In this episode of Women in Franchising, our host Ashley Schuetz sits down with GiGi Butler - "the queen of sweet success" - to explore her amazing life story and experiences in franchising.
The entrepreneur and founder of Gigi’s Cupcakes admits her story of success is full of sweet irony. Gigi opened her first Gigi’s Cupcakes location just off of music row in Nashville, TN in 2008. In eight short years, Gigi’s is now the largest cupcake franchise in the world with 101 locations and counting. But when Gigi moved from California to Nashville in 1994, building a sweet empire was never part of her plan.
The singer/songwriter moved to Nashville to pursue her dream of a career in the music industry only to discover success in the culinary arts years later. An entrepreneur at the early age of 15 years old, she opened her first business, Gigi’s Cleaning Company and continued that business when she landed in Music City. She cleaned houses during the day and sang at local honky tonks at night. After a decade of pursuing music, Gigi decided to step back and focus on her financial future. She decided to take a chance on another passion – baking.
Gigi learned her cupcake craft at an early age, being taught unique family recipes dating back to great, great aunts who were bakery owners in Oklahoma. As an adult, Gigi felt that baking was becoming a lost art that needed to be resurrected. Even though people rarely have time to bake from scratch, they still enjoy eating delicious home baked goods, especially ones that remind them of their childhood – like a cupcake.
After being turned down by various banks, she leveraged several personal credit cards to fund the business and gambled everything she had to open her first location on February 21, 2008 with only $33 left to her name. Fortunately, her sweet treats quickly became Nashville’s delicacy dessert of choice. Soon after, Gigi’s Franchising, Inc. was born and Gigi’s Cupcakes locations began popping up throughout the south and now across the country.
Gigi’s Cupcakes are a full sensory experience and each cupcake is fresh out of the oven, baked with attention to detail and finished with an artist’s touch. Each handmade cupcake is made with the finest and freshest ingredients like Saigon Cinnamon, Madagascar Vanilla, farm fresh creamy butter, hand selected fruits and nuts, along with the smoothest cream cheese. While the menu is continually updated with new seasonal cupcakes, Gigi’s offers an incredible variety of custom flavored cupcakes as well as new creations like Gigi’s Stuffed Cookies and Gigi’s Cheesecakes among their product lineup.
The gamble paid off as her franchise locations grossed an estimated $43 million in sales in 2013. Gigi admits she’s living the unexpected American Dream as she risked it all on an idea hoping customers would love her creations.“I am truly living the American Dream,” says Gigi. “I am so blessed to be able to do what makes me happy and make a product that so many people really enjoy.”