Career Path: From country singer to cupcake powerhouse | Crain's Raleigh Durham

Career Path: From country singer to cupcake powerhouse

Gigi Butler, founder of Gigi's Cupcakes, opened her first bakery in Nashville but now has nearly 100 franchises. (Courtesy of Gigi's Cupcakes) 

As a former Nashville country singer, Gigi Butler knows all about telling stories, touching emotions and celebrating milestones.

Only now she does it with her key lime, banana split and red velvet cupcakes that she sells through Gigi’s Cupcakes. The company got its start in Nashville but moved to Fort Worth a year ago after being acquired by KeyCorp, a private equity firm.

Butler, who appeared on "Undercover Boss" in 2015, said she’s passionate about her cupcakes, doing everything from corporate events to parties.

“We can be in every part of your life,” Butler said. “We do wedding cakes, graduations and bachelorette parties. They have their own personality. They’re not just a cupcake. They are all characters. It’s really a cake made with love.”

Honky tonk beginnings

Butler’s first passion was country music, taking her to Nashville where she cleaned houses as a day job while trying to get gigs at night. She spent years trying to get her big break as a country singer.

“When that dream died I [decided to] expand my cleaning business,” Butler said.

What would really change things for Butler was a call from her brother who had waited two hours for a red velvet cupcake at a New York bakery. He was emphatic that she could make better cupcakes. So, the cleaning business evolved into a baking business, with the first store opening near Music Row in Nashville. 

“Baking is in my blood I just never thought I would do it as a career.,” Butler said.

She opened nine Gigi’s Cupcakes in 2008 and by the next year she’d opened 32 locations. She started with 36 flavors and now boasts 380 different flavors.

She was still a relatively small company when "Undercover Boss" approached her about doing a show. She thought she was too small of a company and that she’d easily be recognized.

They approached her again six months later and she finally accepted. It aired in February 2015 and gained the company more notoriety.

“It was an amazing experience. It was one of the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Butler said

Growing fast

Nationwide, the cupcake franchise has nearly 100 locations and plans to open 20 new stores in 2017, Butler said. Those cupcakes brought in nearly $40 million in revenue in 2016, according to Butler.

The company’s stores have evolved since Gigi founded the company in 2008, the Nashville location was 999-square-foot bakery where they made cupcakes and customers picked them up.

“We did a lot of production there but I didn’t set it up for people to sit because we didn’t have room,” Butler said.

A new Fort Worth location, set to open later this year, will be a prototype store that will look more like a French bistro with expanded product offerings, updated display cases and digital menu boards. 

“We want it to be more of an experience,” she said. “It’s a destination place where you come on a date."

The new items and style of the prototype store could be rolling out to other corporate stores and, eventually, franchises, said Jack Sibley, Gigi’s vice president of franchise development.

New ownership

Gigi’s Cupcakes was acquired by KeyCorp in June of last year. The acquisition catapulted the company to where it could grow rapidly.

It also relocated the company’s headquarters from Nashville to Fort Worth.

“I wanted to entrust it into capable hands and they were the company to do it,” Butler said. “There’s nothing stopping us now."

 

June 26, 2017 - 11:08am