192: Bootstrapped Cupcakes: How Rob and Jen Built a Successful Business | Food Blogger Pro

192: Bootstrapped Cupcakes: How Rob and Jen Built a Successful Business

An image of Jen and Rob Morris and the title of their episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Bootstrapped Cupcakes: How Rob and Jen Built a Successful Business.'

Welcome to episode 192 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Jen and Rob Morris from Cupcakeology about starting and growing their bakery.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Ryan Walker from Link in Profile and Tap Bio. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How Rob and Jen Built a Successful Business

Have you ever dreamt of opening up your own bakery or restaurant? Jen and Rob did, too. They opened Cupcakeology in Philadelphia due to a love of desserts and management.

Jen and Rob learned a ton about running their own business, and that’s what they’re here today to chat about. You’ll learn about how they overcame the difficulties of starting their own business, how they decided to hire help, and why they eventually started a blog.

This is such a fun interview, and we know you’ll love learning about their journey.

A quote from Jen Morris’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'If we waited for the perfect time, we might not have ever started.'

In this episode, Jen and Rob share:

  • How they started baking
  • When they realized they wanted to start a bakery
  • Why it was important to understand both the food and the business
  • The different businesses they started
  • The hard lessons they needed to learn when they first started
  • How they decided to hire help
  • The importance of stories
  • Why they started a blog

Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes, Google Play Music, or Spotify:

Resources:

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Thanks to our Reviewer of the Week, Wordnerdy! If you’d like to be featured, leave a review for us on iTunes and include your name and blog name in the review.

We’d like to thank our sponsors, WP Tasty! Check out wptasty.com to learn more about their handcrafted WordPress plugins specifically made for food bloggers.

If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.

Transcript:

Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode, I chat about Pinterest strategies that you may want to be implementing on your blog, and then Bjork interviews Jen and Rob Morris from Cupcakeology about starting and growing their very own bakery.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hello, lovely listener. You are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We hope you’re having a fantastic day today. Today’s episode is sponsored by, you guessed it, WP Tasty, our sister site for WordPress plugins. WP Tasty plugins are built with rock-solid tech and SEO practices so that you can focus on content creation, photography, and more. You can learn more about WP Tasty’s plugins at wptasty.com.

Alexa Peduzzi: For today’s Tasty Tip, let’s chat about Pinterest, shall we? Pinterest is a long-term social media platform, meaning that it can actually take a while for you to see the results of your hard work. What are the things that you can be doing now in the hopes of seeing those impressive returns in a few months? That is exactly what this new Pinterest case study post on the WP Tasty blog is all about. Pinch of Yum implemented some changes into their Pinterest strategy at the advice of Simple Pin Media. This post breaks them down, each with the reasons why they’re recommended. There are eight total changes. We won’t get into all of them right now, but one of them is increasing the total number of pins that you’re pinning to 35 to 40 pins each and every day. These pins will get split between your own boards and group boards. To learn more about the other seven changes, be sure to visit this blog post at wptasty.com/recommendations.

Alexa Peduzzi: Now the episode. Have you ever dreamt of opening up your own bakery or restaurant? Well, Jen and Rob did too. They opened Cupcakeology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania due to a love of desserts and management. Jen and Rob learned a ton about running their own business and that’s what they’re here today to chat about. You’ll learn about how they overcame the difficulties of starting their own business, how they decided to hire help, and why they eventually started a food blog. This is such a fun interview. I was smiling the whole time I listened to it. I know you’ll love learning about their journey. Without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Jen and Rob, welcome to the podcast.

Rob Morris: Thank you for having us.

Jen Morris: Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. Jen, we were trading some emails back and forth. It was funny because I said, “Hey, I think I would really love to have you guys on the podcast to talk about your experience building this bakery and starting to get into blogging now.” I said, “How about we do it?” I forget the date that I said, but it was like February 13th or it was like February 15th. You’re like, “Well, is it possible that we could push it back just a little bit because this is like literally the busiest day. Is that true, Jen?

Jen Morris: Yeah it was Valentine’s Day.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah is that the busiest day for you guys?

Jen Morris: It’s the second busiest day. I’m like, “Are you kidding? He can’t do it on Valentine’s Day.”

Bjork Ostrom: It would literally be you interviewing while also working in the background.

Jen Morris: Hold on I have to pipe this rose really quickly. And I’ll be right back.

Bjork Ostrom: So, I’m interested to rewind the tape a little bit and hear your story. I was reading on your about page kind of how you guys got connected and then how you built this thing together. That’s another sub story with this that I’m interested in is you working together as a couple. It’s something that Lindsey and I do and something that’s this great gift and also a challenge at times. We’ll hit all of this stuff, but why don’t we rewind the tape a little bit and we’ll have each of you kind of tell your story up until the point until you met each other and kind of what food looked like for you. Maybe it was baking recipes. I know Rob you have some industry experience with restaurants, but Jen let’s start with you. What was your relationship with food and baking growing up?

