Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jody Hall, Founder, and CEO of Cupcake Royale, located in Seattle, WA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Cupcake Royale opened nearly 20 years ago as the first cupcake bakery in the US - outside of NYC.  We’re in the business of joy, celebration, and human connection.  We have five cafes in all the best Seattle neighborhoods.  Whether you need a pick-me-up treat for a challenging day or you want to bring cupcakes to a celebration with thousands of people, we got you.

Tell us about yourself

I grew up in the midwest with parents that grew up as farmers and later became school teachers.  We moved to Seattle when I was 13.  I came from a strong work ethic and supportive parents that instilled in me the notion of creating your destiny and living your dream.  My first job out of college was in banking at a building where Howard Schultz opened his first espresso concept before buying Starbucks.  I love coffee and decided to get a moonlighting job (extra cash for Christmas presents) at Starbucks - (there were 30 stores at the time!).  I loved it.  They asked me to come on board full-time to learn retail operations.  I loved the culture here - it was entrepreneurial and driven by trust and collaboration.  I just knew that they were going places.  I said yes.  I was leading the top-performing store, building training programs, and growing the business.  When the company went public in 1992, I was invited to the marketing department to take a role in promoting new stores and markets.  I evolved from opening 25 markets for Starbucks to national partnerships and then to music.  I learned SO much about so many aspects of business: How to build a great team and culture, how to build a great product, and how to build a great customer experience.  I got a real-life MBA working for Starbucks, from 30 stores to 3,000.  I began writing my business plan for Cupcake Royale because I knew I had the tested wings to do this myself.  In 2003, I opened Cupcake Royale.  My mission was to be the most joyful part of a person’s day.  It was about joy, celebration, and connection.  Cupcakes (and coffee) were the conduit (and, of course, being extra-delicious didn’t hurt!) I’m motivated by using my superpowers to make a difference in the world.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

While at Cupcake Royale, I learned from Starbucks to be bold and take a stand for your team, for your community, and for those not represented.  Coming from Starbucks, I knew the most important lesson was to “take care of your people,” and if you do, your people will take care of our customers and our product excellence, and we can build and grow from there.  I offered health care from the get-go - but I noticed I was paying 2x as much for half the coverage from what I received at Starbucks.  I ended up testifying in a WA State Session in Olympia on affordable access to health care.  Obama was just elected, and this story caught wind.  I ended up meeting with Obama’s new cabinet in DC to talk to his Health & Human Services Secretary as they were preparing to make a case for Obama Care.  I ended up meeting Obama later at a press conference from the White House on how women-founded companies had better track records.  As well, I also was invited to testify in DC at a republican congressional hearing as the only woman, entrepreneur, small business owner, and democrat.  After my testimony, Barack Obama tweeted about Cupcake Royale and me.  Pretty amazing.  I also worked with our elected leaders in WA, including Governor Gregoire, to advocate for marriage equality in WA State and am listed in the Supreme Court Amicus brief passing US marriage equality.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

I think if you build your business right, create a north star mission or purpose and align values that you live and die by; you have a much easier time finding the right people that are aligned with your vision.  If you build a culture of trust and collaboration, your team rises to the occasion.  The hardest thing for me is when I lose sight of this and the bigger picture.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

Take care of your people: Build a culture of trust and collaboration and values you stand behind.  Here are some basic steps:

  1. Listen - when someone’s talking to you - no matter who, stop what you’re doing and listen.
  2. Maintain or enhance self-esteem in every action.  You can have hard conversations based on behavior and keep your self-esteem intact.
  3. Ask for help.  We’re all building something big.  We need the help of our team, our colleagues, and our community.  When we ask for help, people rise to the occasion, and their contributions help to build the dream.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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