Introducing Sheryl Thai. Founder of Cupcake Central and CEO and Co-Founder of the League of Extraordinary Women, Sheryl is often referred to as Melbourne’s Cupcake Queen. Let’s go back to where it all started, with Cupcake Central. So how did Sheryl get the idea for her business?
Where did you get the idea for your business?
During my studies at RMIT, I developed an obsession for cupcakes when I flew over to New York and devoured my first ‘real’ cupcake from the world-famous Magnolia Bakery. After I finished my studies, I ventured out into the corporate world and landed my ‘dream’ job as an IT Consultant, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t for me. I was baking every other week for any occasion possible and kept imagining myself working in my own cupcake bakery one day. Then, one fateful day, the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit in 2009, and I lost my job as the company went into bankruptcy. I was shocked, but it made me realise that I could finally take steps to follow my dream of Cupcake Central.
How did you get your business get started?
I started Cupcake Central from home as I didn’t have the capital to set up a retail brick and mortar store straight away. Instead, I used my IT skills to create an online business with the assistance of a web developer friend. Within three months, I registered my home kitchen, registered as a sole trader with a business name, and launched my online business with less than $2000. I started selling at markets, and heavily relied on social media to get the name of my business out there.
Within 12 months Sheryl opened her first bricks-and-mortar store in Hawthorn, followed by two more over the next two years. Today Cupcake Central has five locations, collectively churning out 20,000 cupcakes a week, more than 56K followers on Instagram and not to mention the awesome masterclasses and cookbook! But Sheryl didn’t stop there. Driven by her passion for helping people achieve their dreams, superstar Sheryl co-founded League of Extraordinary Women. The League are a group of female entrepreneurs who banded together after starting out in business and discovering what being an entrepreneur meant and finding out that the entrepreneurial journey was at times lonely and isolating.
Together the group of aptly named extraordinary women allows other female business owners, entrepreneurs and startups meet other inspiring women to connect, share and inspire. With more than 160, the group is the perfect outlet for Sheryl to inspire women with the group’s supportive atmosphere to “hatch that dream”.
What lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Seek advice from the right mentors – people that have had the experience achieving what you’re trying to achieve. Success leaves clues! Solve them, and you can have a business like Cupcake Central!
How important is it to have a business mentor?
Without the numerous mentors I’ve had over the years, I wouldn’t have had the fast growth I’ve experienced. We grew Cupcake Central to three stores in less than three years. We also have a huge team of 38 staff and now have a head office with lots of other ventures in the works. All of this would not have been possible if I worked as an “owner-operator” – I had to change my mindset to be a true entrepreneur. That is, constantly growing, pushing boundaries and innovating.
What are your top three tips for starting a business?
- Don’t try to be perfect, doing something is better than doing nothing. If you’re just doing it for the money, the fuel that drives you will dwindle very quickly.
- Find something that you really enjoy doing.
- Learn from the success of other entrepreneurs that have done it. Everyone has opinions and advice but only ask those that have had experience achieving what you’re trying to achieve like I did with Cupcake Central.