163,735 total U.S. businesses have closed since the beginning of the pandemic,1 but Grace Kelli Cupcakes is not one of them!
Meet Sandra Mathis, Owner and Founder of Grace Kelli Cupcakes
Sandra always loved to bake. She grew up in Waycross, North Carolina where she shadowned her grandmother in the kitchen and learned how to put a Southern spin on various recipes. Sandra brought that passion to NYC where she opened Grace Kelli Cupcakes (GKC), specializing in baked goods and Southern-style meals. Sandra’s ambition was evident in the many hours she devoted to perfecting her recipes and chocolate-dipped treats.
How did COVID impact Sandra’s business?
When the pandemic forced Sandra to shut down, GKC’s future was uncertain. New orders dropped to zero. Sandra worried how she would earn enough money to support her family.
How did TAP help Sandra and Grace Kelli Cupcakes?
Immediately, TAP consultants Rachel Dugoff and Mary Beth Minton helped Sandra apply for small business loans and grants to offset lost revenue; they then worked with GKC over a four-week period to stabilize and adapt her business. During that time, Rachel and Mary Beth helped Sandra brainstorm innovative product ideas suited to the new consumer landscape. They encouraged Sandra to network with other minority-owned businesses and expand GKC’s reach through an enhanced social media presence. Sandra’s passionate commitment combined with TAP’s professional expertise and empathetic support allowed GKC to stay afloat and plan for a successful future.
Source: 1 Yelp Local Economic Impact Report (Sept 2020)
The couple are the founders of Cornbread 26 Food Co, a catering company that aims to elevate comfort food classics with creativity and unique touches. They began with a few cornbread recipes, including their now famous Cornbread Madeleines, and evolved to offer specialities like lobster waffle nachos and a variety of crostini. With no formal training, Craig learned the trade through cookbooks, TV shows and instructional videos, and his determination landed him as a finalist on the very first season of Master Chef (USA). Claude always loved cooking and developing new recipes, and his career as a NYC Jazz performer often inspires his creations.
How did Covid impact Cornbread 26?
Craig and Claude, like many in the food services industry, watched their business come to a complete standstill when the Covid 19 pandemic hit the New York area. Suddenly they had no events to cater and were left wondering how they would make ends meet.
How did TAP help?
TAP consultants, Victoria Drozdov and Susan Berman quickly began brainstorming with Cornbread 26. Victoria offered her deep knowledge of operations and strategy. Susan contributed her many years of experience as a successful entrepreneur and an editor at Food and Wine magazine. The consultants encouraged Craig and Claude to reach out to old customers and to find new ones by improving their online presence. They ran through pricing exercises to determine which business segments were most profitable, and gave them suggestions for new product offerings and packaging concepts.
Where are they now?
Cornbread 26 has received orders from Apple Stores and one customer ordered 3,900 Cornbread Madeleines. They have been able to resume catering small parties and weddings and have positioned themselves to service corporate lunches when employees return to the workplace.
It is clear that Craig and Claude’s hard work and determination, combined with high quality guidance from TAP, will continue to fuel their recovery and future success.
With thirteen years of wedding photography under her belt, Scarsdale-based Kelly Vasami was eager to take her work in a new direction. As her wedding business declined, her interests shifted to portrait photography. With her strong relationships, keen eye and meticulous post-production work, Kelly had all the makings of a successful photography business, but needed a bit of a boost as she transitioned into the portrait market.
How Did TAP Position Kelly’s Business to Adjust as Her Goals Changed?
TAP consultants Laurie Medvinsky and Cindy Cirlin analyzed competitor websites and put together a rebranding strategy worksheet aimed at differentiating Kelly’s skills, services, products, and aesthetic. They outlined a step-by-step overhaul to make Kelly’s site more navigable and cohesive, taking into account everything from drop down boxes to page length. With a style guide, the consultants sought to introduce consistency across Kelly’s website, social media, and printed materials.
How Did TAP Develop Kelly’s Client Base for the Long Term?
Keeping Kelly’s competitors in mind, TAP helped Kelly determine an ideal price and product range to attract new clients and set goals for cash flow, time management, and operations to make that pricing feasible. The consultants also helped Kelly identify opportunities to re-engage loyal customers, recognizing that a bride or groom might want to capture later milestones. They suggested that Kelly send out automated reminders or seasonal promotions encouraging timely use of her services. Rebranding would also bring in new clients, and TAP’s communication strategy positioned Kelly to develop and sustain those relationships.
Where is She Now?
Kelly has implemented several of TAP’s recommendations for her website and marketing, bringing her portrait work to the forefront. She has expanded that work to include professional headshots, and now recognizes portrait photography as more cost-effective than a wedding-only model. Through a moderate shift in pricing, Kelly has brought in more revenue without alienating clients. During the pandemic, Kelly has continued her work through social-distanced outdoor sessions and, despite Covid, Kelly was able to generate revenues in 2020 commensurate with years past and achieve an even higher profit by reducing expenses. Her biggest success this year has been the introduction of mini-sessions which yielded fifteen new clients. In such an ever-changing environment, her pictures have become even more meaningful, as families want to ensure important moments are still celebrated and remembered.
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