Confections of a Cake Lover

Published: 06-Nov-2014

Sarah K. Chapp

Confections of a Cake Lover

896 Market St.
Meadville, PA 16335

Crawford County


Retail Bakery

Year Founded:

Consultant's Name:
Tom Cholak

SBDC Assistance:
Business Start Up Assistance

Additional Partners:
City of Meadville Redevelopment Authority

Gannon University SBDC Jeff Corcoran, Director
120 West 9th Street
Erie, PA 16501
Phone: 814-871-7232

Sarah Chapp relocated to Meadville, PA from upstate New York in June 2012 when her husband, Tim, accepted an assistant professor's position in the chemistry department at Allegheny College. Prior to her arrival in Meadville, Sarah had been a full time science and math teacher who had successfully leveraged her artistic talents to establish a part time home based business marketing custom designed wedding cakes and other award winning "edible art" bakery products. She had also been considering converting this part time initiative to a full time retail "store front" business. Consistent with this objective, she had begun writing a start up business plan.

In August 2012 she contacted the Gannon SBDC Crawford County Outreach Office requesting business plan assistance. We suggested that she attend an upcoming First Step Seminar, and on August 21 we conducted our initial meeting with Sarah.

As is typical with start up engagements, our initial work with Sarah focused on evaluating the financial feasibility of her concept. Given the presence of an established artisan bakery in downtown Meadville, and, given the comparison between the proposed target market's median family income profile, and the business' proposed pricing structure, the SBDC consultant's preliminary thoughts regarding financial viability were somewhat pessimistic. However, Sarah effectively addressed these concerns by explaining (1) that the economic environment into which she had introduced the part time business was very similar to Meadville's; (2) that she typically consults with customers regarding the higher end creations, factoring the customer's budgetary considerations into the ensuing proposals; (3) that she would also offer a rotating daily selection of counter displayed artistically unique, but more affordable, "stock" cupcakes, cheesecakes, specialty cakes, brownies, and other "single serve" and take out items; and (4) that she planned to offer an affordable selection of coffees, teas, and cold beverages. During this initial session we also recommended to Sarah that she contact the City of Meadville Redevelopment Authority, which at that time, had begun marketing street level retail and commercial spaces in a formerly distressed, downtown building which it had previously acquired and renovated. Sarah subsequently located her business in that facility, and since then, all but one of the retail/commercial spaces within this complex has been leased.

Sarah proved to be a highly capable client, and during the next few weeks, we assisted her with completion of her business and marketing plans, a website developer referral, and business registration, employee hiring, regulatory compliance, and general start up assistance. She implemented a successful start up in December 2012, self financing the costs. The business has continued to do well.

The Confections of a Cake Lover experience illustrates how creative entrepreneurs, such as Sarah Chapp, who will aggressively and effectively market their businesses, local EDA's such as the City of Meadville Redevelopment Authority, and business assistance agencies such as the SBDC can successfully collaborate to maintain the vitality of rural Pennsylvania communities' downtown business districts.