BERKELEY — When you find something you love, be as tenacious as you can and good results have a better chance to follow.
Thus is the advice that 27-year-old Kate McEachern would pass on to any new business owner. For her the love was baking. And the tenacity turned into Cupkates.
Mostly found on popular street corners near the UC Berkeley campus, McEachern's venture launched last August is a converted postal truck turned cupcake delivery vehicle that brings customers such flavors as red velvet, lemon raspberry and double chocolate delights.
"I've always had a passion for cooking, and it's just wonderfully nostalgic to make something like cupcakes," McEachern said.
Typically, from Tuesday through Sunday, McEachern's day begins at 7 a.m. at a co-op kitchen in Richmond, where she cracks the eggs and mixes batter that turns into the cupcakes for the day. Before they make it onto the truck, she makes sure she takes at least a bite of each type to make sure it passes her standards. She believes her cupcakes are popular because they use only top-quality ingredients.
Whenever possible, she also likes to use ingredients from local vendors. For example, the marmalade and jam come from Oakland-based Mum's Homemade and the Madagascar bourbon vanilla is produced in Richmond.
At noon, McEachern is pulling up to the location, where the cupcakes are steadily handed out until either 3 p.m. or when she runs out. Each day she makes several hundred cupcakes. And at the end of the day, only a few, if any, remain.
The cupcakes range in price from $2.50 to $3.
The newlywed of a year occasionally gets shifts covered by her husband, Casey, a grad student at Berkeley, but for the most part the business starts and ends with her.
"I do everything," she said. "I'm the very definition of a sole proprietor."
A graduate from Berkeley, McEachern initially used her English degree to eventually become a managing editor of a modern design magazine called Dwell. Last year, she worked as the content editor for a Web site ChefsBest to try to satisfy her love for food.
It wasn't the same.
"I found that still, my calling was to bake something," she said.
McEachern doesn't have any formal culinary training. Instead, she perfected her "passionate hobby" through trial and error. While she loves to bake, she says she doesn't really cook.
Even as she was working at ChefsBest, in the back of her mind, she knew she wanted to start her own business. But she had a huge commitment phobia about having an actual brick and mortar.
Then her husband made a suggestion.
"How about a cart?"
"Then a colleague of mine said, 'Why don't you have a truck?' and I was like, 'Oh my god that's brilliant,'" she said.
Using her own money, Cupkates was launched.
Now she just needed customers. That's where her background in multimedia helped her.
Using Twitter and Facebook, McEachern is in constant communication with her followers. Not only does she relay where she's vending, but also asks for feedback on favorite flavors and suggestions for new ones.
They can also send messages for her to hold a certain flavor on her truck for them, or request a drive by Wednesdays when she makes office rounds.
As of Thursday, she had 963 fans on Facebook and 1,340 followers on Twitter.
Besides being tenacious, McEachern says that any new business owner needs to take the business plan seriously.
"It can't be overstated," she said. "It will give you a clear understanding of what your risks are before you decide to invest your entire life."
For her, the last six months have been a blast.
"On one hand, there's so much work that goes into it," she said. "But then, at the end of the day, we're just a polka- dot truck that sells quality cupcakes."
Owner: Kate McEachern
Phone: (510) 384-6544
Locations: Primarily Berkeley, but exact locations found through twitter (cupkatestruck), on Facebook, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org