Jen Morris: From the time I came out the womb I think. From the time I came out the womb, I always loved food and I started off with the whole Easy Bake Oven situation. Had my first Easy Bake Oven. Broke that. Got another one for Christmas and decided, “Okay. Mom, dad, can I please use your real oven because this light bulb is not cutting it anymore.” So, I started baking pound cakes. I found a pound cake recipe in my mom’s draw in the kitchen and I started backing that and I tweaked it an everything. Mind you I was about nine years old at the time. So, for Thanksgiving, we hosted all of the holidays and I used to love to bake little things. Even before I got to the pound cake. My one that I can really remember is called Pudding Under A Cloud.

Jen Morris: I debuted it on one Thanksgiving. It’s simply I just found pudding and put Cool Whip on top and put sprinkles.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure.

Jen Morris: And called it Pudding Under A Cloud.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Yep. I love that. Do you have any of the, from when you were younger, any of the family recipes or anything like that that are-

Jen Morris: I do yeah. A lot of our recipes we use in the bakery are derived from that. We changed some things. Rob’s changed some things, but a lot of them are based off of that one pound cake recipe. Yeah. So, that’s what we use a lot and then we just took it from there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So, at any point in your growing up, so obviously you know hey I really enjoy baking. This is something I like to do. I want to own a bakery. Was that ever anything that you kind of realized at a young age like this would be something I would love to do as a career?

Jen Morris: Yes. My dad and I, he’s the major part of this because he really took my hand and every Saturday or Sunday, we would go around to bakeries. It necessarily wasn’t in the area. It was just bakeries anywhere. We’re in Pennsylvania so we would go across the state lines in Delaware, Jersey. We would like to find different desserts and even when I was good in school, he liked it maybe more than I did.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Jen Morris: So, that was like a thing. Hey, you got an A in math, let’s go get a cake. So, I would like to pick the color of the roses and he would pay an extra quarter for each rose so I can have an extra rose, but he took me to a local bakery. He knew a guy who owned it and he let me go in his kitchen in the back and I will never forget just flour all over the place, sugar all over the place and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen and I really wanted to when I grew up open a bakery, but I never knew that you can really make a living off of it.

Jen Morris: Everybody talks about doctor, lawyer, accountant, but I never really heard like kids do now that hey I can really make a good living owning my own bakery.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah that’s awesome and eventually got to the point where you said, “Okay, we’re going to do this. We’re going to try this and we’ll get to that point eventually, but Rob I want to hear a little bit about your story. I know that on your end from the research I’ve done, from hearing your story a little bit, that you were involved in the restaurant industry in some sense. I’m guessing that plays a huge role kind of in your story in launching the bakery.

Rob Morris: It really does. You can be whoever you want to be when you put your mind to it because I actually started off as a dishwasher. I would look at the guys in the back through the small window and they order up, order up. This was in a old country buffet which was an all you can eat restaurant. Really good food.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah for sure. When I would do school trips for soccer, there was a chant we would do and I still do it with my friends were we chant OCB. OCB.

Rob Morris: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Because that’s where we wanted to go. So, totally familiar. Right there with you.

Rob Morris: The food was awesome, but the thing about the food is that it was made in such large quantities but it still had the gourmet feel to it and the old style home cooking and I was just so intrigued by it. I did the best I could with those dishes and one day my manager said, “Would you like to actually work in the back?” I’m like, “Sure yeah I would love to work in the back,” but that’s where he put me. As a dishwasher.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s kind of a lateral move.

Rob Morris: So, he put me on the machines. As I started working with the big machines that gave me a chance to start off as a prep person. To me personally the prep person is the most important. You’re basically getting everything together, and the line cook just comes in and does what he do. So, I worked my way up. I became a prep cook. I worked in the salad area. Then I became a line cook. Then I took over the bakery. They actually let me manage the bakery and I loved the bakery. I had so much fun in the bakery. The recipes, I had this knack with recipes. I remember them.

Rob Morris: Everyone would be like, “Well, where’s your recipe at?” I tell them it’s in my head.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rob Morris: It would come out so great and my boss seen that one day and before you know it, I was the complete kitchen manager in the back. It was just awesome. It was so awesome.

