By: Sammi Sheppard
The Cake Mamas, a local bakery in Glendora, Calif., may be a family-owned business, but they’re not typical. For one, the owners are two women who share more than a passion for baking. They share kids.
Fabiola Gomez has two daughters with her ex-husband, Eddie Copeland. Her business partner, Janelle Copeland, has one daughter with her husband, Eddie Copeland.
Yes, the same Eddie Copeland.
“It’s much more awkward for everyone else than it is for us,” said Janelle, one half of The Cake Mamas business, located on the northeast corner of Barranca and Route 66.
It all began with a crazy dream Janelle had one night that she and Fabiola owned a bakery together. She told their daughters, Jasmyn, 9, Kaylah, 7, and Jordan,5, the next morning half-heartedly. She didn’t put much thought into it after.
When Fabiola came to pick the girls up, they put Janelle on the spot and made her confess her dream. A little embarrassed to have dreamt about her husband’s ex-wife, Janelle told Fabiola. She soon discovered Fabiola had always wanted to her own bakery but didn’t have the business background.
“It didn’t sound crazy to me,” Fabiola said. “I didn’t think it was outrageous. I know it sounded weird to everyone else, but it wasn’t weird in my head. I just figured it was something we could do.”
The confident duo wanted their opening weekend to be a success, but also wanted to give back to the community.
“We started out just saying, ‘How can we give back?’” Janelle said. “That’s really what the foundation of this company is based on.”
Janelle came up with the idea to sell 2,500 cupcakes with the help of the community. In exchange, The Cake Mamas would donate $2,500 to the local school districts. People lined up outside by 7:45 a.m. on opening day. The last customer wasn’t served until 11:00 p.m.
“That helped kind of catapult us into the community and I think they really appreciated it,” Janelle said.
Janelle had previously gained business experience by working for Best Buy and Circuit City. Together, the two could let their creativity bounce off each other. What might have started out laughable sparked an unusual partnership.
“We’re a very unlikely pair, but who cares?” Janelle said. “We could both bring something to the table. I think in the back of our heads we were both thinking how cool it would be to do something that would involve all of our kids and really bring our family closer. And that’s what it’s done.”
The three daughters came up with the name for the business because Janelle and Fabiola were their mamas and quite simply, they would be baking cakes.
“At first I was just kind of like, ‘really?’” said Eddie, Janelle’s husband who is also known as the “Cake Daddy.” “It took about three or four days for it to soak in.”
Janelle, on the other hand, didn’t waste any time. Before a week had passed after the crazy idea sparked, business cards were made and she had figured out how to design a website. The Cake Mamas was no longer just a dream.
Making their dream into a reality has forced the family to make some sacrifices. Both women were previously laid off so they were able to pick up their kids from school and spend time with them. Now, they’re at the shop most of the time.
“We’re still working on the balance,” said Eddie, who is also the club manager at 24 Hour Fitness in Glendora, Calif. “It’s still very new so it’s natural for us to have a period of transition where we try to figure out how to balance the work, but I think it is going balance out. The purpose of [finding that balance] is so we can be closer to the kids and so the girls won’t have all three parents gone for 10 hours in the day.”
The pair also had to make financial sacrifices. The Cake Mamas retail shop opened on Oct. 1, taking every penny the co-owners had to get started.
“We drained all of our savings accounts, but we wouldn’t have done that without knowing that it would be successful,” said Janelle, who ran the numbers for the business “a million times” before launching it.
Social networking has also helped the company grow. News of how the cupcakes taste has spread through Facebook and Twitter.
“If we don’t like it, we don’t sell it,” Janelle said.
The Cake Mamas use high quality ingredients and make their frosting out of whip cream mousses, instead of the typical buttercream. To make their cakes stand apart from competition, they started experimenting in their own homes with new flavors.
“We first started testing recipes on our own,” Fabiola said. “We started testing stuff that we liked and we incorporated that into cakes and then the cakes were easily transferrable into cupcakes.”
Now, The Cake Mamas try to create a new flavor each month. They take suggestions from the employees and their customers. Some of their flavors include Banana Nutella, Dulce De Leche, Red Velvet and Raspberry Lemonade, with their latest flavor: Autumn Apple.
“I got hooked on German chocolate cake (a mixture of coconut, chocolate, caramel and pecans) thanks to my mom,” said Emeli Warren, junior English creative writing major. “I think it would make an amazing cupcake. I’m sure Cake Mamas would add their own flair and make it even better.”
The price of the cupcakes is also appealing to their customers since each cupcake costs $2.50.
“I would stand in line for their cupcakes because they taste so good but unlike other places known for their cupcakes, like Sprinkles, you don’t have to walk away broke,” said Gaby Gutierrez, sophomore liberal studies major.
The owners show their creative sides through the cake decorations, even if they get some odd requests. They once had a woman ask for a graduation cake for her daughter who likes grilled cheese sandwiches and penguins.
“She said, ‘I don’t care what the design looks like, here’s what she likes,’” Janelle said.
The idea sounded awful to Janelle, but the cake turned out to be one of the funniest and most popular pastry the two have made.
“I think the best thing is just to see anyone’s reaction,” Janelle said.
“We’ve had some criers,” added Fabiola with a smile.
The business is continuing to grow. What started as an odd dream, has blossomed into a popular business and a unique friendship.
“When people make comments like ‘that’s so weird,’ they’re not being ignorant, they just don’t know that you can do it,” Janelle said. “You don’t have to be best friends, but get along for your kids. They didn’t ask for it. Move on with your lives and be the best parents that you can together, not separate.”
The Cake Mamas are definitely taking their own advice, together.
TASTY TIPS TO LAUNCHING YOUR OWN BUSINESS
- Do the research: Know what your competition is, who you’re going to appeal to and figure out what questions you need to ask. “You have to research the research that you’re researching,” Janelle said.
- Use social media: The Cake Mamas use both Facebook and Twitter to advertise their business. “You make someone happy and they want to go on Facebook or Twitter to say something great about you. Then, a hundred of their friends go on and follow you now,” Janelle said.
- Give back to the community: Businesses often debut with offers or discounts to attract customers. The Cake Mamas found a need in their community and by showing they cared, the community cared too.
- Experiment with new ideas: Keeping your products new and fresh will keep your customers interested, as well as asking for their input. “Since we’ve opened, we’ve tried to play with new flavors every month,” said Fabiola, who wants to experiment with a beer-flavored cupcake. “We take suggestions from everybody here and people who come in.”