Scratch Cupcakery Owner is a Busy Woman - and About to Get Busier
Scratch Cupcakery, the popular downtown Cedar Falls bakery, is set to open a new location in Waterloo this summer, its second big expansion in less than a year. Owner Natalie Brown took time from her hectic schedule to answer some questions for Patch.
Natalie Brown, the owner of Scratch Cupcakery, is a very busy woman. Between running two successful downtown shops, sending catered cupcakes all over the Cedar Valley and preparing to expand her wildly popular cupcake store into a Waterloo location this summer, she took a moment to answer some questions for Patch's readers.
What made you decide to expand?
Customers!! We’ve had so many requests to expand – almost immediately after we opened. It took some time to really commit to the expansion – it’s an enormous investment of money and time and resources and staff – but it’s just time! We love that customers don’t mind waiting in line … but some Saturday afternoons, it can be 30 minutes or longer! We hope this first jump into Waterloo helps with the traffic in Cedar Falls, but also opens up a whole new base of customers that just can’t get to Cedar Falls during the week!
It has just been less than a year since your last big expansion. How does it feel?
It’s been a whirlwind two years, that’s for sure! The original Scratch (“little” Scratch) opened June 18, 2010. I opened Sweet Basil Market just shy of a year later on June 2, 2011, and then we expanded to the new Scratch location on November 25, 2011. Now we’ll open the Waterloo Scratch location this summer!
It feels good to be so invested in the town I grew up in, no question. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of time to do something like this, but I’ve got amazing people around me helping every step of the way!
Did you ever picture your small business taking off this way?
Easy answer. No! I think every entrepreneur has the hope – the dream – that their small business will explode. But I really opened Scratch thinking it’d be fun to have a little corner bakery, and that was it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but I’ve learned a lot from the last two years of expansions! It’s fun to be a part of something unique and it’s fun to bring new staff on board with every expansion … new energy is so helpful!
Also – how old are you? It seems like you’ve accomplished what a lot of small business owners aspire to reach after years and years in the business world. How does that feel?
I’m 32 … started this whole adventure at 30 … which now seems forever ago! You know, I’ve really seen a lot more people my age in big business than I ever thought. One of my high school classmates is another business owner downtown. Another owns a lot of property in the area and is doing big things. I’m sure there are more I just don’t know about!
I think for a lot of us … we’re just innate risk-takers and passion followers. Sometimes the risk doesn’t work out, and sometimes it pays off! It feels great to have a unique business and be doing things outside the box, but I’ll never take a minute of the success for granted. As hard as I’ve worked, I’ve seen people work much harder and wind up in hard times through no fault of their own. So I move forward a day at a time and make decisions very carefully, but very quickly … and don’t look back.
Have you thought about what might come next?
These days, I’m always thinking about what’s next. My job has really transitioned from managing a small bakery to managing a team of people who manage the cupcakeries. There’s a one-year plan, a three-year plan, a five-year plan … lots of plans. We tend to speak about them as things become official … we should have a couple more announcements yet this year.
How many employees do you have now, and how many more will you hire for the new location?
I think right now we’re at close to 50 employees, and we’re adding 10 or so to our staff. The Cedar Falls staff will grow and then rotate through the Waterloo store. That hiring has already started, and I think is almost complete.
When do you expect to open in Waterloo? What will the address be? We’ll open in July at 1517 Flammang Drive. We’re in a strip over by Staples that is also home to a Starbucks and Pita Pit.
Any other offshoot locations in the works?
We’re absolutely opening more Scratch locations … some will be satellite locations like the Waterloo store, where we bake in a large location and deliver to the retail store, and some will be a full production and retail store like in Cedar Falls. We’re moving as quickly and carefully as we can, and I’m listening to a whole lot of people who are a whole lot smarter than me!
Will this be a franchise or will you be managing both?
I decided really early not to franchise Scratch … it’s just not how I want the business to look. Each store has a manager or a combination of managers, and Scratch’s general manager oversees them all.
Any message for your customers?
Our customers are the reason we’re here. It’s really that simple. They’re the reason we stay open late and never stop baking and crash from exhaustion on the weekends. And we honestly love every moment. The insane weekends …when Curbside is out and we have people in the party room and four or five wedding deliveries and there’s some big event downtown … those are the weekends I can’t get enough of.
The Scratch customers we’ve had since the very beginning have been so full of grace for us, it’s hard to put into words. We had some rough times at the beginning … really trying to figure out what Scratch was going to be … and our customers showed us (rather quickly) that we could dive into this world of cupcakes and work really hard and have a really amazing time in the process.
We’ve had so many opportunities the past two years. We’ve met some fantastic people and have been a part of so many life events. But really, I’m just thankful. I’m thankful for the business man who needs dozens and dozens of cupcakes… right now. I’m thankful for grandparents who wait patiently in long lines on hot days holding little tiny hands. I’m thankful for brides who are so excited about their cupcakes that they can’t decide between eight flavors. I’m thankful for father/daughter dates and girls’ weekends and club meetings and bunco and baby showers and cute elderly couples and first dates and bachelorette parties.
It’s those moments at Scratch that make every ridiculously hard day ridiculously worth it.