The challenge I was addressing was twofold: to create craft coffee in a neighborhood community setting, but really, I wanted to create joy.
The problem I saw in 2003 was a lack of human connection and community. I wanted to be the antidote to that. I wanted to create a business that inspired human connection through the lens of joy and celebration.
My innovation was cupcakes. Cupcake Royale was the first cupcake bakery in the US—outside of Magnolia Bakery in New York. I felt that cupcakes have a certain nostalgia. They remind us of when we were kids and we made cupcakes with our mom or grandma.
I wasn’t “in the closet” so to speak, but I wasn’t publicly out as the business owner. I decided to use my superpowers for good, after all, I was doing all the right things in my company—supporting community, paying health care for employees, and [providing] good jobs.
After working with Barack Obama and the White House on issues related to affordable access to health care, I gained local (and national!) exposure. I knew I had an opportunity to tap into this exposure to make a stand.
I created a cupcake called The Gay and sold it during Pride month, effectively outing myself and crossing every advisor suggesting to 'never mix business and politics'. We raised $10K that month for the It Gets Better Project—the biggest donation they had received.
In 2011, two years after my wife and I had our first kid, I was heartbroken by a college student taking his life after being exposed as gay to his classmates. I reached out to Dan Savage, who had recently founded the It Gets Better Project (IGBP) to uplift, empower, and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the globe.
I created a cupcake called The Gay and sold it during Pride month, effectively outing myself and crossing every advisor suggesting to “never mix business and politics”. We raised $10k that month for IGBP—the biggest donation they had received.
While I did receive my share of hate and threats, the response was overwhelmingly positive, building reverence from my team at Cupcake to our communities for taking a stand. It was a bold move that paid off way beyond the business side.
I don’t think I knew what I wanted to do or be when I went to Albers. I knew I wanted to learn and study business (finance and marketing). My biggest lesson was in working hard, being confident to ask questions, and leaning into others to get work done. In hindsight, I’m grateful for the lessons as I apply them every day in life.
Cupcake Royale is turning 20 years old! We’re putting together a big promotion and celebration. We’re trying to figure out how to best navigate tech with fresh baked cupcakes and exploring innovation in loyalty and community.
Try our new ice cream: cupcakes n cream series!
Be true to your vision; declare and share your north star. Map your ascent as if you’re climbing Mt. Everest: 10 years out, three years out, one year out, one quarter out with 13 week sprint lanes.