This is a follow up story for Cape Whoopies. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
We are Cape Whoopies, Maine’s Gourmet Whoopie Pie. We make gourmet whoopie pies that are focused on flavor rather than sweetness. We sell on our own website, Goldbelly.com, in some local shops, and out our back door to local customers.
We have been in business since 2013 and have steadily grown. We started in our own home kitchen and within a short period of time had to move to a food incubator. That food incubator lasted for 2 years and we then borrowed the money and took the big leap to our manufacturing and retail space.
We started very small and now are pulling in $50,000 monthly because of our most recent good fortune that Wegmans found us.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
One of the biggest items on our hit parade has been our social media and our search engine optimization. Through this we have been able to, without paying for ad words, get ourselves to the top of our most important heap… ”best whoopie pies in Maine”. I believe that is how people are finding us. We have one amazing marketing/website/SEO/Social media person and we keep in very close contact. We send photos daily and conference on upcoming details often.
During the first year of the pandemic, we grew by 75% because everyone was shipping gifts to friends and themselves since they couldn’t travel and visit in person. This year we are currently 50% ahead of last year.
Set up your company so that you are always working out ahead of everyone else...setting up new ideas and products and having time to be checking on how much you are spending to make what you make.
We have gone from 2 full-time employees to 15 full-time employees. My first concern is always to make sure we have enough labor to complete our work and as we go I am always looking at how much we spend in labor each day versus what we can produce each day. I want to see daily the cost of our labor per pie. It keeps me on track.
My suggestion to new businesses is to always have more than one sales vehicle….retails, shipping, wholesale to other stores. Make sure that there are a variety of ways that your customers can find you.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
My biggest lesson this year has been to BE CAREFUL. Money comes and goes but if you are always careful with the money, with the purchases, with hiring, and with taking on more customers you will be in better shape to always have control over your money. Think of each item in terms of permanency. When buying a piece of equipment it is permanently there and must be paid for and kept up. When hiring someone you can add or delete hours to meet the need of your company. One is a permanent expense, the other is a variable. I have learned to be careful with the permanent and be more liberal with the variable.
We borrowed money from the Greater Portland Council of Governments and whenever we have a success I always call or write to the director of finance saying “our success is your success” and here’s what has just happened. That relationship and my consistently keeping up with them mean that they often want to get some good press from our success. Recently they contacted the Portland Press Herald (our local paper) and asked them to do an article about us, concerning them. The newspaper was so impressed that they put the article on the front page and they went into every detail, including where are pies are sold so everyone got an uptick in business. My suggestion is to make good relationships and keep in close contact with how things are going. Ask for help if you need it and give credit to them when good things happen to you.
We are finally at a point where we can pay for all of our packaging to be pre-printed rather than paying employees to stick stickers on each bag for a whoopie pie. Our packaging and labor was .17 for the bags and stickers and then another .08 to pay employees to stick those stickers on each bag. We have just gotten to pre-printed packaging which is .09 per bag all done and done. This was an enormous saving and help for us. Now our employees will be able to come in and get to production right away.
At this point, we have enough employees that I think in terms of making sure that every job has a secondary. We have a shipping manager that does all the shipping and set up for shipping. We now have a shipping secondary that can take over for that position, should that person get sick or need time off. My job is now to supervise all departments: baking, production, and shipping, rather than be hands-on every day. It leaves me to make sure that each department has what they need to do their jobs so that we are seamless, without difficulty. So, always make sure that no matter what happens you have people trained already should something change at the drop of a hat.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Because Wegmans has found us and put us in all their Massachusetts stores and are happy with their sales, we are now expanding into all their Pennsylvania stores which are 18 more stores. We are working through what we will need to continue to accomplish their expectation. I keep in very close contact with everyone in this situation, as well. I contact the truckers that handle moving our product and the corporate buyer at Wegmans whenever we are experiencing trouble or good news. My business relationships are the most important item in the chain. These wonderful people who love your product want to make sure that everything is always a success. I also send products as a gift to each of the trucking company reps and the service people. We want them to love our product, speak highly of us, and most of all take their business with us very personally.
In 5 years I hope to expand into taking up the entire building we are in. We currently use 2600 square feet but would like to have the entire 5300 square feet of the building. Wegmans has already indicated that they want our product in all their 106 stores.
Short term I am hoping to purchase a double Baxter oven which will allow us to back 40 trays of (24 on each tray) cakes in 10 minutes. A Baxter oven is like a phone booth where you roll two-speed racks filled with trays into it and shut the door. It rotates the speed racks and bakes the entire 40 trays in 10 minutes. That’s finishing the cakes for 480 pies in 10 minutes. I look forward to continuing to find efficiency and economy of scale to help us continue to grow into the future to sell this amazing brand to someone bigger along the way!
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I have loved the E-myth series where each book takes on a different aspect of a business. I also love “The Must-Have Customer 7 steps to winning the customer you haven’t got” by Robert Gordman Making sure that you are doing the best you can to find and inspire the customer you want is always at the top of my list. All the rest stems from your ability to bring business in. The last book that I love is “Built to Last, successful habits of visionary companies” by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras I am willing to take advice and help from everywhere. We are all in this life together and the best thing we can do is help one another!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
My top tips are to think about money in money out as your first responsibility. Always stay on top of your ability to gain more customers (money in) and think carefully about buying equipment (money out) and hiring more people (money out). Pull your company apart, as soon as you can, to see and set up the different tasks you do into departments with someone in charge of each department. Then set up a second person for each department so that no matter what happens you have people fully trained to do each job...and a secondary to help out. If you accomplish this well it will leave you to continually think of customer acquisition and inventory of goods and services to accomplish your daily production. Set up your company so that you are always working out ahead of everyone else...setting up new ideas and products and having time to be checking on how much you are spending to make what you make. My greatest joy is running into the production area to tell the team what a great job they are doing because our labor cost per pie has just gone down!!!
I always tell my customers and I’ll tell you, too, I love what I do and do what I love, every single day...and I think everyone should! Enjoy what you do!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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