Over the years, I have had the opportunity to come into contact with some amazing business women. These are women who have built an empire on their own success, continually adding some incredible accomplishments under their belts. Inspired by these women, I wanted to start a new series called Girl Crush to share and hopefully fire up our passions and quiet any doubts we might have – feeling like it’s just not in the cards to own a business, create a clothing line or sell out restaurants. Whatever your passion, our crushes are here to give their advice and encourage the inner business woman in all of us! I’m thrilled to kick off the series with one of the most talented career women, mom and author I know, Jennifer Shea!

Jennifer is the founder of Trophy Cupcakes and Party, the most celebrated cupcake company in Seattle. She has six cupcake shops throughout the greater Seattle area and is about to launch her debut book – Trophy Cupcakes and Parties – a go-to guide for planning a party with coveted cupcake recipes, party DIY’s and oodles of inspiration {that is available for pre-sale here!}. We’re so glad Jennifer took the time to share her journey and business advice with us!

Girl-Crush-Jennifer-Shea

A Bit About Jennifer:

I grew up in a small town in Southern Oregon. Crafting, baking and partymaking became my hobbies by way of my mom (who is a super talented painter and crafty person), 4-H and Home Economics (my favorite class). I have always had an affinity for home arts. I moved to Seattle and started working in restaurants right out of high school while searching for “my passion” and eventually got my degree in Nutrition. I loved my education, but I felt like something was missing. So, when I finished school I traveled a fair amount and came across my first cupcake shop in NYC. The light bulb was ON! I realized that my passion was right under my nose…my whole life. I’m still not sure why I didn’t see it earlier; I just had no idea that what I loved to do most could actually be a fulfilling career. I opened Trophy Cupcakes with my husband in 2007, almost 10 years after that NYC experience, as figuring out how to open a business proved much harder than whipping up a batch of cupcakes! But, we opened to immediate fanfare and have been going strong ever since. Today we have six locations around the greater Seattle Area.

The Moment: 

I think the moment I knew was at a swanky birthday party that was being thrown for a friend of mine. I, of course, volunteered to bring cupcakes and set up an elaborate display. The guests ended up being a lot of movers and shakers with big careers. The next thing I knew, everyone was talking about the cupcakes and asking me where they could buy them and then, if they could hire me…I was kind of dumbfounded and just said…uh, this is just my hobby. I then got barraged with people telling me I HAD TO open a shop. The process from knowing I wanted to open a shop to actually doing it was long…so the leap of faith was more like a long jump. I had lots of support from my friends and family along the way and a good friend (and Foo Fighter) ended up offering to be our Angel Investor. When I met my husband, he could not understand why I hadn’t opened a shop yet…so he said, “move in with me, write your business plan and do this thing”! About two years later, Trophy Cupcakes was born.

Keys to Success:

When we opened, there were about 20 cupcake shops in the country and now, well, you know. I think we’ve been so successful because we are absolutely obsessed with baking exceptional cupcakes. We have a saying at the bakery and in our shops, “good isn’t good enough”. This applies to everything we do at Trophy, especially our cupcakes. We start with the very best ingredients then curate them into little works of delicious art.

Jennifer-Shea-Pic-2

Learning to be an Author: 

Wow, I learned sooo much! First I learned that I could do it! I actually wrote a book, woo hoo! But, probably the biggest thing I learned was that it’s truly okay to ask for help and to get lots of it, especially on a big project like this one was. I fall into the trap of thinking that I need to do everything myself (hello type- A). This book was really just one big lesson in accepting help.

On Balance: 

This has been, by far, my biggest challenge. I tend to get tunnel vision when it comes to work, and I shut everything else out. I also have the normal woman/wife/mom affliction of taking care of everyone else before myself. I have had to work hard to make it a priority to put myself first…and I am still working on it every day. The surprise bonus though is that slowing down and taking more time for myself has made me a better wife, mom and entrepreneur. I’ve learned that you cannot be good at any of those things if you are running on empty. All my best ideas and breakthroughs happen when I just stop. I definitely have to remind myself of this and schedule it in just like any important meeting. My husband and I also have two rules: date night every week and don’t talk about cupcakes after 6pm.

Her Advice:

I would say, write a business plan. I used the program Business Plan Pro and it took me almost a year to complete mine. It is pretty tedious, but even if you can make the best widget in the world, you’ve got to get your head in the space of being an entrepreneur. You have to know your customer, your profit margin, how much you need to sell just to break even, how you are going to finance your dream, and on and on. The more prepared you are concerning the nuts and bolts of business, the easier it will be to bring your magic to market. Also: network, network, network. Find a mentor in the community that is doing something similar (but is not a competitor) who is willing to coach you, or join an entrepreneurs group.  I promise you will learn a ton by reaching out to other dreamers.

And for fun, we drilled Jennifer to answer fast as she filled in the blanks of our Girl Crush Pop Quiz: we love her answers!

Girl-Crush-Fill-in-the-Blanks-Jennifer

Don’t forget to grab your copy of Trophy Cupcakes and Parties! The book is full of beautiful images, first-ever access to Trophy’s top secret recipes and fab hosting tips. It’s definitely one you’re going to want on your shelf for the holiday party season. I love that each chapter is based around a party theme, making it so easy to get it right and impress every single one of your guests {as well as yourself!}. If you can’t wait till your copy arrives {like me!} head over to The Effortless Chic – Jen shared an exclusive sneak peek of Trophy’s Strawberry Buttercream Cupcake recipe. I know what I’m making this weekend!

And stay tuned for the Trophy Cupcake & Parties book tour- it might be coming to a city near you!

images courtesy of Jennifer Shea // photography by Rina Jordan 

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 Comments

  1. Erin – I absolutely love love this new column idea! And loved reading Jennifer’s story + advice. It is always refreshing to see women offering each other help/encouragement/advice to those starting out. I whole heartedly believe in the pay it forward method. Can’t wait to see the next one.
    xx Alecia

    1. Love that you loved Jennifer’s story–isn’t it great? Her advice is wonderful, and I can’t wait to share more great advice from fabulous women soon!

  2. Erin,
    This is a fabulous blog idea. Seeing genuine, empowered and passionate women going for it and succeeding is absolutely inspiring. And I have to agree with Jennifer’s [not-so-secret] addiction to champagne!
    As a side-note, Marcia Evans, the founder of Jewel Hospitality in Seattle, would also be a great female to interview for an upcoming post.
    Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Hi Erin, I’m looking forward to more in this series — great idea and a great choice to kick it off. Trophy Cupcakes are the BEST and it’s so interesting to learn something about the founder. Thanks!!