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Erik and Cori Larsen remember the first time they tried to sell their homemade cupcakes. It was the day after Thanksgiving in 2010, and their company, Salt Lake City-based Heaven Cupcake, had just been established.
They parked their cupcake food truck outside of the Beehive House near Temple Square with hopes that the droves of people who came to see the Christmas lights would be hungry for a sweet treat. However, because of bitter cold temperatures, the couple ended up selling dozens of cups of hot chocolate instead—and only a handful of cupcakes of the nearly 500 they’d baked. Since then, the Larsens have come a long way.
The Larsens started Heaven Cupcake in 2010 while Erik was a student at the University of Utah through the school’s business accelerator program, called The Foundry. They started out selling cupcakes from a food truck around downtown Salt Lake City. However, because of some of Salt Lake City’s laws regarding food trucks, Erik quickly found out he was better at getting parking tickets than selling cupcakes. This prompted him to sell the truck and move solely to an online store.
“We realized we were making more money from selling the cupcakes online than with the food truck anyway,” he said. “And online, we weren’t making 10 dozen cupcakes and only selling six dozen. People ordered them and we knew exactly how much to make. It made sense to sell the truck and go just into online.”
The Larsens’ business continues to grow each year. By March 2013, they had surpassed the amount of sales they’d had during all of 2012.
“It was completely insane,” Cori said. “We ended up doubling our sales, if not tripling them. [Heaven Cupcake] got so big that Erik and I were both delivering orders before and after work and during lunch breaks [at our regular jobs]. At some point it got to be too much and Erik decided to leave his job.”
Shortly after leaving his job, the Larsens’ were featured on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. This was the third time they’d had a chance to compete on the show, and while they have never been the Cupcake Wars champions, they have been able to claim the runner-up title.
“Sadly we didn’t win, but it still gave us a ton of recognition just from that,” Erik said.
That recognition is what led the Larsens to be offered the chance of a lifetime—to move to Mumbai, India and open up a cupcake franchise.
“We were contacted to consult for a new cupcake brand in India,” Erik said. “We have started this company [in India], called Boston Cupcakery, and have plans to open up five shops by the end of the year.”
The first of the five shops will open this week. Cori said the ultimate goal is to make Boston Cupcakery a large franchise, with 30 to 40 stores open in the next five years.
“There is a big market for cupcakes in India, because they are still new,” Cori said. “The challenge in the U.S. is figuring out how to do it different from another shop down the street. It’s really hard to be able to start a franchise when you are talking cupcakes because it’s been done so many times. But India doesn’t have any notion of those big chains like Sprinkles. We saw the opportunity to come here and start something and make it unique.”
The couple has made several American flavors, such as oatmeal banana raisin cupcakes or Boston cream pie cupcakes, to feature in the shops, but they are also making cupcakes inspired by India with flavors like curry and cardamom.
Although the Larsens are now living full time in India, they still own Heaven Cupcake and hope to continue to grow the brand locally. They have two employees running things for them while they’re gone.
“We hope to keep growing [Heaven Cupcake],” Cori said. “We hope it’ll eventually get an actual storefront. And we’ll continue to have our brand here in India. We’re also hoping to start a third company that will be a hybrid T-shirt and cupcake company.”
Heaven Cupcake offers a variety of different cupcake flavors, from traditional flavors like chocolate, vanilla and red velvet to unique flavors like a cupcake fried in hot oil and rolled in cinnamon-sugar with a dulce de leche filling and a peanut butter frosting. The company delivers cupcakes anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley, and will deliver to areas like Park City, Davis County and Utah County on a case-by-case basis for an extra fee.
“The whole cupcake thing has taken over our lives,” Erik said. “But that’s what we do. That’s who we are.”
For more information on Heaven Cupcake, visit heavencupcake.com.