Bjork Ostrom: When you look back at that, obviously that’s a huge change from going to the kitchen manager from washing dishes. What do you tribute to mindsets that you had, things that you were really intentional about, what were the things that if you had to distill it down, the core characteristics? Because I’m guessing those same things exist with starting a business. It’s just this thing that you own then. So, if you were to distill it down, what are those things that worked? Whether it was a job and excelling in that or starting your own business and excelling in that?

Rob Morris: As a manager, I was able to separate myself from the food for a little bit and see the other side of things. I always thought that the manager was in charge of everything. The food, the people, the ordering. When I was able to see the business side of it. It separated the food and I realized that management is something totally different. I got to take a couple management classes and courses and they sent me away and everything. So, I learned the business aspect of it. That’s what helped us out with Cupcakeology. You put those fundamentals together, you have a nonstop training coming right at you.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When you say those two things, you mean the understanding of food and high quality recipes and the product as long with the business element. Because sometimes-

Rob Morris: Customer service, everything.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So, people will have sometimes one or the other. Really good food and then terrible business, or great business and then terrible food. That could be for product or whatever it is. Pairing those two things together you can really find success.

Rob Morris: Yes you could.

Bjork Ostrom: So, on the business side of things, what were some of the things that you remember some of the core takeaways that you were able to apply to Cupcakeology?

Rob Morris: Some of the core takeaways, one of the most important was food safety. Food safety was very important and learning how to rotate your stock and certain temperatures and getting your employees to work together and produce the same product time after time. Quality control, it’s just so much.

Bjork Ostrom: Those are some of the questions that I am curious to ask you about. Specifically I had a note here about creating your own branded product that you sell. Not just like to go food, but you guys have … I was watching an interview you did where you talk about I think it was some of the batter that you’re selling and then what that’s like to productize that. So, we’ll get there eventually, but Jen take us to the point then where we’ve talked about Jen’s story, we’ve talked about Rob’s story. At what point does it become Jen and Rob?

Jen Morris: Jen and Rob business or Jen and Rob marriage?

Bjork Ostrom: Let’s do both. I think both are interesting.

Jen Morris: Well, Jen and Rob started at OCB.

Rob Morris: Yeah. Yeah.

Jen Morris: Jen and Rob started at OCB. We just became great friends. He was there first and I came in as a … What was I, a hostess?

Rob Morris: Yeah.

Jen Morris: I came in as a hostess and then moved to cashier. I really wasn’t interested in going in the kitchen at that point. Just because I kind of moved away from food for a little bit, but we became very good friends. He’s funny and he made me laugh all the time, but then just life separated us for a couple of years and then we had a mutual friend who kind of connected us back together about four years later. Then after that, we were inseparable. Our favorite thing to do was get together, get a couple of drinks and tacos or some kind of really good food and just watch a really good movie. I feel like our relationship has always been based around food because it was our comfort. It was our happy time.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah for sure. That’s cool to hear your story. One of the things that Lindsay and I we talk about this, so we grew up in the same small hometown. She was a hostess at Perkins and I remember often going out with our group of friends and she would work super late hours which she was like 15 at the time and I feel like it was borderline illegal…like, wait a minute. Can you be 15 and working until 1:00 AM? But we’d go out with our friends and connect up and so we kind of have similar stories of kind of knowing each other through just the same small hometown but she talks a lot about being a hostess at Perkins.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So, curious to know then as you guys are hanging out, as you’re having these conversations getting to know each other more, I’m guessing at some point there is this business idea that comes up. Take us back to that point and what did that look like and how did the idea start to form between both of you?

Jen Morris: Well, he’ll tell you. It’s been many businesses.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes for sure. I can relate to that.

Jen Morris: I know I always I just can’t stand the monotony of doing the same thing over and over again.

Rob Morris: For somebody else.

Jen Morris: For somebody else. Even for myself, but for someone else. So, we went through many businesses. I was a realtor at first. Then he got his home inspection license. So, we kind of worked that together for a while and then after that was what?

Rob Morris: You did a lot in mortgage.

Jen Morris: Yeah mortgage. Selling mortgages and then we finally got to … I think what it was when I worked, I worked in Center City Philadelphia and I brought home cupcakes or baked goods like every night and then on the weekends we’re like, “Well, where do we get a good cupcake or something good to eat?”

Rob Morris: Yeah they were terrible.

Jen Morris: Around here.

Bjork Ostrom: They were there, but they weren’t good.

Jen Morris: Yeah. So, we’re like, “Well, why don’t we start something in the neighborhood since we can’t find anything?” I think that’s where it came from. That’s where the idea of Cupcakeology came from. Well, cupcakes. We had to think of a name, but we knew that we wanted to sell cupcakes.

Jen Morris: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So, this was almost 10 years ago, is that right?

Jen Morris: Longer?

Rob Morris: Yeah that was longer.

