Monday, December 11, 2017
Business

Cupcake shop owner's sweet dream becomes successful reality

Jessica Beebe wanted to open an ice cream shop. What she got was a cupcake empire.

Three years ago, Beebe took a spontaneous vacation to Pennsylvania with her daughters Alana, then 7, and Amaya, then 3. There, she fell in love with Hershey's Ice Cream.

"I came back and I said, 'I'm opening an ice cream shop,'" Beebe, 38, said.

She knew she would need to sell something else at her shop. Pies were too inconvenient, so she set her sights on cupcakes.

"Little did I know that my ice cream shop was turning into a cupcake shop," the New Port Richey entrepreneur said.

Sugardarlings Cones & Cupcakes has been a smash hit in the local cupcake scene. On a busy day, the three locations in New Port Richey, Palm Harbor and Lutz sell more than 2,000 cupcakes. Sugardarlings' cupcakes are known for their moistness and creamy, not-too-sweet frosting. The shop offers traditional cupcake flavors, as well as more adventurous and savory options such as ginger, wasabi, bacon and lavender.

One of Beebe's personal favorites is Exotic Bliss, which is filled with pineapple and cranberry and topped with hibiscus frosting. Her other favorite is the Sugardarlings take on the Hostess cupcake.

When she started, Beebe wasn't even a baker. She didn't have a passion for baking, and she surely didn't think she would bake full time.

She called on some co-workers at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, where she worked overseeing the pool, bar and grill. She assembled a taste-testing team of elderly ladies and started baking. She found basic recipes and tweaked them over and over until the taste-testers loved them. The hardest cupcake to master was the simplest — classic vanilla.

Once Beebe mastered cupcakes, it didn't take long for her to master the art of business.

One year after Sugardarlings opened its doors, Beebe opened a Palm Harbor store. The Pinellas location will soon become the sole baking site for their gluten-free cupcakes, which are already being sold alongside the store's traditional cupcakes. Last August, she opened a Sugardarlings in Lutz, and she isn't stopping there. She hopes to expand into Carrollwood or Tampa and northward into the Spring Hill and Brooksville areas.

Her New Port Richey store is still the hub of the enterprise, baking 1,000 to 2,000 cupcakes per day to be sold at all three locations.

In order to more efficiently accommodate the large commercial orders that Sugardarlings has come to attract, Beebe is in the process of opening a 3,000-square-foot warehouse. The warehouse, set to open the first week of July, will alleviate the space constraints of the New Port Richey location, which has little room for customers to dine in and limited space for coolers. Beebe wants to use the space for more than just baking. She hopes to host tours, school field trips, and bridal expos and tastings.

The most important benefit of the warehouse, though, is that it will give her more free time to spend with her daughters.

"When I first opened, (my daughters) loved the business, and then it took Mom away," Beebe said. "Especially for my older one, she went through a transition where she didn't like my business. But just recently, she was writing a big speech for school ... and it was all about my business," she said, choking back tears.

In 2011, Sugardarlings won the Great St. Pete Cupcake Contest with a peanut butter s'mores flavor devised by Beebe's daughter Alanna, and the shop was voted Best of Suncoast for the past two years. Beebe's success has surprised everyone but her and her father. Beebe's dad, Bennie Sacco, gave her $2,000 to start the business.

"Even if it was crazy, (he said), 'I know you can do it,'" Beebe said.

Beebe knew she could too.

"There was no doubt in my mind that I would be successful because I firmly believe whatever you put your heart and soul into, you can make successful," she said.

Still, there were a lot of skeptics. One was her husband, Cory.

"I really didn't know what to expect," he said. "She pursued this and she really in all honesty proved me wrong. She's very outgoing, she has a lot of confidence in herself, and when she does something, she keeps with it. She has a lot of belief, a lot of faith in herself."

Linda Braithwaite has been the Beebes' neighbor for eight years, and she taste-tested so many cupcakes that it spoiled her weight-loss efforts. As a lawyer, she was concerned with how many small businesses fail, especially during the recession.

