The Sweet Life: Georgetown Cupcake Sisters Katherine and Sophie

Cupcakes aren't just a trend these days -- bakeries (cupcakeries?) continue to open up all over the country, with no end in sight. One such shop is Washington D.C.'s Georgetown Cupcake, run by sisters Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne. They even have their own show, Cupcake Sisters, premiering on TLC July 16. We recently sat down with them to talk cupcakes, running a small business and their big TV debut.
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Ladies' Home Journal: What were you both doing before you decided to open your shop?

Katherine: I used to work in fashion for Gucci.

Sophie: I worked in the investment world -- totally different! We don't have any formal training and we didn't go to culinary school but we've been baking with our grandmother since we were little girls.

LHJ: Why did you choose to open your shop in Georgetown?

S: We've been in DC for the past ten years.

K: I went to Marymount University in Arlington and Sophie and I used to go to Georgetown a lot for shopping, going to lunch and hanging out. We love Georgetown and thought it was the perfect area for a quaint little bakery.

S: Katherine actually found the spot by accident. We were just jogging one day and this storefront was available and we thought it would be the perfect place.

LHJ: Was there a moment when you realized that your corporate jobs weren't right for you?

K: We were both happy in our jobs, and that was probably the hardest part -- leaving a job that you like to do something you don't know if you'll succeed at.

S: Our family members thought we were crazy. It could very well have not turned out like this and a lot of small businesses and restaurants fail. The odds were against us because we didn't work in a restaurant or have any experience, but this was our dream, and it just felt like it was the right time to go for it.

LHJ: Which of your cupcakes are the most popular?

K: The most popular one that we sell in the store is red velvet. But Sophie's favorite is chocolate hazelnut. Mine is a toss up between peanut butter fudge and salted caramel, which is on the schedule twice a week now because so many people had been calling and e-mailing us to put it back on the schedule.

S: We had the salted caramel on our seasonal menu for just January and as January was wrapping up, we got all these e-mails from customers who wanted it on the regular menu. It's great to get that kind of positive feedback.

LHJ: About how many cupcakes do you sell every day?

K: Probably between three and five thousand. On Saturday it's definitely over 5,000 now.

S: People are also buying cupcakes for special occasions; especially for weddings, bridal showers, baby showers and things like that. It adds up pretty quickly, you know -- five dozen here, ten dozen there.

LHJ: Do you have any plans to bring Georgetown Cupcake to any other cities?

S: Maybe!

K: When we first started, we honestly thought we would just have this small shop and just sell a few cupcakes a day. That was our dream. We would never have expected us to grow this much in such a short period of time.

S: If you had told us in August that we would have a shop in Bethesda, Maryland I wouldn't have believed you! But if the demand is there, we'll definitely go. But the thing for us is we want to keep it special. We don't want to become a chain. The quality is super important to us, so while we do want to grow, we also want to keep it special and keep the focus on the quality.

LHJ: Your new show, Cupcake Sisters, premieres on July 16 on TLC. What's the show going to focus on?

K: It's going to be about the dynamics of running a family bakery. Our mother also works in the bakery with us.

S: For us it's the best thing because we can fight and be honest with each other but at the end of the day, we're sisters, and no matter what we say to each other we still love each other.

LHJ: What's the dynamic -- is one of you more business-oriented or creative?

K: A lot of people ask us that because Sophie's background is in finance and mine is in fashion, so they think that I'm the more creative one and Sophie's more business-oriented. But it's really fifty-fifty.

S: We do everything together -- some people probably think it's weird because we go places together and we don't ever split apart but that's actually helped us because when we make decisions, we always make them together.

LHJ: Has the camera caught any tense moments during filming?

K: Oh yeah!

S: But I think people will be able to relate to it because they're moments that you have with your own family.

K: And it's a fast-paced environment so you forget about the cameras because you have to do your job. We're focused on the task at hand so we forget that we're being filmed and there are definitely tense moments when we're stressed out.

S: I think the show's also going to show that it's not all peaches and cream. There are highs and lows when you're running a small business, but in the end it's worth it. If you have a dream, you make it work, no matter how hard it is and how late you stay up to finish.

LHJ: How do you manage to run everything, on top of taping the show?

K: Just hiring really great people. They're like family to us, the people that we have. There's two other people that know the cake recipes other than us. They're like family and they've memorized them too.

S: It's hard, but you just learn to function a little tired. Any small business owner really has to give one hundred percent. We always call it our "bouncing baby business" because it's almost like having a child in some way. You're always worried about it, you're always thinking about it and it requires all your attention -- but we love it! That's the bottom line.

Originally published on LHJ.com, May 2010.

 

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