As many little girls do, Kristina Lavallee loved learning to cook and bake with her chef and caterer mom, Margarita Perez. Who better to master the arts of baking and cooking than from a chef and caterer mom?! From that early age, Margarita instilled in her daughter the importance of using only the best ingredients in recipes, gold standard customer service and always treating people like family. Years later, those ideals became the foundation for The Cake Girl culture.
With excellency in education — in the form of two bachelor degrees in hospitality management, and food service and restaurant management from the University of Central Florida — it was logical for Kristina to jump into the baked goods scene. Knowledge is power, and she understood the significance of integrating education with on-the-ground experience.
Kristina’s career progressed from small bakeries and exclusive custom bakeries to a high-volume wholesale bakery, supplying goods to national chains. While exceedingly grateful for those experiences that helped her grow, she longed to further her accomplishments.
“I knew that I wanted to follow my dreams of having my own business,” Kristina, the girl behind The Cake Girl, shared.
So, she set out to make it happen.
There will be cake!
Kristina brought her talents from Orlando to Tampa in 2013 and immediately began making a name for herself and her delightful treats at farmers markets, special events, and corporate parties.
“The support from the community was remarkable,” said Kristina.
Soon, Kristina hopped on a dessert truck and took The Cake Girl mobile, which allowed her to share her goodies far and wide.
Hundreds of miles and thousands of cupcakes later, Kristina opened her first brick and mortar shop on North Dale Mabry.
Kristina tag-teamed on The Cake Girl with her husband Kirby, TCG’s chief success coach. Equipped with Kristina’s talents as an architect of delectable delicacies and Kirby’s master networking and brand development prowess, the two took on Tampa.
With assistance from The Cake Girl team, Kristina and Kirby work tirelessly to serve and give back to Tampa Bay, while the couple remains focused on the goal ahead: Taking The Cake Girl brand nationwide. “Our motivation is and always has been to make people smile,” said Kristina. “When people try our delicious sweets, they’re happy and the memories they create are meaningful — that is why we exist.”
Their business is growing by leaps and bounds, and the Lavallees remain humble and thankful for those who are helping The Cake Girl thrive.
“We always remember the people that helped and supported us along the way as well as our amazing team members that help us achieve our mission each and every day,” she said. “Our core values of safety, quality, always here, and be the best are the foundation of our growing business and will always be at the core of our company.”
“That is our unique value proposition – we care about making more than just the dough,” Kristina added. “We care genuinely about not only delivering the best cakes and cupcakes on the market using the best ingredients and our award-winning recipes but giving back and serving others each and every day in our community. Our fans are the reason we exist and we are grateful for your overwhelming support.”
Crave’n Cup for the Cure
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, many retail businesses were forced to adjust and reinvent themselves in order to remain in the game. The Cake Girl was no different. A silver lining from the pandemic: The Crave’n Cup was born.
“We have been developing these for quite some time, but never had the chance to get them in motion because we were so busy,” explained Kirby. “COVID gave us a couple weeks of downtime to be able to shift gears and get them implemented.”
Kirby said the Crave’n Cups have allowed The Cake Girl to safely serve customers while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Later, an even more personal concept came from the Crave’n Cups.
“One of our team members, Ivy Peterson, is a breast cancer survivor,” said Kirby. “We wanted to do something special to recognize not only her 19 years of survivorship but also the many amazing women that fight breast cancer every day.”
Naturally, they honored survivors The Cake Girl way — with the special edition pink ribbon Crave’n Cup. “Our way to give back and spread some smiles this year was to develop a Crave’n Cup for the Cure,” Kirby said.
With every cup sold, one dollar goes to the American Cancer Society. “We hope to be able to not only raise money but raise awareness,” said Kirby.
Every Crave’n Cup is layered with goodness. The special edition cup is layered with pink vanilla cake, vanilla buttercream, and pink sprinkles, topped with a pink buttercream ribbon. They are available for the remainder of October, in-store and for delivery anywhere in the USA.
