Sugardaddy’s opening a third Central Ohio store in JulyBusiness Profiles — By Melanie McIntyre on June 14, 2011 at 8:00 am
Over the last six years, Mark Ballard and Tom Finney, co-founders/co-CEOs of Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties, have satisfied sweet tooths from coast to coast courtesy of an online store and two brick and mortar shops.
Next month, these purveyors of handmade brownies and blondies will see their empire expand yet again with the opening of a store at Easton Town Center. To hear Ballard tell it, deciding to open a set up shop there was a no-brainer.
“Plain and simple, we decided to open Easton to capitalize on the 21 million annual visitors and the resulting foot traffic,” he says. “High foot traffic equals high sales for Sugardaddy’s. We have the right product. We just need to be in the right places.”
And if things go according to plan, eventually those places will be outside the company’s Central Ohio base.
“For the future, our vision is that Sugardaddy’s becomes synonymous with brownies, blondies, desserts and gifts, that we continue to grow online sales, and that we become a national franchise with retail locations in Chicago, Phoenix, Austin, L.A, and NYC.”
Read on to learn who Ballard and Finney look up to, why they’ll never stop answering the Sugardaddy’s phone lines, and which three ingredients have been crucial to their success.
The Metropreneur: Tell me about the new Easton store.
Mark Ballard: Sugardaddy’s Easton store is located inside Easton Station, just inside the Abercrombie & Fitch entrance. Our store is a smaller footprint than our current two retail stores on Polaris Parkway and downtown. Our current retail stores offer 1,000 square feet of selling space. Total square footage for Sugardaddy’s Easton Store is 620 square feet of which 580 will used for selling. However, our Easton Store will be equal to our two other retail stores and online store in terms of branding and products; just more compact and efficient.
In addition, we will maximize our current baking facility to support our Easton store just as we do with our downtown and Polaris Parkway stores rather than build out separate bakeriers/kitchens for each location. All products will be baked, delivered, and sold the same day in all of our stores. While our Easton store’s space will be tight, we project it will have our most productive selling per square foot.
[M]: Your Easton store is going into a fairly new space, while your downtown store is in a building that is decades old. How have the design, permit, and build-out processes differed?
Tom Finney: Sugardaddy’s Easton store is more similar to the build-out we did for our Polaris Parkway store than our downtown store. Sugardaddy’s Easton and Polaris Parkway stores were previosly occupied as retail stores before we converted them to Sugardaddy’s stores. We were able to leverage the infrastructures of both locations and align the spaces with our product layout and branding needs.
Easton Town Center’s design criteria and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing reviews are more extensive than our experiences with the landlords/owners of our other stores. Sugardaddy’s downtown store has been the most challenging in that the building sat vacant for 12 years with the MEP eroding severely over those years due to pipe ruptures, vandalism, and age. We were the first tenant to occupy the downtown store space. MEPs were a mess and required the landlord to replace the infrastrure more exensively than what he believed would be necessary to get the building its first tenant.
[M]: I think it’s exciting that the new store will contribute some more homegrown talent to Easton.
MB: We are excited about Easton and being a part of the changing face of it, especially being recruited to infuse more local flavor into the Center. We are excited that Steiner, who owns and manages Easton, is actively evolving Easton Town Center in terms of tenant mix, layout, and local players like Northstar and Piada.
[M]: When do you expect the Easton store to open?
TF: At this time, we fully expect Sugardaddy’s Easton Store will open Tuesday, July 5.
[M]: You spent three years prior to Sugardaddy’s launch developing the company’s business plan, model, recipes, packaging, branding, operations, baking infrastructure, and e-commerce website. What resources –books, websites, organizations− were helpful to you during that time?
MB: Our biggest learnings have come from our respective experiences in large organizations in operations, e-commerce, marketing, branding, customer service, etc. Additionally, we are both life-long learners of what makes and sustains great companies and great brands– in the food industry and far beyond. We read industry reports and keep abreast of consumer spending trends and patterns.
[M]: Did you turn to any role models or mentors for advice or input?
MB: Tom and I both feel that we’ve learned a great deal from leaders and collegues with whom we’ve worked and our travel experiences in the U.S. and abroad. Additionally for Tom, Ina Garten has been a great influence and source of culinary information and inspiration. From a business model for Tom, it’s Les Wexner. For me, for a business leader, it’s been Jeanne Jackson, former CEO of Banana Republic Stores and Direct. For marketing, it’s been Catherine Sadler, former CMO at Ann Taylor.
[M]: Both of you work in your stores and on the phone lines every day. Why is that hands-on approach so important to you?
TF: Being hands-on and working in and across the business is part of our DNA and the culture of Sugardaddy’s. Interacting and learning from our customers and our employees are critical components to our success and our growth, and is one of our greatest joys in life. We never want to “turn over” our business or stores and check in now and then.
[M]: Sugardaddy’s desserts have been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres and Rachael Ray shows, emerged victorious in a Showdown with Bobby Flay, and graced the pages of In Style and Women’s Day. How were you able to obtain that kind of national exposure?
TF: We fundamentally believe that all of our success begins with our product. We set out to win before we opened our doors by researching and developing the best brownies and blondies ever and creating a company/idea that has not ever been done before. While there are numerous cookie, cake, and pie companies, there is not another full scale brownie and blondie dessert and gift company in existence. We love creating and growing something original. We’ve been able to capture the attention of editors and producers with Sugardaddy’s great product and unique twists.
[M]: What has been the biggest business challenge you’ve faced since founding Sugardaddy’s and how did you overcome it?
TF: Our biggest challenges are two-fold. First, cultivating a customer base. Second, weathering low sales when our expenses outweighed them. Time is not a friend to the small business; you have to work fast and furiously to develop a customer base and sales to stay in business. Persistence, patience, and prayer are key ingredients.
[M]: What do you consider the most rewarding aspect of being a business owner?
MB: Being able to make business decisions quickly, not getting bogged down in organizational agendas, and making customers happy are the most rewarding aspects of being business owners.
To learn more about Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties, visit Sugardaddys.com.
Photos provided by Sugardaddy’s and by Adam Slane.
Melanie McIntyre has served as editorial director of The Metropreneur since its launch in 2010. She previously worked as a staff writer for a business and legal newspaper, where she wrote more than 500 stories about finance and real estate and development in Central Ohio. Since 2008, Melanie has worked on a freelance basis for several local entities, including Columbus Underground, where she is a featured writer. She also blogs about fashion, style, and pop culture at Thoroughly Modern Melly. Melanie is a graduate of The Ohio State University, lives in the Short North, and enjoys reading and running.
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