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In Conversation with Cupcake Owner Karen Hastings

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Karen Hastings at Cupcake Parsons Green, photographed by Julia Boggio

I remember being introduced to Karen Hastings many years ago at a southwest London networking event. She’s a fellow American (yay!) and an entrepreneur, too. She told me about the great new club for mums, babies, and families, called Cupcake, that she was starting up at the time and I definitely had one of those wish-I’d-thought-of-that moments. When we opened up Julia Boggio Studios, Karen invited us to be the official photographer of Cupcake, to offer her members a high-quality, amazing photography experience at our studio. For three years, we’ve photographed many lovely Cupcake families from the Parsons Green club and created stunning family portraits to decorate their homes.

When I (finally!) fell pregnant, I was so excited about going to Cupcake and experiencing it for myself. It really is lovely and the treatment rooms are divine. The best thing is that I can leave Baby in the créche as I go upstairs to get a much-needed massage. And after that, I can ignore my eternal diet by getting a yummy cake in the café.

I thought it would be interesting for you to hear a little bit about Karen and how she created the Cupcake Club for Families. Taking a project from idea to reality is not easy – how many times have you had an idea and thought, “I could make my fortune on this!” only to lose your impetus when it came to making it happen? Karen Hastings is an entrepreneur who made it happen. This is what she has to say.

JB: What was your eureka moment for the idea of Cupcake?
KH: I was chatting with some mums with young children who said that they were lonely, bored and looking for something amazing to help their families thrive.

JB: What were the key milestones in opening Cupcake?
KH: The most important milestone was securing the initial funding in April 2007. Next I had to find the location, which I did the following August. With membership clubs, one of the most important things is to have members, of course, so I had to sell memberships even before the doors opened. That was a big success, which meant I was able to open up a marketing suite with my first 3 employees in January 2008. And finally, I opened the doors in April 2008.

JB: What advice can you give startups?
KH: People often ask me about this so I’ve come up with my top ten tips.

1. Tell everyone you know.  Create a “fellowship” to cover finance, strategy, marketing, sales and cheerleading and then create a monthly update- and report on progress each time and ask for specific things each time,

2. Do the numbers. Figure out how much money the business can make and then figure out how you can survive the start up financially (great Business link guide).

3. Use all available resources. I suggest Business Link, The British Library, and your local council can all be great places to start.

4. Find inspiration. Read up on other entrepreneurs, read books and listen to podcasts (Beermat Entrepreneur, What Should I Do with My Life, Losing My Virginity, SmallBizPod cast, etc.).

5. Find your competition. Ask yourself what people will spend on instead of what you want to provide? And become a compulsive Secret Shopper!

6. Identify what you are really trying to achieve at the end of the day. For you, for the business, and for your family.

7. Ensure you have your partner’s full support. This is an important one. Without his or her support, you will find it very difficult, especially when things get hard (because they will get hard).

8. Surround yourself with a good network of people who can help you build the business. Ask all the time, poach where necessary, and find ways to vet people who want to work with the business.

9. Network, network, network. Look into Alumni associations, Local Business Associations, and Schools/Women’s groups/Expat groups.

10. Be accountable. As we say in the US, the buck stops with you. Be accountable for your goals/timeline, for your brand, and for your actions.

JB: What makes Cupcake really special?
KH: We are devoted to taking care of our mummies and how that makes it possible for them to use their energy, creativity and personal joy towards their families.

JB: How does Cupcake include the whole family?
KH: We have classes and seminars from the first scan to the first day of school.  Mums, Dads, babies, toddlers and school age kids can come and do classes here every day, play in the cafe, enjoy the crèche and attend informative seminars.  Mum & Dad can also enjoy fitness (including personal training) and chill out in the spa.

JB: Personally, what is your favourite thing about Cupcake?
KH: Having mums and dads thank me for the difference that my club and my wonderful staff have made to their lives.