"I had a great fear that this was not going to take off, but I'm just amazed," said Braithwaite, who practices at The Family Law Source in Trinity. "I didn't expect it at all to take off like it has."

Beebe thinks her business thrived during the recession because people always celebrate, even in hard times. Still, she wanted to make sure to keep her sweet treats affordable.

Basic cupcakes start at $2 each, and it's 25 cents extra for specialty flavors.

Samantha Fuchs can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6235.

   
Comments
Outback Steakhouse co-founder Chris Sullivan steps off Bloomin’ Brands’ board

Outback Steakhouse co-founder Chris Sullivan steps off Bloomin’ Brands’ board

Chris Sullivan, co-founder of Outback Steakhouse, resigned from the board of the restaurant chain’s parent company last Wednesday, according to a Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The document, filed by Tampa-based Bloomin’ B...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

TAMPA — With the Republican tax bill poised to eliminate the opportunity, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority on Monday said it had refinanced a big chunk of its debt to save money in the future.The authority borrowed $152 million from the bo...
Updated: 6 hours ago
JW Marriott Clearwater Beach project still on target despite some bumps

JW Marriott Clearwater Beach project still on target despite some bumps

CLEARWATER BEACH — While Tampa is excited about its first JW Marriott hotel, plans are moving ahead for a $130 million JW Marriott property on Clearwater Beach, despite some hiccups. "We’ve done really well in our opinion," Uday Lele, developer of t...
Updated: 7 hours ago
HSBC says U.S. will dismiss criminal charges against it

HSBC says U.S. will dismiss criminal charges against it

HSBC said Monday that U.S. authorities were preparing to dismiss criminal charges against the bank, five years after it reached an agreement to avoid prosecution related to lapses in its money-laundering controls.In 2012, the bank, one of the world’s...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Major auto manufacturer offers longer hours, incentives to fix airbags

Major auto manufacturer offers longer hours, incentives to fix airbags

TAMPA — With nearly 200,000 people around Tampa Bay still driving around with defective airbags that could kill them, a major automaker is trying to dramatically cut that number down this week.Fiat Chrystler Automobiles U.S. has launched Airbag Recal...
Updated: 9 hours ago
This 6-year-old kid made $11 million in one year reviewing toys on You Tube

This 6-year-old kid made $11 million in one year reviewing toys on You Tube

When most people think back on the child celebrities of their time, they likely think of child movie actors, the well-trained stars of showbiz. For some, these were stars like Mary Kate and Ashley Olson, or Macaulay Carson Culkin from "Home Alone." F...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Ticket-fighting firm hires former Florida Bar president to sue the Bar

Ticket-fighting firm hires former Florida Bar president to sue the Bar

Times Staff WriterWell, this is awkward. A company that is suing the Florida Bar has hired a former Bar president to represent it. Ramon Abadin has joined the legal team of TIKD, a company that expedites the process of fighting traffic tickets in Pin...
Updated: 12 hours ago
A longer wait: Some now try nearly 3 years to get disability insurance

A longer wait: Some now try nearly 3 years to get disability insurance

By the time Teralyn Fleming could finally plead her case to get federal disability insurance, she had been waiting two years and three months. The wait was not a peaceful one — a blood clotting disorder pushed her out of the workforce in 2015 so she ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa: Hundreds protest Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

Tampa: Hundreds protest Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

TAMPA — Hundreds rallied near the University of South Florida on Friday night to protest President Donald Trump’s recent declaration that the United States will recognize the divided city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.The protest was organize...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/09/17

Duke outage leaves 7,700 without power near Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — Up to 7,700 customers across Pinellas Park, Lealman and Kenneth City lost power in a Thursday night outage, according to Duke Energy.The outage impacted a cloverleaf-shaped area of customers, with pedals extending in the cardinal dire...
Published: 12/08/17