Jen Morris: Yeah about 10 years ago. 2011 we started, but 2010, yeah.

Rob Morris: We were into it for a while because I also managed a Perkins. That’s funny that you said that about your wife. We did plenty of french silk.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Yeah for sure.

Rob Morris: I actually from a different type of muffins and cookies that they had, that side of the cooking experience is kind of led a little bit more to Cupcakeology for me than the OCB. OCB was more of a managerial thing, but the Perkins, yeah that was where the bakery actually started.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So, you have some experience literally working in a bakery, seeing what that process is like.

Rob Morris: Oh yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: They have the, is it the mammoth muffins? Is that right? They have mammoth muffins so you gotta get some.

Rob Morris: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: So, you have this experience. It’s kind of come to this point. One of the things that I think is interesting, Jen as you said, always kind of looking to do something new. You talked about these other jobs that you’ve had, but you guys have been doing this, you’ve committed to this for a really long time. So, 10 plus years that you’ve been working on it. Obviously it’s something that you’re committed to and I’m guessing there’s a new thing every day that kind of evolves so it’s kind of built in that it will always be a little bit different. So, take us back to the point where you said, “Okay, we’re going to do this. We’re going to commit to this.” What did that look like in the early stages and to set this up, the context for this, one of the things I want to do as much as possible on this podcast is offer different perspectives on how people can be building their own thing.

Bjork Ostrom: We’ve kind of restricted ourself by the name of the podcast, Food Blogger Pro podcast. Really what we want to talk about is entrepreneurial endeavors in the food world and naturally online is going to be a big component of that. In your case, I’m guessing it really helps that you have 4.7 out of 5 stars out of 200 votes on Facebook and 4.7 stars and Google. Online is an important thing, even if you’re brick and mortar. So, that’s the context for framing up this conversation. So, to rewind the tape though, take us back to that point where you said, “Hey we’re going to start this.” What were the early steps that you took? What were the earliest things that you had to do in order to get up and running with a bakery?

Jen Morris: Yeah. That was the hardest part because we didn’t have any mentors. We didn’t have any guidance. Anyone saying hey, or directing us anywhere. So, every little piece we had to research and figure out trial by fire, right? So, that’s one of the things that I think was really difficult. However, our passion for starting it kept us going.

Bjork Ostrom: What were some of the early fires? So, you said trial by fire and I can think back to when we were first starting and it’s like, “Gosh, I have this laundry list of things that I would consider to be fires,” but when you look back at the bakery, what were some of those early things? Not necessarily fire meaning like issues and mistakes but fire meaning these are really hard things that I have to figure out.

Jen Morris: Right. Like how to get your license. How to-

Rob Morris: Incorporate.

Jen Morris: Incorporate. I was thinking LLC. Get a LLC, what’s the most important, how to do your taxes. For us with the location, where do we go? Location, location, location, right? So, we had to figure that out. We didn’t want to make a mistake with that. Just all of the little things to set up. If it was just one resource place. That’s one of the things we want to incorporate on the blog to for sure. To help others because we had it … It just wasn’t easy for us. So, that’s the main thing. Like how to incorporate yourself.

Rob Morris: How to pay other people and I work at the same time. How do we get it rolling? I’m not making enough money. How do we keep this thing going? The cupcakes are good, but how do we continue to pay so that we can reup on the production and everything.

Bjork Ostrom: And still get five hours of sleep a night.

Rob Morris: Yeah with kids.

Jen Morris: With the children yeah.

Rob Morris: Full-time job, you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So those are awesome questions to be asking and I’m assuming a lot of people are asking those same questions for themselves as it relates to their blog right now or their business or whatever it would be that they are working on. So, can you take us back and number one, how did you go about figuring that out? I think it’s interesting to talk about the specific answer, but it’s also interesting to hear how people found those answers as they’re working through it. What did you find to be most effective in terms of getting answers for some of those questions if you didn’t have those ventures?

Rob Morris: You have to beat the ground. You have to do the research and you have to put in the work in order to save money up and get yourself together in order to do what you’re trying to do. It’s not going to fall in your lap. That was one of the main things that we always knew. So, we knew we had to work double time to get everything started and get everything running and that’s what we did. We beat the ground.

Jen Morris: Nothing was handed to us. We didn’t even have that much savings. We had to start. Like I said, we started really small. When you think of a bakery, you may think of a storefront, something cute and pretty, but we started in an office building. So, you walk up. Imagine walking up into this communal building with a directory and different office suites. So, you’re like am I in a bakery or am I in a … They had to walk through about three businesses before they got to us. So-

Bjork Ostrom: Location, location, location.

