For the past 13 years, The Cupcake Bar has been a mainstay of corporate events and weddings throughout Central Texas. The Austin-based caterer is the brainchild of Lori Schneider, “Chief Cupcake Officer” and creative force behind the company. Building off her background as a nutritionist and a catering professional, Schneider created what she described as an “interactive” model for a dessert bar that makes The Cupcake Bar a standout at any event.
Despite so many changes over the past few weeks, Schneider and her team have managed to stay one step ahead of the ongoing pandemic by overhauling their business model on the fly. In our recent conversation with Schneider, we discussed her early days in the catering industry, the inspiration for The Cupcake Bar, and the steps she’s taking to make sure he employees and customers remain safe.
You can watch the full video for the unedited conversation, but here are a few of the biggest takeaways from Amplify Credit Union’s Instagram Live conversation with The Cupcake Bar.
On Schneider’s Early Days in the Food Industry
Lori Schneider: "I’ve just always loved and worked in food. I went to Texas A&M and got a degree in nutrition and food science, and came to Austin and worked here for a restaurant chain doing research and development. That’s kind of where I found my passion for creating and getting into the food.
I went to culinary school. Finished that and started a really small catering business. From there, I did a cupcake bar event and just had so much fun that I just was like, ‘This needs to be its own thing.’
Everybody’s happy, and we’re happy. It’s like Willy Wonka, my favorite kids’ movie."
On the Appeal of Cupcakes
Lori Schneider: "I was in catering, and I went to New York to look at food and eat food and try all cupcake places, and it’s just makes everybody happy. So, that’s kind of where that started from, and I was just grateful to be able to create a business around it, doing what we love. From there, we’ve progressed and done a lot of other things, but it’s just been really fun.
Our big thing is interactive desserts. We want to bring the dessert out into the party and make it fun and make it different. So through that progression, we’ve been able to grow that and come up with some new things."
Starting a Small Business in the Middle of a Recession
Lori Schneider: "We launched in the very end of 2017, early 2018, and if you’ll remember, that’s when the recession hit. All of my contacts I was going to reach out to for corporate events - everybody had been let go. That was my cue to pivot and focus on weddings because people still need to get married.
Learning the wedding industry was fun. I love events, and every single one is different. So we quickly pivoted and started learning and growing organically that way.
I also was very apprehensive because it was a unique service that nobody was offering. How do you market that to people? How do you talk to people about it?"
On the Importance of Flexibility in a Crisis
Lori Schneider: "We’re a small team, and we’ve been able to pivot because of them and their flexibility. Everybody hit the ground running. ‘Okay, what are we going to do, how are we going to pivot from this?’ South by Southwest was kind of the start of when we lost all of our events.
I’m so grateful that we had a product that we could get into people’s hands. For us, it was learning the production. Most of our events are planned out weeks, months, years in advance, and now to flip and have people want products tomorrow or later this afternoon? It’s a totally different business model."
How Businesses Can Adjust to Our New Normal
Lori Schneider: "The biggest thing is this isn’t over, and it’s not going to be over for a while. When they open the doors, there’s going to be a lot of repercussions. We’ll probably go into recession - not to sound like Debbie Downer, but we have to plan for that, and I have to plan my business for that and my team for that.
Also, our product line. What is that going to look like, and how are we going to pivot that so we can make it through the next year? I honestly am planning out a year to year-and-a-half to see kind of where this goes.
Not to say events won’t come back, but they’re not going to be the scale that they were. So, I think that’s important. Look down the line a year."