Melissa Hagerty (left) and Sharon Hansen (right) of Nothing Bundt Cakes, shortly after their store opening.
The new franchise store in an Omaha shopping center would open in about a half hour, with a line of eager customers already snaking around the building, not seeming to care about the morning chill or the raindrops pelting down on them. They’d heard a lot about the grocery store’s unique and exotic offerings, and they wanted to be among the first in town to see inside.
Another franchise store across the parking lot with tasty treats of its own was having an opening that morning, and one of the new owners saw an opportunity.
“We went out there and offered free samples,” said Melissa Hagerty, a co-owner of Nothing Bundt Cakes’ newest franchise in Omaha. “And we said, ‘when you’re done shopping, come over and see us.’”
They did, helping the store pull in $2,600 in sales for its “soft” opening Nov. 12, 2010, a record, Hagerty said, for first-day revenue of any of the 16 shops in the Las Vegas-based confectionary chain.
Smells so good you can almost taste them
Those customers found that Nothing Bundt Cakes meant exactly that: the cheerful, nostalgically decorated store offers the ridged, ringed cakes in four sizes and 10 flavors, from tasty little bite-sized bundts to huge cakes that can satisfy a crew of 18. They bake each cake in large ovens in the back of the store, filling the place with delectable and irresistible scents.
“When we have our ovens going, people walk in the door, and you can see them leaning back, going, ‘aahhhh!’,” said Sharon Hansen, the other co-owner of the shop.
And Nothing Bundt Cakes goes all out, with delicious icing melting into the sweet spongy dessert, topped off with colorful bows and silk flowers. They aim to be a one-stop shop for party planning, with aprons, platters, party hats, balloons and cards.
Taking a bite out of the confectionary market
Hegarty worked with her co-owner, Sharon Hansen, at a locally-owned Omaha business furniture dealership for four years. Hansen had lived with her husband in Las Vegas and knew how treasured there a gift from Nothing Bundt Cakes could be. Returning to the Midwest about five years ago, she investigated bringing a franchise to Nebraska.
Nothing Bundt Cakes started in a home kitchen back in 1998, and by 2007, the original owner franchised the concept to several western cities from Nevada to Texas. The Omaha store is the Midwest’s first.
Hansen and Hegarty incorporated under the name Hole Lotta Yum, LLC – the name is a nod to the marketing tag line for the franchise. They sought business plan help in Oct. 2009 from the Nebraska Business Development Center in Omaha at the suggestion of their banker, Steve Davis of Elkhorn’s CharterWest. The business was approved March 17 for a 7(a) loan for $253,600, which they used for baking and refrigeration equipment, leaseholder improvements and buildouts, and the franchise fee.
Marketing their delectable products was easy
Hegarty and Hansen have been aggressive marketing the new store. Drawing on their previous experience at the business furniture dealership, the two asked their former colleagues to take sample cakes to their clients, and in October 2010, their booth at the Buy the Big O! Show at the downtown Qwest Center drew consistent crowds all day seeking a mouthful of bundt cake.
“With our opening so close, we used the show to get our name out there,” Hansen said.
“We’re involved with the Greater Omaha Chamber and we know how important it is to building a business,” Hegarty added.
Nothing Bundt Cakes also got a mention on KFAB-AM’s Saturday economic development program, Grow Omaha. The hosts asked if a business could succeed selling just bundt cakes – Hegarty and Hansen answered by sending a cake over to them to sample.
“We’re seeing a real return on investment for marketing,” Hegarty said.
With representatives from the Greater Omaha Chamber invited for a ribbon-cutting and the date looming for the store’s grand opening Nov. 19, 2010, Hansen said the challenge “was getting all the parties involved and everyone together to understand our timing.”
“We found ourselves really pushing people, because it was so important to open our doors on time,” Hegarty said.
When the doors opened that rainy Friday morning, the hard work paid off.
“Every time we turned around, there was somebody here to help,” Hegarty said, including their former colleagues at the furniture dealership; during a customer open house, they bought several cakes from the store.
Hansen said even in a depressed economy, “people will stand in line 30 to 40 minutes for our cakes. They’ll say, ‘even though we don’t have a lot of money, this is something we can afford to treat ourselves.’”
She added the store’s goal was $500,000 in sales for its first year, with a hope to exceed that.” The franchise’s other stores, including in recession-wracked Las Vegas, have shown 20 percent year-over-year growth.
And with the scents and tastes of each cake fresh out of the oven, it’s pretty easy to understand why Hansen said she’s “just happy to come to work every day. It’s fun, and we love to share that.”