Jen Morris: Yeah but that’s the only way to start. I feel like if you waited for the perfect time, we might not have ever started. So, I didn’t care where we were. I knew that this is where we are. When we first opened, we had to get a couple permits and then our last one, the guys looked at me and said, “Well, here we’ll license you to open but you’re not going to get anymore than about two people in here.” I looked at my husband and said, “Does he know who he’s talking to?” I am going to work my fingers to the bone to make sure people know we are in this little place.

Rob Morris: You know what else what was good about that too? Another thing that was good about that was the fact that we actually had core customers. So, we knew that people who came in and they took part in what we were given that we had something. When you have people who come into something like that and it’s not a true bakery style, you know you have a winner. That-

Bjork Ostrom: Because people have to work a little bit to get there. Is that what you are saying?

Rob Morris: Yes. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s worth traveling for or waiting in line or going through three other business locations to get there.

Rob Morris: There you go. Because businesses fail in the beginning. You go big with it and the big storefront and 80 different recipes and you just don’t have the recipe to keep everything going. Sometimes you have to start off small.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting in the startup space, they talk a lot about I’ve mentioned on the podcast before this idea of a minimum viable product, but it’s the exactly what you’re saying but the online version of that which is some people work on something for a year and then they have their grand opening, instead of working on it for a weekend, opening it up, seeing if there’s a need for it, if there’s interest in it. It really comes down to push versus pull. Is there a draw into the business that’s so strong that it affirms like okay this product that we are creating is good. People are coming to it. They’re willing to work for it a little bit. That’s when you can start to make it a little bit easier and say, “Hey, maybe we can get a little bit closer to more people so more people can access this. What did that look like in the early stages as you not only were working on it yourselves, but then thinking about there has to be a point where we have to bring some other people into it.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s one of the things that’s different with something like a bakery where a lot of people that are building a blog or website in the early stages, they won’t think about hiring until maybe a year, two years, three years down the line. I’m guessing that conversation had to happen a little bit earlier for you. So, Jen if you think back to those early stages, what was that like to start to think about bringing on team members to hire people and what would your advice be for other people who are interested in doing that with their business as they think strategically about building a team.

Jen Morris: Sure. I think sometimes you can have a need or you can think you have a need to bring someone else in, but for us, this is for us, sometimes you look at your finances and your finances don’t say, “Oh there’s a need yet.” So, that means in our situation that we weren’t pushing ourselves enough. Maybe Jen, you have to get up a little earlier to get in there, to get everything done or maybe you have to figure out a better process for something to get it done quicker.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah that’s so smart.

Jen Morris: Yeah that’s something you can’t always just jump and hire because again business fail really quickly like that. You’ll have slow periods. Bakery and every business is cyclical.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah I think that’s so wise to think about what are the … not necessarily what are the ways that I can bring somebody in, hire somebody, outsource this but is there you had said a system or a process or a tool that I could use that will help me out with this and the cost of it would be so much lower than what it would be to bring in a team member. Then the other thing that’s so valuable that you said is maybe I just need to hustle more. Get to the point where I can justify this and bring in somebody else. There has to be that period where you had this … I think this was you, Jen and I’m assuming it’s one of you or you could posted about you said I could complain about having to wake up shortly after midnight every day or be grateful that I get to see the sun rise and illuminate the sky with various colors every morning. That’s on your Facebook page. I think that’s such a great example of the work ethic involved and so often people don’t think about that or understand that when it comes to the early stages and like you’re currently in the middle of it right?

Bjork Ostrom: December of this year, still getting up and working hard and making it work. I think sometimes people don’t see that.

Jen Morris: That’s right.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. So, you’re at the point now where you’ve been working on the bakery for a substantial amount of time and you have some systems established, you have some of a foundation with it. One of the things that I was curious about is how have you gone about connecting with and getting in front of people from a media perspective? So, I saw that you were on a morning news show. I know that you had mentioned being on Steve Harvey or Steve Harvey having one of your cupcakes. What has that been like and what would your advice be for people to help make connections in media to kind of build in some exposure for their brand or their blog or their business?

