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Online Bakery Finds Recipe For Success

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. —Sometimes smaller is better. Much better.

Fort Lauderdale entrepreneurs Shaun Hunte and Sarah Whalley are taking classic American fare and squishing it into mini-cupcake form. The duo own Batter Co., an online bakery they founded in June that delivers sweet and savory cupcakes throughout South Florida.

But while their products are bite-size, their entrepreneurial ambitions are super-size. They want to introduce consumers to unusual cupcake flavors, expand to a storefront in few months, dispense their product from a vending machine and eventually sell franchises, with a first buyer all set to go.

Batter Co. sells more than 30 flavors of their tiny delectables. The cupcakes include breakfast options — like blueberry pancake and bacon, egg, and cheese — as well as appetizer options, such as spaghetti-and-meatball cupcakes and buffalo chicken cupcakes.

Their sweet cupcakes are just as inventive — and even more whimsical — with flavors like cotton candy, margarita and pink lemonade.

“People smile when they get them,” said Whalley, who has been baking since she was a child.

Whalley and Hunte met on the online dating site Match.com and moved to Fort Lauderdale two years ago from Connecticut. They came up with idea to sell cupcakes after Whalley was laid-off from a pharmaceutical company.

Whalley said delivery of their cupcakes adds to the treat-like novelty of their product.

“It’s like getting cupcakes in the mail,” Whalley said.

In just two and a half months, the bakery has grown from having three to four orders in a week to that many in a day. Their customers include late-night snackers, businesses sending gifts to their clients and families hosting birthday parties.

“We even get the occasional dude fulfilling his munchies,” said Hunte.

Individual cupcakes sell for between $1.25 and $1.50. A dozen cupcakes cost about $15, not including the delivery fee. Whalley, 27, bakes them daily and Hunte, 28, delivers them.

Fort Lauderdale resident Loretta Saulsberry, a marketing manager for Whirlpool Corp. in South Florida, regularly sends Batter Co. cupcakes to her clients. Since she works from home, Saulsberry said the cupcakes are the most convenient and “tastiest” option when she needs to send gifts to her clients.

“It’s a little bit of heaven in your mouth,” she said. “My clients love it.”

Despite the duo’s initial success, Beth Fahey, who is on the board of directors of Retail Bakers of America, described cupcakes as a “dying trend”.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia with cupcakes, but the market is saturated,” said Fahey, who is also the co-owner of a bakery in Chicago.

She said budding cupcake entrepreneurs will need to have either “really awesome cupcakes” or some kind of twist in order to be successful.

Hunte and Whalley believe they do have that right recipe for success, and they’re ready to grow. They recently put down a deposit for a 450-square-foot retail location in the Pompano Citi Centre of Pompano Beach.

“Cupcakes are universally loved and will most likely always be around in some derivative,” Hunte said.

Hunte said the cupcakes’ morsel size allows the company to maintain a sizable profit margin and believes opening the retail location in October will help “explode the business.”

After they open their Pompano location, the couple will be working toward purchasing a refrigerated cupcake vending machine. Hunte is a vice president with Signifi, a Canadian firm which manufactures automatic retail machines, similar to vending machines. The couple want to have one of Signifi’s machines to place in front of their store.

They are also looking into franchising options and one of Whalley’s friends has offered to be the first franchise owner.

“We are going wild with it,” Hunte said.