Indiana State University Newsroom



Piece of Cupcake: Business students taste success in ‘sweet’ project

November 20, 2013

While Dana Miller savored the scrumptious samples of pastry to determine which would be served as her wedding cake, she didn't think it would serve up another inspiration: a start-up business venture.

Miller was part of a group of four Indiana State University business students who created Sweet and Petite, a small venture that was part of a semester long class project to create a business. Sweet and Petite sold cupcakes created by Marshall, Ill.-based LMC Creations - which is also creating Miller's wedding cake - at Federal Hall, which houses the Scott College of Business, and several businesses in downtown Terre Haute.

"A lot of the teachers have been very willing to support us," said Miller, a senior business management major from Marshall who purchased the cupcakes at the start of each week before the group would set up in the basement of Federal Hall, near a study area and several classrooms. "The students are passing by, seeing these delicious cupcakes and then purchasing them."

The group, which included Indiana State students Kathleen Anslinger, Sumika Mogi and Allison Vaught, initially ordered 24 cupcakes for their first two days. LMC Creations gave the students some extras, which left them with an initial order of 33. They quickly realized what was to come, though, when they presold five of the sweets before they even had set up their selling area.

"We thought that would be a safe number, but not too much of an underestimation," Anslinger, a senior business management major from Haubstadt, said of their initial two-dozen estimate. "We were very wrong. Learning from experience, I guess, is the best way to do things sometimes."

The project was part of International Global Business Advisors (IGloBA), which was started by Chandra to engage her students in experiential learning opportunities that also include organizations and businesses around the world. After they decided they wanted to sell cupcakes, they had approached Lisa Claypool, owner of LMC Creations, who supported their idea.

"It's the first time I've had a chance to do something like that," Claypool said of the students' proposal for Sweet and Petite. "I do have some commercial clients ... but never had anyone approach me with the idea of a project like this. It was kind of neat to have the opportunity to do that."

Miller's parents had first tasted some of LMC Creations' cupcakes during a high school reunion over the summer, and Miller then approached her to make her wedding cake and with the start-up venture idea.

"You never know when you do something like that because there are (also) some bakeries in Terre Haute...," Claypool said. "When you have college kids, they're willing to try anything, and when college students eat something and they like it, then they can get the word of mouth out really fast."

The Sweet and Petite members received their initial funding from Aruna Chandra, professor of management in the Scott College who taught the course. The students then bought the cupcakes and containers to put them in, then printed out the labels. They sold the cupcakes for $2 each, which led to more than 80 cents of profit per cupcake sold.

"I'm thinking about having my own small business," said Mogi, a senior exchange student from Japan who was part of Sweet and Petite, "so it was good to get some insights about starting a business from a small size with few resources."

The students repaid Chandra, their "angel investor," before splitting up their profits, using them on a trip to New York City. Chandra led the four students on the trip to the Big Apple to meet with entrepreneurs, so that the students could learn how people had successfully started up their small businesses.

"The way I see entrepreneurship, it's like a magic trick. You have to know how the trick works before you can go perform it," Chandra said. "Entrepreneurship is similar to that. You need to know the nuts and bolts of the process in a very generic form before you can actually put that into practice."

The group divided up each of the functions necessary to run the business, from marketing to logistics. They also listened to their cupcake customers. They switched several flavors each week, taking advantage of LMC Creations' palette of more than 280 cupcake flavors. Yet they also paid attention to customers' preferences, bringing back the pumpkin flavored cupcakes that were the quickest to sell out, and which had received rave reviews.

"They came up with the name themselves and they did everything on their own," Chandra said. "I thought it was a very good name, and the flavors are really interesting."They quickly expanded their business, delivering cupcake orders across campus. They also received several weekly orders from Old National Bank in downtown Terre Haute.

"Just starting this business on such a small scale, we thought of stuff we had to do that I didn't imagine," Anslinger said. "It is an eye opener in a way. Even though it is so small scale, it is similar to running a business."

Photo: http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-NqmBj9s/0/L/i-NqmBj9s-L.jpg (ISU/Austin Arceo) Indiana State University students Dana Miller, Allison Vaught, Kathleen Anslinger and Sumika Mogi in front of their cupcake table in the basement of Federal Hall. The group created Sweet and Petite, which sold cupcakes at Indiana State and to Terre Haute businesses.

Photo: http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-jzTmGPg/0/L/i-jzTmGPg-L.jpg (ISU/Austin Arceo)An Indiana State University student (left) buys a cupcake at the Sweet and Petite table in Federal Hall. Sweet and Petite quickly realized that sales were going to be higher than expected when they initially sold out of their first week's supply - which included extras - on the first day.

Photo: http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-fZvcrNS/0/L/i-fZvcrNS-L.jpg (Submitted photo)Indiana State University students Dana Miller, Kathleen Anslinger, Allison Vaught (second from right) and Sumika Mogi pose with Trace Cohen, president and co-founder of Launch.it, a new self-publishing platform for public relations professionals. The Indiana State students went on the trip to learn more from entrepreneurs who have successfully started their businesses.

Contact: Aruna Chandra, professor of management, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2105 or aruna.chandrasekaran@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

Four students created Sweet and Petite, a small venture that was part of a semester long class project to create a business. The group sold gourmet cupcakes and even traveled to New York City to learn more from entrepreneurs about starting a business.

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