Jen Morris: I think that came from us being in that small location at first. Because we had no choice but to get our cupcakes out there because no one riding by is going to see us inside working. So, I had to create stories for the media pretty much to come in and highlight us. I would always peruse the internet and write funny emails to certain celebrities that had talk shows or radio shows and one of them was Steve Harvey and I think I mentioned something about our cupcakes, once they hit his lips because Steve Harvey’s lips are a big attribute so once they hit his lips or something and that got the attention of his producer.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So, I think that is really interesting and specifically you had mentioned the word story. I think story is so valuable in building a brand or a business or a blog. I think as creators, we always need to be thinking about our macro story which is the story of who we are and what we’re about and how we got to be where we are, almost like the heroes journey and you guys are kind of describing that in a way with building up the things that you guys have built up, but then there’s also the micro story which I think can be applied to media and making those connections. I feel like cupcakes offer a lot of fun potential for the micro story and Rob I’d be interested to hear you talk a little bit about when you had this morning news show, you had some micro stories around the cupcakes that you’re creating and these really unique crafted to Philadelphia kind of cupcakes.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m interested from a business perspective are those ones that people are coming in and they’re like, “Hey, I’m going to buy this Philly cheese steak cupcake,” or is there a micro story in that that allows you to connect with producers and get exposure and kind of have some of these stories told?

Rob Morris: That’s a great bullet point that you hit. When you’re in business and you start to think like a business minded person, you have to understand that everybody’s in it to gain something. If you keep that in mind when you’re trying to get in the limelight and whatnot, you have to know certain times of the year people are looking for certain people. You have to know how producers do what they do and eventually you’ll understand that the people who you see on TV aren’t the ones who set this stuff up. Once you get in tune with all that, you’ll be able to navigate and get yourself out there at certain times of the year. For instance, Valentine’s Day is very important. They need to have these broadcasts on TV.

Rob Morris: So, if you can think of something that would get you out there like we did with the cheese steak cupcakes and everything and it rings their bell, they’re going to call you before anybody. So, it’s just about navigating the media once you get to a certain point where you have the following already and people can speak for your product, they’ll come right to you.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah that’s interesting. It reminds me a little bit of when you said they’re not the ones setting this up, meaning you are coming to them and saying, “Here’s an idea that I have for something that we could talk about, knowing that Valentine’s day is coming up for instance. That’s a really important holiday for you guys. Aligning that and saying, ”Hey it’s going to be really good if we get exposure for our business. It’s also going to be really good for you which you talked about understanding what other people need if you have this fun, goofy out there really interesting topic to talk about which is these unique cupcakes that we’re creating.

Rob Morris: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: So, point being think if you are interested in doing that for people listening to the podcast, if you’re interested in having exposure on media, maybe it’s connecting with local news and having a placement, think strategically about what can I be giving them not just how can I go and pitch my stuff on the show.

Jen Morris: Exactly.

Rob Morris: Don’t be greedy.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure. It reminds me, we did this, it wasn’t cupcakes but it was muffins. We did a morning news show. It was like pumpkin muffins way back a few years ago and it was the … I was a disaster. It was so bad. When I watched you guys doing it, you’re so natural and you’re there and it’s just like perfect family and I’ll have to tell the extended story of it, but there’s a couple things that happened with it. Number one was I don’t know what they call it officially, but there’s a scene where they show you really quick before they go to commercial break to set up what’s coming down the line. So, they do this countdown and I was supposed to be stirring the batter for these muffins.

Bjork Ostrom: I was doing it and then they were like, “Alright, five. You guys are going to wave in five, four,” and then I looked at Lindsay and she had a little flour on her shirt and I went and I wiped it off but I had batter all over my hands. So, instead of getting the flour off I just had this huge streak across her shirt and they were like, “Two, one,” and then we both turned and wave. I just totally panicked too. I was so nervous. So, anyways a lot of respect for you guys.

Jen Morris: Tell them about your story when you knocked over all the cupcakes.

Rob Morris: Oh yeah. The last actual shoot that you were talking about, we were setting things up and everybody was so ecstatic about the cupcakes and they go, “Hurry up, we have five seconds left,” but they were still asking us questions so we’re trying to set up and pay attention to them and I dropped a whole box of cupcakes.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh no.

Rob Morris: Yes. I dropped a whole box of cupcakes. Before the cameraman came on, he had to pan other places and we’re rushing to get them put back. It was crazy.

Jen Morris: So you’re not alone.

Rob Morris: No you’re not alone.

Bjork Ostrom: Well, that makes me feel a little bit better so thank you. So, one of the things that I think is interesting with your story is that you’ve built up this brick and mortar business. You have some success with this. It has a little bit of a foundation under it and now you’re saying, “Okay, I’m going to explore other areas and take something that has been traditionally a single location bakery,” and then starting to tell that story online. Sometimes we’ll talk to people, a lot of times we’ll talk to people who have an online thing and they make that transition to maybe a restaurant or a physical location, but I’m interested to hear you talk about what the transition has been like for you as you start to think strategically about being in the early stages of creating a blog and starting to publish some of those recipes online.

Bjork Ostrom: What was the idea behind that? What was the intent behind that and what is your hope for as you start to publish recipes online and kind of build this as a new part of your business?

