. The first order of business is eating cupcakes. YES, it’s actually my job to eat cupcakes! I’m very particular about the cupcakes being perfectly baked and frosted, so it must be done. Next, I check in with the rest of the team and make sure they have what they need for the day, jumping in if there are huge orders or anyone needs help. If everything is running smoothly, I grab a cup of tea before I start checking email and getting projects done. For a good long time, I was writing my book and that was the only project I really focused on, but now that it’s complete, I’ve been touring the country to support the book (most recently through Williams-Sonoma stores). I also teach buttercream and decorating classes, as well as take part in various speaking engagements, mostly to entrepreneurs. I try to stop working by 6pm and spend a cupcake free evening with my favorite guys – my husband and 5 ½ year old son!
What has been the most memorable business opportunity you’ve had so far?
Besides opening my first shop, writing my first book has been my most memorable business opportunity thus far. It has allowed me to share my love for all things buttercream, cupcakes, and parties beyond our shops, as well as help people make their own party dreams a reality. It’s also helped expand the Trophy name past Seattle. We’ve been touring the country and have had lots of people show up to our buttercream demos and book signings in cities like LA, San Diego, Atlanta, New York City, Chicago, and more. It’s so exiting to see. And because people can order the book online, there are no bounds to its reach. We even had someone from South Africa order the book and send us a photo of the cupcakes she baked! It’s a very exciting feeling.
Looking back, what one thing do you wish someone had told you about becoming an entrepreneur?
That you need to find mentors or an entrepreneur group right from the start. There are so many amazing and successful entrepreneurs out there who are totally willing to meet for coffee and talk about the ups and downs of running your own business. I could have saved myself a lot of mistakes and heartache by reaching out to other entrepreneurs earlier, learning from their mistakes, and just having a sounding board for ideas and problems. It makes a world of difference to have a support group you can turn to when you’re trying to make a small business work.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of being an entrepreneur?
My favorite part of being an entrepreneur is getting to create delicious cupcakes that people absolutely love! Baking has always been my passion, but I never dreamed I’d be doing it for a living, bringing smiles to the greater Seattle area every day. The joy it brings people is more than I could have ever asked for.
My least favorite part is the relentlessness of owning a business. It has so many great moments, but it never stops. You don’t get to punch out, it’s always on your mind, and if you are like me, you are always working on it in your head – even at midnight. I have had to work really hard at work-life balance so that I am fully in the moment when I am with my family and not thinking about cupcakes in the back of my mind. I’m getting much better and even have had a couple of cupcake-free vacations in the past year. Turns out the tropics and an umbrella in my drink really helps!
What can we expect from Jennifer in the near future? Any new goals or plans?
I couldn’t be more excited about my new book, Trophy Cupcakes & Parties! It’s leading to some fun touring opportunities all across the country and I’ve had the chance to meet so many amazing Trophy supporters. I’ll also be teaching classes on Craftsy later this year, so make sure to keep an eye out for those. Last but not least, Trophy is working on some exciting new recipes, but those are top secret for now!