“I’m an adamant believer. I’m going to make an amazing product. I’m going to put my heart and soul into it, and when you eat it, you can’t deny it.”
Nope. Not at all.

Sweet Blooms Cupcakes are so good it’s hard to believe that owner Ariel White never planned to start a cupcake business. Sure, White had always enjoyed baking, but her lifelong plan was to become a schoolteacher- and she did. For three years, White taught at Chicago Public Schools, but quickly determined it would not be her long-term career. She did however, love the after school program and mentoring young girls- so much that she created the GLAM Girls mentoring program.
Heavy on enthusiasm, but low on funds for GLAM Girls, White did what she’d always done to raise funds in a pinch—she baked cupcakes—this time red velvet. What she didn’t expect was that customers would continue to order cupcakes months after the fundraiser had ended. A perfect business idea and mentoring opportunity was born.

White would use Sweet Blooms to teach her mentees business and entrepreneurial skills. Today, several of her mentees, also known as EIT’s (Entrepreneur in Training) have been hired as bakers.

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All photos courtesy of Sweet Blooms Cupcakes

GROWING THE BUSINESS
When speaking with White, one thing becomes clear. She’s serious about providing a quality product and good customer service. “Integrity in business is everything,” states White. “If it’s not something I would pay money for, it’s not good enough.” Thankfully, her commitment to quality has helped her gain exposure from fans that believe in Sweet Blooms and helped her push her product. She received a huge nod from local lifestyle expert Lakesha Rose, when Rose featured Sweet Blooms Cupcakes during her guest segments on WGN’s Midday Fix and WCIU’s You and Me This Morning. Sweet Blooms has also utilized Groupon to positive effect.

When not selling online, you may find White and husband Jonathan at a local business for a Sweet Blooms Pop-Up event. White credits her Jonathan’s sales and marketing savvy as an integral factor in increasing Sweet Blooms’ bottom line. “He’s a great partner. I couldn’t do it without him.”

CREATIVE PROCESS
Setting oneself apart in a booming cupcake field isn’t easy, but White trusts her gut and her game plan. On her creations, “My cake flavors are basically my style. I try not to get too deep. If I like it, I think other people will like it. I do some different things, but I like simple, elegant rich flavors. Normally if I have a flavor pattern in my head, it just works.”

White also discovered she has a knack for cake design. From her cupcake bouquets to her jumbo cupcake cakes, White’s design work is primarily self-taught.
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LESSONS LEARNED
After 3 years in business, White has learned some valuable lessons. On her biggest lesson learned, White shares, “ It will take twice as long as I’ll have to work twice as hard- actually maybe 4-5 times as hard. It’s different when you work for someone else. When you start from the ground up, and no one knows you. You have no credibility.   You have to build that up. It’s extremely hard. So, I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself. Not to compare somebody else’s tenth year with my third. And to just work like crazy.”

WHAT’S NEXT
Sweet Blooms is working on expanding its role as a social enterprise. “We love mentoring young people and want to train more girls.” White, who has a Masters degree in Instructional Leadership, is currently writing a training curriculum for her girls. In the future, she’d like to offer it to Chicago Public Schools for afterschool programs to fill the void in entrepreneurial skills training.
Opening a storefront location is also on White’s goal list- but something small- initially.
“I’m all about dreaming big, but starting small.”

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PERSPECTIVE
It’s been said the “dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.” Many will throw a hat into the ring, but the entrepreneurial grind is not for everyone. White however, seems ready to meet the challenge.
“I’m the best investment because my work ethic is like no other. I will keep moving. I’m not going to stop. That doesn’t mean it won’t get hard. Just don’t quit. Keep moving.”
That’s a word.

For your cupcake fix, visit Sweet Blooms Cupcakes at www.sweetbloomscupcakes.com.

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