A Sweet Gift Idea—Custom Cupcakes for the Holidays
(Delaware/Chester Counties, PA • December 20, 2011)—Looking for a memorable way to express the holiday spirit to family, friends or coworkers? How about a custom-designed cupcake hot out of the oven from the truck of 24-year-old Samantha Zebrowski?
Industrious entrepreneur Zebrowski, of Glenn Mills, turned a former utility company truck she bought off eBay into a mobile bakery and has been selling custom cupcakes since April throughout the Greater Philadelphia area. Christmas and holiday favorites include gingerbread cake with cinnamon cream cheese icing topped with a gingerbread cookie; candy cane–chocolate cake with peppermint buttercream frosting topped with a candy cane; and pumpkin pie–pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese icing topped with a pumpkin candy corn.
“You can pick and create your own vision of what you want,” Zebrowski said, adding that she also makes vegan and gluten-free cupcakes. “I wanted everybody to be able to create their own creations.”
A Nyack, N.Y. native who grew up in Cranford, N.J., Zebrowski fine-tuned the idea for her business, “Sweets by Samantha,” while taking a “How to Start a Small Business” class taught by instructor Margaret King at Delaware County Community College. King, who is president of InfoRich Group Inc., a management consulting firm that provides fundraising support in the areas of board development, prospect research, capital campaign and general fundraising, taught Zebrowski the finer points of going into business, such as getting the word out about your company’s product or service before investing in a storefront and the difference between a sole proprietorship and a limited liability company.
“She has passion for her own business and being a business owner, so I figured that would be someone to learn from,” Zebrowski said of King. “That class helped me realize that if I had a truck I could reach so many more people than if I had a store.” King also helped Zebrowski realize that starting her own business would not be easy and would take more start-up capital than she had at first thought.
But where to find a truck?
That is where the online marketplace eBay, her nuclear engineer boyfriend and a few friends who just happen to be electricians, welders and plumbers came into the picture. Together, over the course of many weekends and using spare parts picked up from a nearby garage, they spent about $25,000 turning the old Chevy utility truck into a bakery-on-wheels, complete with an oven from which Zebrowski creates her cupcakes.
“I thought this is the most foolish thing I have done in my whole life,” Zebrowski said, reflecting on the day she decided to spend about $5,300 to buy the used utility truck, which was in such bad shape that it had no walls and had holes in its floor.
But since its start-up, Sweets by Samantha has grown exponentially. Earlier this month, a chance meeting with a valet for a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Fort Washington, led to the dealership hiring Zebrowski to provide 400 mini-cupcakes for a dealership open house event, which drew more than 200 people. “We wanted to do something different,” said Dana Jamison, the dealership’s customer relations manager, adding that they had Zebrowski park her truck in the service bay area and hand out the cupcakes. “People were coming in so they could see the equipment used to service their Mercedes-Benz,” Jamison said. “Her cupcakes were delicious. They were a tremendous hit.”
Sweets by Samantha has grown to the point where Zebrowski has taken the next step and leased a storefront, which she soon hopes to have up and running as a permanent location.
“I’m a young entrepreneur and I’m not just trying to build a business, I’m trying to build a brand,” Zebrowski said, attributing her zeal and drive to watching her grandfather, the late Charles Stierlen, who at the age of 18 started a 10-cent parcel and post business, then later a moving business with just one truck, his own, a tiny little Ford. After marrying her grandmother, a woman some 27 years younger, he grew Stierlen’s Moving and Storage, his small mom-and-pop business, into a multi-million dollar venture, which eventually joined with North American Van Lines. “He made a hell of a lot of mistakes along the way, but didn’t stop,” Zebrowski said, adding that she has no intentions of stopping either.
About Sweets by Samantha
Samantha Zebrowski can be reached at 908-358-8805.
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