Thursday, July 15, 2010
cakelava Interviews: TLC's "DC Cupcakes" - Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis of Georgetown Cupcake, Pt. 1
All images courtesy of TLC and Georgetown Cupcake
For sisters Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis, life is about to get a whole lot sweeter. Two years after opening their wildly successful Washington, D.C. cupcakery, Georgetown Cupcake, they are about to become television's newest baking stars courtesy of TLC's new series "DC Cupcakes." On Friday, July 16th at 10 PM (ET/PT) TLC will premiere the six-part series, revealing the inner workings of the family-owned Georgetown Cupcake. Sophie and Katherine left their high-powered careers in fashion and finance to open Washington D.C.'s first cupcakery. To their surprise, Georgetown Cupcake was an instant hit with lines forming around the block and now sells more than 5,000 cupcakes per weekday.
I had an opportunity to interview Sophie and Katherine for our "Interviews from Cakeland" series via Rick's and my affiliation with the TLC Cake Crew. I viewed an advance preview of the show and visited their website, georgetowncupcake.com and was instantly intrigued by their sweet story of success. Both Sophie and Katherine graciously gave me their time and insight into the delicious world of Georgetown Cupcake, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for these two hard working entrepreneurial marvels!
Sasha Reichart: You two have put DC on the map for cupcakes and currently call it home. I read that you are originally from Canada. What brought you from Canada to Washington, D.C.?
Georgetown Cupcake: We both went to college in the U.S. Sophie moved from NJ to DC after college (10 years ago) for her first job and Katherine went to Marymount University, in Arlington, VA -- just outside of DC.
Sasha Reichart: Georgetown Cupcake opened on Valentine's Day in 2008, a little over two years ago. Can you talk about your careers prior to owning Georgetown Cupcake?
Georgetown Cupcake: Katherine worked in the fashion industry (for Gucci) and Sophie worked in venture capital. Neither of us went to culinary or pastry school.
SR: Having previous experience in both the high-powered fashion industry and finance gave you a strong foundation to run a business, but where did your passion for baking come from?
GC: We baked with our grandmother since we were little girls. She taught us how to bake and this was a huge part of our lives growing up.
SR: What made the two of you decide you wanted to go into business together, and how did you choose cupcakes?
GC: We always had a dream of opening a bakery together. We are a year and a half apart and are very close and always wanted to eventually work together in life. We decided on cupcakes because we had all of our grandmother's amazing cake recipes ... but we wanted to be able to have variety, yet still do one thing and make it awesome! So, we decided on cupcakes because we could do all these different flavors and decorations but at the end of the day, we were focusing on one thing and making it amazing!
SR: I was very surprised to hear that Georgetown Cupcake was the first and only cupcakery in DC up until 2008. Cupcakes have been trendy in L.A., New York, Chicago and nearly every metropolitan city for years. Did you see your decision to open Georgetown Cupcake in a city without a cupcakery as more of a risk or a goldmine?
GC: We really did not think about it in these terms. We really just wanted to follow through on our dream of opening a bakery together. Most people actually thought we were crazy for quitting our jobs to start a bakery together. We honestly thought it would be just the two of us -- setting our own hours, having fun baking together all day. We were SO wrong!! It ended up being crazy busy from day one! We are really lucky because our customers are AMAZING and it's great to be a part of their special events in life.
SR: Can you talk about the humble beginnings of Georgetown Cupcake? Was it just the two of you baking cupcakes and overseeing the business?
GC: That's exactly right! We didn't have any other employees and we literally woke up at 4am - baked all the cupcakes, frosted all the cupcakes, sold all the cupcakes at the front counter, made the coffees, closed up at night, cleaned the whole bakery ourselves ... and started the whole cycle the next morning! We were living on 3 hours of sleep a night for the first few months ... We were living our dream .. but at the same time, it felt like a nightmare! :)
SR: Approximately how many cupcakes did you bake per day when you first opened, and how many flavors did you offer at the time?
GC: We baked around 1,000 cupcakes a day (15 flavors or so) back when we first opened and now we have almost 70 flavors and bake 5,000 cupcakes a day -- more on Saturdays!
SR: That is an incredible amount of cupcakes! At what point in time did it really feel that Georgetown Cupcake had "arrived", and was there a particular event or order that catapulted your business?
GC: On the first day we opened, we had a line down the block. When we had a line down the block on the second day too, we knew it was serious!
SR: How did the word spread about Georgetown Cupcake? Did you do advertising or was it mostly word of mouth?
GC: The only thing we did when we first opened was tape a Kinko's "Opening Soon" poster in the window. Sophie got in trouble from her husband for spending $50 on it :) Other than that, it was all word of mouth!
SR: Amazing! I'm guessing that Sophie's husband now thinks the $50 sign was worth it! ... I was shocked to hear that Georgetown Cupcake sells more than 5,000 cupcakes a day. Five thousand! That is a lot of cupcakes. How do you manage that?
GC: It adds up quickly when you do a lot of weddings and events -- 200 cupcakes here, 500 cupcakes there, etc. We bake all day long, throughout the day so everything is spaced out. This allows people to get fresh baked cupcakes all day long!
SR: Your recipes came from your grandmother. You are two sisters running the business, and I'm told your mother is also involved. Combine that with 5,000 cupcakes a day and I'm guessing things can get pretty chaotic? Is there a lot of drama in your bakery?
GC: Oh yes! You'll definitely see a lot of sister-sister dynamic and mother-daughter dynamic! :)
SR: There is another famous family run bakery on TLC, Carlos' Bakery. Do you see similarities between "Cake Boss" and your family business?
GC: Definitely. When you are working in a fast-paced, high pressure environment under a deadline -- within your family -- voices escalate and there really is no filter when you are having a heated family argument! :)
SR: ;) I can only imagine! ... Your business catapulted nearly overnight. Two years later you are the talk of the town with a celebrity clientele and TLC knocking on your door for a new series, "DC Cupcakes". Congratulations! What can viewers expect to see in the six-part series?
GC: We hope the series will give them an inside look into what it is like working in a bakery with your family as well as a behind-the-scenes look at what kinds of crazy cupcake creations we make for special events!
END Pt. 1
We're just getting started with Georgetown Cupcake. Tomorrow we will continue the interview with Katherine and Sophie in Pt. 2 where we find out how their show "DC Cupcakes" came to be, what their favorite cupcake flavors are, hot new trends, largest order received and more!
In the meantime, learn more the fabulous Georgetown Cupcake and their new show on TLC "DC Cupcakes" by visiting their websites, watching the cupcake video demonstrations and joining them on facebook and twitter.
Labels: cakelava Interviews TLC's DC Cupcakes Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis of Georgetown Cupcake, Georgetown Cupcakes, TLC DC Cupcakes