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A Sweet Place to Start

Posted: August 29, 2014, 9:14 a.m.
by Amber Ingram.

Public relations plays an important role for corporations and businesses of all sizes. For Sweets Cupcakes, a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, bakery owned by Mary Booth and Johnathan Gasaway, word of mouth, social networking and customer experience are top priorities.

Booth and Gasaway both grew up in the restaurant business. This background gave them an interest and an advantage in opening up Sweets, after being friends for a little over three years. Gasaway recalls how they came up with the idea.

“Honestly, we were just sitting down at Mary’s house and messing around with the thought of opening our own business. Because of our backgrounds, we knew it would be hard work, but most of the recipes were right there in front of us. After that, the plan for Sweets just kind of fell into place.”

Owning a small business takes dedication. Booth and Gasaway are the sole owners, managers and employees of Sweets. Gasaway is also in charge of PR and promotions. To Gasaway this is just another advantage. Being personal with customers — letting them know who you are — gives them a guarantee that the final product will be done right and to their specifications.

Word of mouth is a major reason Sweets has done so well.

“Before we opened, we really didn’t do any promotional work. People would just walk and drive by downtown and see our sign. On opening day we were planning on having a soft opening, but people just kept coming!” Gasaway explained.

Social media has been a constant and successful PR tool for Sweets. The local business currently uses the social outlets Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The business’ website is in the process of being updated and redesigned due to the bakery’s current change of locations. Gasaway provided insight on how these outlets have helped put Sweets on the map.

“I am always posting pictures of our latest masterpieces. This gives potential customers an online lookbook at we can do. I also post about giveaways, contests and specials we have going on at the time.”

On another note, Gasaway expressed his enthusiasm about Sweets’ current contract with Iris and Lola, a local party-planning boutique. Iris and Lola recommends Sweets as its choice of bakery, and every customer who uses Sweets’ services because of the recommendation gets 10 percent off their purchase. Gasaway said that this is great opportunity for the two businesses. By coming together with another local small business, Gasaway believes it will benefit them both in the long run when it comes to doing promotions.

A bakery is unique and offers specific specialty items that can’t be found anywhere else. For instance, Sweets’ best-selling cupcake is the “Crimson Pride.” It is a red velvet cake, which is considered “one of the South’s finest delicacies,” according to Gasaway. It is then topped with a cream cheese icing and an elephant constructed from icing for decoration. Customer experience has become Sweets’ main focus since it first started.

“All of our items are handmade in the store. When you walk in, one can’t help but notice the smell of fresh baked goods. For us it is all about reaching out and getting to know customers. It’s exciting when we get on a first name basis with new customers,” Gasaway said.

Photo taken by Johnathan Gasaway
Photo taken by Johnathan Gasaway

The most rewarding part of owning Sweets for Gasaway is getting to be a part of someone’s special day, seeing the enjoyment on a customer’s face when she takes a bite of her custom-made wedding cake, or getting the “OMG” compliment on how good a cupcake tastes.

In the future Gasaway hopes to see Sweets expand by adding new items to the menu and eventually opening a new store. Ever since its launch, things have only been growing for the local business. When asked to give advice to others looking to open up a small business, Gasaway encourages them to go for it.

“Don’t limit yourself to what you can and can’t do. Keep working hard for what you want by ‘making life a little bit sweeter one bite at a time.’”

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