NASHVILLE, TN — We all love reading about those great American Dream success stories. And the rags to riches story of how Nashville entrepreneur Gigi Butler founded her mega-successful Gigi’s Cupcakes empire is definitely a dream come true.
Ms. Butler opened her first Gigi’s Cupcakes location just off of Music Row in 2008. In less than 10 years, Gigi’s is now the largest cupcake franchise in the world with 112 locations and counting. But when Gigi moved from California to Nashville in 1994, building a dessert empire was never part of her plan. Like so many aspiring singers and songwriters, Gigi originally moved here to pursue a career in music. But the fickleness of the entertainment business caused her to take a detour, and she eventually re-launched Gigi’s Cleaning Company, a business she originally started as a teenager. She cleaned houses during the day and sang at local honky-tonks at night. After a decade of pursuing music, Gigi decided to step back and focus on her financial future.
Once again, she returned to her family roots, which are deep in the world of baking and entrepreneurship. Gigi learned the craft of baking cupcakes at an early age, being taught unique family recipes dating back to great, great aunts who were bakery owners in Oklahoma. After being turned down by various banks, she leveraged several personal credit cards to fund the business and gambled everything she had to open her first location on February 21, 2008, with only $33 left to her name. Fortunately, her sweet treats quickly became Nashville’s delicacy dessert of choice. Soon after, Gigi’s Franchising, Inc. was born and Gigi’s Cupcakes locations began popping up throughout the south and now across the country.
Ms. Butler still hasn’t forsaken her love for music and songwriting. “I’ve written a theme song for a potential TV project,” Gigi shared with the Tribune recently. “I’ve recorded a Christmas song titled, ‘Silver Bells,’ that’s offered on I-Tunes, under the name Gigi Butler. It’s available for this season… One day I’d like to do a full album, a full Christmas album.”
The Tribune continued a chat with Gigi Butler, when she answered Five Questions about her successful Gigi’s Cupcakes brand, along with some other fun chat.
TRIBUNE: What do you think makes your cupcakes stand out from the rest of the gang of cupcakes here? GIGI B: I cleaned homes for twenty years since I was age 15. One of the things I learned by being in famous people’s homes, doctors’ homes, business people’s homes, is that you have to be branded well. So, when I opened my cupcake shop, I wanted to be branded well. It was very important. I wanted the cupcakes to have their own personalities. Our cupcakes such as Scarlett’s Red Velvet, and Hunka-Chunka Banana Love, have their own unique style. I wanted the cupcakes to stand alone and be like, ‘Yeah, I’m here, hello.’ A lot of people eat with their eyes first. So, these cupcakes are beautiful plus, they’re baked with love. I don’t mean that in a trite way when I say it. But these cupcake recipes come from my great-great-grandmother, who started her first bakery at the turn of the century in Oklahoma. My mother, my grandmother, my great-aunt Ruby, all of these were hundred-year-old recipes in my lineage, and I just put it into a cake form. So really, when I say baked with love, they are, because they’re from their love of baking from a generation of a hundred years. So, that’s what makes these cupcakes special.
TRIBUNE: You appeared on the hit show UNDERCOVER BOSS. Were you already a fan of the show? GIGI B: I really wasn’t a fan of the show because I hadn’t watched it. I knew what it was, and I thought it was a cool concept. But I finally saw it for the first time while I was on a business trip. I saw the show and it made me cry. After I watched it, I thought, ‘I would love to be on that show one day. Wouldn’t that be cool?’ And literally three months later, the producers from Undercover Boss were calling me. At first, I said, ‘Oh no, we’re not a big enough company. But six months later the producers came back and said, ‘No, we want Gigi, we’ve got to have her.’ I finally agreed but I was scared to death. The three hardest things I’ve ever done in my life are birthing a company, birthing a child, and going on the show Undercover Boss (laughs). But they were also the most rewarding things too. Sometimes, the hardest things in our lives become the most rewarding, and it was such an amazingly humbling experience.”
TRIBUNE: We’re in the holiday season. Do your family and friends expect you to bring cupcakes every time it’s a family event or do you kind of mix it up and surprise them? GIGI B: Most people don’t know this, so you will be one of the privy, but I bake better pies than I do cupcakes. My true first loves are pie and cobblers. If I’m going somewhere, of course, people will say ‘Bring cupcakes,’ but if I’m really going to do something special, I’ll bring an Apple Brown Betty or I’ll bring a blackberry cobbler or a pumpkin pie. So, when I’m really showing you my love language, I’m baking a cobbler or pie for you… And some people are like, ‘Well, where’s your cupcakes?’ I’m like, ‘Really? I don’t just do cupcakes, people! But yeah, I bake better cobblers and pies than I do cupcakes. Some of the pie and cobbler and my first prize lemon bars recipes are going to be in my upcoming new book. (scheduled for release in 2018)
TRIBUNE: When it comes to ‘pigging-out,’ what do you like to indulge in when it comes to desserts? GIGI: “I absolutely love my cobblers. So, if I’m really feeling like I need it, I’ll make this French chocolate pie, and I’ll just pig-out on that. Anything with coconut, I love my no-bake cookies and they have coconut in them. I also love anything with oatmeal, chocolate and peanut butter. When it’s my birthday I usually do this – I will go, or someone will buy me a Baskin Robbins ice-cream cake. It’s chocolate cake with chocolate chip ice-cream, and then I have them put tons of frosting on the top. I just totally pig- out on that thing! (laughs). So those are probably my two favorite dessert pig-out things to eat.”
TRIBUNE: I understand that you have a new line of candles coming out. GIGI B: Yes, they came out November 1st. I teamed up with a candle company called Creative Energy Candles. They’re really special because it’s a candle that’s all natural, with essential oils. But once it’s used up, you can use it for beauty. The oils can be used for your elbows, your hands, your cuticles, your feet, and it smells delicious. The candle helps with dry skin or callouses – and it’s an awesome product. The candles have such a great smell. I’m so excited to be a part of this venture!
The candles are available at the Gigi’s Cupcakes stores or visit her social media and website pages at @officialgigibutler www.gigibutler.com and https://gigiscupcakesusa.com/5