“The way we have overcome each new challenge is to do our homework and research; we ask for help from people who are experienced in the business community.”
Times may be tough but a $3 treat is still an affordable pleasure, especially when they’re made fresh daily and the product comes with a smile.
Sherryl Andrews and Marilyn Miller have seen sales climb every month since they opened Ooh La La Cupcakes on Hillside Avenue last fall. The two women have been friends for 20 years, and Andrews, 34 years a nurse, had dreamt for years about owning a business. The push to doing something about it came with the closure of the home-care agency that employed her. “That’s what kind of pushed me over the edge.”
“We both thought at the beginning, how hard can it be to make a cupcake?” says Miller, who smiles at their confidence. It turned into a quick education in business.
“It was such a learning curve, every little thing,” says Andrews, whose husband likened it to eating an elephant one bite at a time. The partners aren’t complaining, but she never envisioned just how much time it would take.
On the other hand, she wouldn’t trade the experience of entrepreneurship, even the hours. “I never thought I’d enjoy getting up at five o’clock in the morning.”
Miller handles the business side of things and holds down a day job as counsellor at Reynolds high school, while Andrews bakes and runs the café. But Miller has also picked up on-the-job skills icing cupcakes. (Their biggest takeout order was 52 dozen — that’s 624 cupcakes — for corporate gifts.)
Ooh la la does a dozen different kinds of cupcakes; at Christmas they added four more. “It’s always fun trying new stuff,” says Andrews. “What we’re trying to offer is a product that’s different.”
They’ve been rewarded by coming to work in the mornings and seeing “little kids with their noses against the window,” says Miller.
They’re not exaggerating. Their richly iced cupcakes have names like Triple Bypass and Monkey Business.
“People come in, laugh, and then they order one,” said Andrews. “Cupcakes make people smile.”
They have had lots of family support. Andrews’ engineer husband drafted renovation plans for the leased space on Hillside Avenue, and both families pitched in for construction work. Even their kids were supportive. “My son named the Triple Bypass, which is the most popular,” says Andrews.
“Our big thing was we wanted everything fresh.” There are no day-olds at Ooh la la — every Pink Ballerina with strawberry icing and chocolate-and-mocha French Kiss is made fresh each day. Seasonal specials change up the list.
Andrews says they “tried for the Paris feel” at Ooh la la, from the pale green and black colours to the wire café chairs. The café side serves Discovery Coffee and Silk Road Tea.
Business in a cupcake: there may be other Ooh la la places coming. “In the original business plan, we set it up so we could open franchises,” says Miller.