From unique idea to family businessPublished 6:18pm Sunday, March 6, 2011
There’s a map of the world hanging on the wall inside Judy Truesdell’s office, a relatively small but colorful room inside a small, unassuming building on Second Street in Niles.
It’s the hub of the Truesdell’s family business, “home to the original cupcaketree” and Cupcaketree.com.
On that map, little push pins mark the cities and countries of customers who have purchased the easy to assemble, easy to decorate cupcaketree. They stretch across the map. From the United States to Norway, Australia to Japan.
For 10 years now, the Truesdells have been developing, marketing and selling their “made in Michigan” product to a borderless customer base and they’ve been pretty successful at it.
Which could come as a delightful surprise to some, who might not even have known the company existed.
That seems likely to change. Cupcaketree.com has begin putting more of a focus on social networking and its updates are quite active on Facebook, being shared by other local groups on the site, including the Facebook page for Niles Main Street.
It’s just another new development in a local business that’s going strong.
“The company has grown every year,” Truesdell said. “The sales have doubled every year.”
The business’ history begins with the wedding day of Truesdell’s daughter Meg in 2000.
With the plan to serve cupcakes at her wedding, Truesdell said Meg asked her father, an industrial designer to build a stand for display.
He did and “friends and caters and everyone saw it and they just loved it,” Truesdell said.
The three knew they had a good idea and the brainstorming began.
Truesdell said the product had to be something easy to drop ship to customers and sell online. So they decided to use lightweight, doublewall corrugated cardboard.
And they decided from the very beginning to keep the business a Michigan based business.
“The key to this company is that we have our Cupcaketrees manufactured in Sturgis,” Truesdell said.
The company utilizes Michiana Corrugated to manufacture, package and ship out their products as ordered, serving as a “fulfillment center.”
Sold in a variety of sizes, the Cupcaketrees are easy to put together and customizable.
“We have several levels of customers,” she said.
Those customers include wholesale accounts of more than 900 bakers, along with retail customers and distributors.
Truesdell said she did extensive research in preparation for launching the business back in 2001.
“I’m the marketing person in the family,” she said.
Some national publicity didn’t hurt.
In 2003 a Cupcaketree was featured during a segment of Good Morning America and in the same year it received a mention in a special devoted to cupcakes in Good Housekeeping. Sales exploded.
“The rest is history,” she said. “It was really wonderful.”
Her customers can range from brides on a budget to serious crafters and the occasions are limitless, from weddings to birthdays, bridal or baby showers and even corporate meetings.
In her office, along with the map on the wall, are binders full of photos sent in from customers who have transformed their Cupcaketrees into colorful displays.
“That’s what really makes me happy,” she said. “It’s a very happy business … Cupcakes are becoming more and more popular. People love it … I think we’ll continue to see that.
“There’s a great diversification of our customer base,” she said.
The company is responding to the demand. Truesdell said they are currently working with fellow Niles business French Paper Company to provide a complete kit which would include a Cupcaketree and multicolored palettes to put over the cardboard and cupcake wrappers.
With so many possibilities for continued growth, the Truesdells happily await all that’s yet to come.
“I think we’ve got a tiger by the tail,” Truesdell said.
For more information, visit www.cup caketree.com or call (866) 422-8733.