Jen Morris: Right. There are actually a few reasons. One being as we started off with cupcakes and now one thing being a business owner, Rob told me this too because for me in the beginning, it’s like, “I want to do this. I want to sell this because they need to taste this,” but he’s like, “If you want to remain in business, you have to sell what they are willing to buy,” right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Give the people what they want. Right.

Jen Morris: Yeah. So, we started off with cupcakes, many different flavors. That’s the part that I love. I love creating and blending flavors. So, then the market shifts to these crazy cake boss type cakes with fondant everywhere and I don’t want to do it, but that pays the bills. So, that kind of takes the flavor away but I did what I had to do and I rocked at it. Then we moved to our new location and like I said I’m not doing any more fondant. Buttercream only. So, it’s shifting in our area more back towards traditional cakes and away from cupcakes. So, I kind of not that I was losing my passion, but I had to continue to feed my passion with making different recipes and blending flavors and things like that. So, that’s why I’m like, “Well, let’s just start a food blog. Let me be able to create different flavors and recipes and things like that and put it out online where I know there’s a big market. There’s a big world out there.”

Jen Morris: That’s the first reason. The second reason is because people have followed us. We have such loyal fans. Our fans are amazing and we had a lot that followed us from day one until now. They often ask, some of them want to start their own business or they just want to know maybe figure out how to quit their job and become a stay at home mom. How do they finance that? They ask us business questions all of the time, so that’s another big piece of the food blog that we want to put out. We want to have a resource.

Rob Morris: Giving back.

Jen Morris: Yeah. Like giving back and telling our story and creating just this resource space for them.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah that’s awesome. I would assume it’s one of those things where you don’t even know what you know in regards to running a business and everything that goes into it. That happens for us sometimes where people will say, “Well, how do you do XYZ?” It’s like, “Oh yeah.” That’s just knowledge that you have that other people don’t.

Jen Morris: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: So you’re able to give back in a way that supports other people, helps other people out and kind of shortens that path a little bit too to allow them to get up and running more quickly. So, curious to hear a little bit about that. When you think of that, do you think of offering that advice in regards to similar paths? Hey, if you want to start a bakery, if you want to start a retail location or is it more of in business in general, here are some of the things that we think that you should consider and know as you want to build your own thing?

Jen Morris: I think it’s more of business in general. People have tons of ideas and we like to hear them all and the crazy thing is when you’re talking about business, there’s so many different leagues. So, to stare someone just to a bakery and not help the others is kind of like we want to help as many as we can because the motto can be applied to anything.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah for sure.

Rob Morris: That’s the great part about it. So, we actually started talking to schools. We go around speaking to the kids and they’re very interested. But the people who are a little further and still are a little confused, it feels good to help them out because when you give them that direction, they glow and they come back and they show you their progress and that kind of warms our hearts because we know how it was for us.

Jen Morris: I think, Bjork. Going back to what you just said about you not realizing all that you know, when we started the blog Lovin’ from the Oven blog, now this sounds funny, I initially wanted to kind of separate it and have we have Cupcakeology brick and mortar and then let’s start this online thing Lovin’ from the Oven blog and let’s just kind of start from the beginning. You know how when you start something you naturally you look at others and see what they’re doing and how they formatted, but he’s like, “Babe, we are already the professionals in business. Why are you separating?” He said, “You can tell people what we know. You can give back.”

Jen Morris: I’m like, “Oh yeah. I didn’t even realize that we do know a lot about this process. We just don’t know food blogging per se, but we know a lot behind it that food bloggers have to learn initially and we already have that knowledge.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. I think one of the things that is a universal truth with any skill or expertise is it almost takes a few years to be in it in order for you to feel comfortable saying I know enough to just kind of do my own thing, but it feels like I think in the early stages of anything, it feels like there’s rules and in terms of how exactly stuff has to happen. You’re in it long enough and you’re like obviously there are rules and we have processes that we have to follow and stuff, but in terms of best practices, there’s kind of general guidelines for things, but also people have opinions, people do things drastically differently. Still find ways to be successful and that’s kind of what I hear you saying is hey we’ve done this. We found success.

Bjork Ostrom: We kind of know what that looks like and feels like. We can apply it to a different industry. Just because it’s a different industry doesn’t mean that the formula for success completely changes.

Rob Morris: Yes.

Jen Morris: I think the one thing that I have to practice what I preach or I had to go back to practicing what I preach is you have to use your gifts. There’s never going to be another Rob and Jen. There are thousands of cupcake bakeries around but there are no cupcake bakeries that have Rob and Jen and same with the food blog. The new food blog is not going to be another Rob and Jen so I have to do it our way with our story. That’s what’s going to make it flourish.

