A new St. Louis business aims to make everyone a cake boss.
COULD THE NEXT BIG IDEA in family birthday fun be coming out of St. Louis? The answer is yes, if Kara Newmark and DeAnn Bingaman have their way. The pair has launched Sweetology, a business where customers can design and decorate their own cakes for birthday parties, special events or just for the fun of it. For customers who prefer to create their cake masterpieces at home, there are custom take-home kits containing everything needed—the chosen bakery item, frosting, accent frosting, sprinkles, and a decorating bag and tips—to create edible art. Newmark and Bingaman, who were already friends, had been bouncing new business ideas off of each other for a couple of years when Newmark brought up a DIY chocolate business she knew of in New York. “This idea really resonated with both of us so we took off with it,” Bingaman says. The delicious result was Sweetology.
The partners searched a lot of locations for the things all retailers look for: easy accessibility with adequate parking and a location that draws people in. Eventually they settled at 9214 Clayton Road in Ladue’s Clayprice Shopping Center next to Truffles restaurant. The space previously was home to another restaurant, The Woman’s Exchange. “The city is excited to have us so that’s another benefit,” Bingaman says. “Ladue has been great in helping us secure licensing.”
CAKE WALK To call Sweetology simply a cake decorating business is to do it a disservice. The shop also includes the “Drinkery,” where guests can order up a variety of gourmet coffee drinks, tea, beer, wine and even drinking chocolate, along with cupcakes, cookies and other assorted sweet treats, all while the kids are having their decorating fun. A retail area offers an impressive selection of candy and merchandise, including decorated cakes, cookies and cupcakes. Further back in the shop is the “Makery,” where guests can choose from cupcakes, sugar cookies and two sizes and flavors of cakes, then select a butter cream frosting or fondant, add color and flavoring, and ultimately finish their project with a staggering selection of more than 150 ready-made sugar decorations and approximately 60 varieties of sprinkles. If you happen to be a cake decorating neophyte, never fear. Trained staff are always on hand to assist customers with suggestions, direction and hands-on instruction.
SWEET MOVE With an eye on possible future expansion and keeping it simple, Sweetology does not bake its own goods, instead it’s turning to The Cup to provide the unadorned bakery items. “They have a fantastic product,” says Bingaman. “You don’t have to put a full kitchen in future stores and that makes it easier to roll it out.” For now, Newmark and Bingaman are focusing on their flagship store in Ladue, where they are testing the processes and making adjustments as necessary. “If we see that we can support another store in the STL area, that would be our next move,” Bingaman says. “Then we’d like to expand regionally from that and see where we can take it.”
The venture has been funded by Newmark and Bingaman, as well as several investors. The co-founders’ skill sets complement each other, although a venture like Sweetology is a first for both of them. Newmark, the CEO, previously worked in life sciences and Bingaman, who is COO, comes from a retail and ecommerce background. In the early days of business startups, however, job titles are illusory. “We’re both in the trenches,” Bingaman says. “When you own your own business, you have to wear a lot of hats.”
Photo credit: Attilio DAgostino