By Demetria Mosley and Sadé Carpenter
With the emergence of cupcakes as a mega-trendy dessert in recent years, cupcake shops and food trucks have become a dime a dozen in Chicago. Whether you prefer your sweets from Sprinkles or Swirlz, a tasty cupcake is easy to come by. Although the competition is fierce, one small business owner is making her mark with a boozy new twist on the old classic – cocktail cupcakes.
“We’re not selling alcohol, we’re selling alcohol in the cupcake,” said Tracey Glover, owner of Guilty Pleasurez Cocktail Cupcakes.
Glover started Guilty Pleasurez out of her home in suburban Bolingbrook. She says she wasn’t really taking her business seriously at first, and eventually upgraded to a commercial kitchen. She now rents space from Kitchen Chicago, a shared-use kitchen on the near-west side.
“I consider myself a pastry chef…but I consider more myself as an artist,” Glover said. “I don’t want them [the cupcakes] all perfect because they’re supposed to be works of art…It should smell good, it should taste good and it should look good.”
Glover works full time at an online university (she did not wish to disclose the name) when she isn’t working on her cupcakes. Because of her tight schedule, running Guilty Pleasurez is truly a family affair. Her 13-year-old daughter and 24-year-old son help with deliveries and cake preparation. But, no one in her family can make one of her cupcakes from start to finish because only she knows the full recipes. Glover says one of the reasons she started her business was to provide a secure future for her children.
“I like working for myself and I want something to leave for my children so they will…I will have a legacy,” Glover said. “They don’t have to depend upon other people to give them a job or decide whether they’re going to keep their job. This is something that they can grow and we can possibly franchise out.”
Glover initially promoted her business by word-of-mouth. She started out going to hair salons, baby showers, weddings and networking events. She says people were initially skeptical, but once they heard “alcohol-infused,” they became more interested. They’re called cocktail cupcakes for a reason, but if you’re expecting them to be as strong as a martini, think again.
“I can’t get anymore alcohol in there. If you want more alcohol you might want to just get a shot,” Glover said. “It’s still a cupcake – it has to have presentation, it has to look delicious. I can’t just pour liquor all over your cupcake and hand it to you.”
While she isn’t shy, Glover says she at first had a hard time going up to people to sell her cupcakes. She handed out many cupcake-decorated business cards, and says they get more exposure than anything else.
“It was challenging for me to promote my cupcakes,” she said. “I felt so insecure and I felt like I was hustling people.”
So far, Glover’s hard work appears to be paying off. Guilty Pleasurez participated in America’s Baking and Sweets Show last weekend, and Glover and her crew will make another appearance at the One of a Kind Show in December.
Glover says the next part of her business plan is to switch to e-commerce so customers can purchase cupcakes online instead of calling or emailing to place orders. She says she would love to make Guilty Pleasurez her full-time job, but the company is still in the growing process.
“Even though we’re bringing in money, it goes right back out.”
This summer Glover hopes to open a food truck that would travel within Chicago and nearby suburbs like Oak Park. She says the majority of her customers live in the city, so the food truck would save them a trip to the suburbs.
Starting a business has been challenging, Glover said, but facing them head-on will ultimately benefit the business.
“You can continue to be uncomfortable and hungry, or you can get out of your comfort zone and try to grow this business.”