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A Recipe for Success

This month, Everything Knoxville interviews mother, wife, pharmacist, small business owner and Knoxville native Amy Tate.

Discover how Amy, along with husband and business partner, Swanson, successfully balance the demands of family, careers and self-employment. Together this husband and wife team are raising two children, managing two careers, operating three Sports Clips franchise stores, and now Amy has just recently launched a highly successful Gigi’s Cupcakes bakery in Turkey Creek.

Certainly not without its challenges, Amy is an inspiration to other area women that may be considering a future self-employment opportunity and that are trying to discover their own recipe for success.

Everything Knoxville: We know there is a Mrs. Fields behind Mrs. Field’s Cookies, so is there a Gigi behind Gigi’s Cupcakes?

Amy Tate: Destined to become an entrepreneur, Gina Butler, nicknamed Gigi, owner and founder of Gigi’s Cupcakes, started her first business at age 15 before launching her already famous cupcakery franchise in 2007 at the urging of her brother, Steve. Gigi, although very unassuming, is also a perfectionist. She pays close attention to the smallest details and insists on personally training and certifying all preopening store employees, particularly the bakers and decorators. I’m excited about her passion for the Gigi’s brand and our success as franchise owners.

EK: How has Gigi’s Cupcakes, as a franchise, performed so far?

Amy: Well, on her personal goal of opening 100 stores nationally, Gigi’s currently has 33 locations in 16 states and anticipates a total of 50 stores by the end of 2011. What people may not be aware of is that Gigi’s mother and father each own their own Gigi’s Cupcakes store. Her dad is over new store development, her brother, Randall, is COO, and her mom helps develop and test new recipes. I love the franchise because it is a family based company and also a faith based company. It could be hard to imagine that this success story will not greatly exceed 100 locations, and very quickly.

EK: What has been your experience so far?

Amy: Overwhelming and exciting! We completed training and opened just one month before Valentine’s Day, one of our busiest days of the year. Some anxious moments and some late nights, but our team pulled it together. The public response quite frankly has far exceeded our most optimistic expectations. Thank you Knoxville!

EK: These are not your mother’s cupcakes. How are they different from the typical cupcake you might find at the food store?

Amy: We bake our cupcakes fresh every morning from recipes created by Gigi and her mom. We use only the freshest ingredients, from the freshly baked sweet potatoes we use to make our Candied Sweet Potato cupcake to the fresh strawberry juice we use in our strawberry frosting. But it doesn’t end there. We place a great deal of emphasis on presentation. That includes the cupcakes themselves, how they’re displayed in-store and how they’re packaged before they leave the store. Cupcakes are placed in beautiful decorator boxes that heighten our customers’ appreciation for our cupcakes. I think our cupcakes in these gift boxes are a great alternative for husbands to give their wives in place of roses.

EK: You and your husband, Swan, currently own three Knoxville area Sport Clips locations. Has this helped prepare you as you’ve launched the very first Gigi’s Cupcakes in the Knoxville area in Turkey Creek?

Amy: Owning another franchise has definitely helped with opening Gigi’s. We were better prepared and more knowledgeable of the ins and outs of running your own business. Our experience with financing, lease negotiations, store build-out, signage, insurance and hiring certainly helped us get Gigi’s Cupcakes up and running. All of our experience comes from the mistakes and road blocks we have had to overcome.

EK: You’re a pharmacist, which is your primary career. Describe your transition from the corporate world to self-employment.

Amy: Being a pharmacist in a retail setting to owning your own business is a huge difference. Someone else does the payroll, the marketing, pays the bills, etc. in the corporate world. You can also leave your work at work. It doesn’t always happen that way when you own your own business. Basically, as an employee most of the responsibilities of operating a successful small business are handled by management. As a small business owner all of those responsibilities are yours.

EK: You’re also a mother of two. How have you been able to balance family and business?

Amy: I would say this is probably the hardest thing to do. My children come first, so I do not ever want to miss anything or take anything away from them by me owning my own business. I stay extremely busy trying to do both. But fortunately, after several months, I have been able to free myself up to drop my children off at school and pick them up at the end of the day. I’m also now able to attend most of their school activities. It can be done, but it requires planning.

EK: What recommendations do you have for other moms considering self-employment?

Amy: I would say to make sure to have plenty of support from family and friends when you first launch your business as it is very time consuming. Also, try to include your children in your business in some way so they do not perceive it as a negative and something that is taking “mom” away from them. My 9-year-old daughter loves to come to work with me on Saturdays and help out running the register, sweeping, and trying to learn how to “swirl” (Gigi’s terminology for frosting cupcakes).

EK: Would you like to offer our readers a special invitation to experience the world’s greatest cupcakes?

Amy: Of course. Mention this article in the month of April when you make your next purchase of three cupcakes, and we’ll give you the fourth cupcake free. I also encourage you to use your imagination when planning your next event. Cupcakes can turn an ordinary event into an extraordinary event. Weddings, birthday parties, tailgating, showers, business, anniversaries or any occasion can be made even more special with Gigi’s Cupcakes.

EK: Thank you Amy and best of luck for your continued success.

Amy: Thank you, and thank you Knoxville. Be sure to check out our new spring/summer menu.

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