THE ENTERPRIZE ZONE
Darius Williams is seeking investors for his cupcake business.
Currently working out of a commercial kitchen, Williams believes he needs about $19,000 to get his business to a permanent location. This amount encompasses cost for equipment, ingredients, marketing, lease space and a security deposit. Williams admits he has not applied for any loans from a bank because the likelihood of being denied is high.
A friend, who is a lender for Covenant Bank, advised him that he will most likely not qualify for a loan, because he is not a “full service baker.” Williams says he has no desire to become one.
“But I do have a 30-page business plan,” he says. “I have a marketing plan and a financial plan and I have an investment prospectus to show those who are interested.”
On Aug. 17 of this year, he held a meeting at Dorolyn Academy of Music in Oak Park. About 40 people were in attendance as he gave a general idea of what he is hoping to accomplish. He also is very much into
Facebook.com and Twitter.com and has hosted a webinar, where potential investors followed online, with a live image of his computer screen, while he gave a presentation about his company and his product.
Williams has been working out of the commercial kitchen on Leavitt and Chicago, where licensed caterers and bakers are allowed to cook, since January. This is around the time he baked his first cupcake. It came about when he found a recipe for a red velvet cake online. After altering a few of the ingredients, he asked his friends to taste the finished product.
“They loved it and I had my first red velvet cupcake,” he says.
Williams has since been interviewed by Tyrus Townsend of Essence.com for his weekly feature: Men Who Cook. He was a finalist in a Chicago Tribune RedEye’s virtual online food competition, judged by Rick Bayless.
William’s cupcakes, which can be made gluten-free upon request, have made it to singer John Legend, whose public relations and marketing department contacted him after visiting his website. This was also the case when he received an e-mail from GeGe McKinney, the Minnesota Vikings director of food operations. The professional football team recently placed its third order for two dozen cupcakes.
Williams, who grew up in the Austin community and is a graduate of Douglas Grade School, doesn’t consider himself a baker, just someone who knows how to cook.
“I was a latch-key kid. I remember coming home from school and cooking steak, baked potatoes and broccoli at 9 and 10 years old,” he says.
His cupcake concept is simple. The customer chooses their flavor, frosting and doo-dads. Currently there are 17 flavors and 17 frostings. When he opens at a new location there will be a standard menu with 25 flavors.
In addition to the already popular “regular cupcakes” of red velvet, double chocolate and strawberry banana, and the “premium cupcakes” of green apple martini, bananas foster and caramel and green apple, he will include butter pecan, raspberry lemonade, root beer float among others.
There is already a Michael Jackson cupcake to commemorate the late entertainer. It’s milk chocolate cake, vanilla bean crème frosting topped with black and white sprinkles. There is also an Arnold Palmer cupcake, which is a lemonade cake with sweet tea infused frosting.
But Darius isn’t going to stop there. He wants to present frozen lemonade drinks such as white peach and honey and pomegranate. By the summer of 2010, he would like to introduce cupcakes that encourage families, who have had to forgo usual plans of traveling due to the slumping economy, to “Staycate with a cupcake.” Inside the Cupcake Gallery, during the warm months there will be a Miami Vice, Sangria and Strawberry Daiquiri cupcake among others for patrons to choose from.
Williams believes the cupcake trend is growing. He receives many orders for birthday parties and office events.
“Cupcakes are the new pie,” he says.
Two sites Williams is considering for his Cupcake Gallery are 5934 N. Lake and 5832 N. Monitor.
He was hoping to be in his new location by October, but admits he is only halfway to the amount needed.
“To get where we need to be takes money-money which we just don’t have.”
Finisha is a freelance writer covering Austin’s business community. The Enterprize Zone is a regular feature in Austin Weekly News.