It’s not just a cupcake. It’s a masterpiece. An edible art form. Each immaculate creation, from cakes to cupcakes, are infused with passion and painstaking detail. From the first bite to the last crumb, the lucky devourers of these goodies will taste the work that goes into each item.
To see some more of their beautiful custom creations, check out The Cake Girl. The shop is located in North Tampa at 13713 N. Dale Mabry (Lakeside Plaza).
(All images courtesy of The Cake Girl)
Brick Media Q&A with Kristina, owner & Kirby, chief success coach:
Q. What’s your primary responsibility in the owner and chief success coach roles?
Kristina: I oversee the day-to-day operations of our bakery. From custom cakes to mini cupcakes, I remain involved in the entire process with our team of highly skilled cake decorators.
Kirby: Chief Success Coach – Kirby oversees the corporate direction and strategy with The Cake Girl. From sales and marketing to helping the team wherever needed, you can typically find Kirby out in the field telling the story of The Cake Girl.
Q. What is your most significant business or work-related challenge?
The biggest challenge in this industry is finding skilled labor. Due to the high-end nature of the designs that we do, typically it is hard to find employees with the experience that is needed to step right in and get to work.
Another challenge as a small business with the amount of rapid growth we have experienced is keeping up with all of the inquiries that come into our bakery on a daily basis. We have continued to improve and streamline the process, but it is something we consistently strive to be better at.
Q. What’s something you battle daily?
One thing that we experience daily is educating the customer on what exactly custom cakes entail. Our products are made from scratch each and every day in our bakery, they do not come in frozen or premade. Many times, customers are used to the grocery store model where they can walk in and get a cake in five minutes. Our model is completely different where we specialize in creating masterpieces based on our customers’ vision.
Q. What is the best advice for people aspiring to be in your position?
Make sure that, number 1, you are financially stable and able to survive for some time with overhead costs. And, number 2, make sure that you have the time that is needed to dedicate full time if you want to be successful. Especially in food service operations, it is a 24/7 grind in order to be successful, not just a hobby. We always are brutally honest with others when we are asked about how much time and energy goes into running a successful business like ours.
Q. What’s something for which you want to be remembered?
One thing that we always want to be remembered for is the awesome experience that both our team members and customers take away from our business. We strive every day to be better and impact those we serve in the most positive way. We want to be remembered as those who invested the time and energy in others while making the biggest positive impact possible.
Q. What is the biggest difference between business in 2020 versus business in 2009?
In 2009 we were a home-based business and Kristina was doing weekend markets to feel out how our products would perform if we made the move into a storefront. In 2009 we had people reaching out for cakes that were familiar with Kristina’s work, but we never thought that we would be where we are today in 2020 with a brick and mortar store as well as in the process of building a second one in Wesley Chapel.
Q. What has been a significant shift you’ve noticed in the past decade?
In the past decade, more and more people are moving towards getting custom cakes for their celebrations, rather than grocery store-bought cakes. We have noticed that each and every year more people want elaborate designs for their special days. This could also be due to the baking shows on TV that have continued to highlight the skills of many decorators around the world.
Q. What’s your favorite social media platform?
In our business, we’ve had great luck with Facebook and Instagram. We get leads on both and have a great and engaging following.
Q. What 2 words would the people closest to you use to describe you?
Kristina: Sweet and thoughtful
Kirby: Organized and hardworking
Q. If you could have lunch with one person for 60 minutes (dead or alive), who would it be?
Kristina: Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”)
Kirby: Kevin O’Leary (“Mr.Wonderful”)
Q. Which do you like more, dogs or cats?
Dogs for both of us!!!
Q. Favorite hobby outside of work?
Kristina: – Baking 🙂
Kirby: Going to the gym
Q. Name one of your biggest guilty pleasures.
Kristina: Ice cream
Kirby: Jets pizza