Bjork Ostrom: I love that. It reminds me of one of my favorite posts from he’s a technologist/kind of futurist guy named Kevin Kelly and I think I’ve talked about it on the podcast before, but he talks about 1000 true fans and that’s a great example of that. You guys are already there I’m sure and now it’s thinking about how can we build a thing where we are speaking to our 1000 true fans. I think everybody that’s listening to this has a version of that. You are able to connect with and serve 1000 true fans and those true fans are people who will if you have a new cookbook, they’ll buy it or if you release a new product, they’ll be interested in it. If you are able to cultivate that, which isn’t easy, but if you’re able to cultivate that you can have a lot of success and I hear that as kind of a through line with you talking about people from the very beginning that have been with you throughout the entire path and your entire journey.

Bjork Ostrom: Super, super inspiring to talk to you both. One of the things that I would love to end on for this podcast is to have each one of you speak to somebody who’s in the early stages and this could maybe be you speaking to yourself 10, 11, 12 years ago as you were starting or you could also think about it as speaking to somebody who’s in the early stages of starting their thing. What would the advice and inspiration be that you’d give to that person? Jen, we can start with you.

Jen Morris: Okay. Take action. Take the leap. Do it. You will have notes upon notes upon notes on where to go, where to start, how to do it, when is the right time, oh I should wait for this. It will never be the right time. You have to do it. I kind of apply. I’m talking to myself now with the food blog. I think I heard you say it. I don’t know what episode because I’m binge listening to them on Food Blogger Pro, but you said exactly this. You have to just start it. You will tweak and tweak and tweak that blog forever before you publish it. That’s what I was doing. I was tweaking and tweaking and tweaking it and I’m like listen, just get the recipe and get it out there. Now, each and every day we’re tweaking it and making it better, but it’s out there. We started and that pressure was like, “Woo.” It’s gone.

Bjork Ostrom: I love that. Once you do that you’ll start to realize this is what it feels like to publish content. This is what it feels like to put something into the world. this is what it feels like to see on your Facebook page, Rob, standing on a chair/the table with the big artificial light in the background. You start to see these are the rhythms that I need to get into and start to create consistently which is so spot on. What about for you, Rob? What would be the advice that you’d give?

Rob Morris: The advice I would give speaking to my younger self, don’t be afraid to educate yourself. Educate yourself as much as you can. That doesn’t mean school all the time. You can educate yourself from other people, from YouTube. Just being around people. Don’t be afraid to take someone in as a mentor. Don’t be afraid to work in the shadows of other people even though you’re not there yet. Don’t try to be too big too fast. If you have a goal, stick to it. If you have 20 different objectives, pick one and stick with it or two. If you have too many, you’ll be all over the place. That was a major problem that I had. Just be caring and be patient. Being patient is very important.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah it’s so true. They talk about people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in 10.

Rob Morris: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: I hear a little bit of that truism in your advice where it’s 12 years of doing a bakery and 12 years is a long time and you can’t do what you guys have done in one year and you have to be patient with it and see it through which I think is so true with the work that we do as well. Creating and publishing things, developing an artistic skill, writing, photography, all of that. Which is great. Coming to the end here, but I’m sure people will want to follow along with what you guys are up to, both the bakery if they’re close or passing through swinging in and then also your blog. So, can you give them a heads up and we’ll link to these in the show notes as well, but where can people find what you’re up to and follow along and also helping people get some of those incredible Philly cheese steak cupcakes if they’re around or just a regular one if they’re not.

Jen Morris: Sure. The bakery is www.cupcakeologypa.com and we’re at Cupcakeology Bakery or Cupcakeology PA on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The new blog which we’re so excited about is lovinfromtheovenblog.com and then we’re at lovinfromtheovenblog on Instagram and Facebook and lovin from the ov on Twitter.

Bjork Ostrom: Love that. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast Jen and Rob. Really great to connect and excited to watch you guys continue to build the things you’re building.

Jen Morris: Thanks so much for having us. It was fun.

Rob Morris: We really appreciate it.

Alexa Peduzzi: That is that. Thank you so much for tuning in to the Food Blogger Pro podcast this week, friend. As you know we always like to wrap up each episode with the reviewer of the week and this review comes from iTunes and it’s from user Wordnerdy. It says, “I’ve been food blogging for years and I still learn something new with every Food Blogger Pro podcast. Thank you Bjork.” Short and sweet. We love it. Thank you so much for the review, Wordnerdy. Each and every review helps the show get in front of more people so we really appreciate every review. We appreciate you so much. Each and every listener of the podcast just makes us so happy every single week. So, from all of us here at FBP HQ, make it a great week.

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