With a passion for food and people, April Reed, owner of Linda Carol’s Kitchen whisks fun, creativity, and flavor into cupcakes for every occasion.
Tell me the story behind Linda Carol’s Kitchen? What inspired you to start your business?
Food has always been a big part of my family and still is. My mother was an amazing chef who made the best everything; she was specifically known for her cookies and homemade pizzas. She passed away when I was 9 years old and I guess she passed down her passion for food and people to me. When I had my daughter, I started baking a lot and that’s when I fell in love with baking and the creativity, the flavors, and designs. I started by posting my creations on social media and then people started reaching out wanting to buy what I had made. As the demand grew, I decided to make it into a business and name it in honor of my mother.
I am a nurse by day and do not have a business background. I never thought about owning a business growing up. I’m a big foodie and when I was able to express my creativity through baking, people became interested in it…
How do you balance being a nurse and a baker?
I don’t really know. I just do it. It’s not easy and it can be challenging sometimes. I would love to give more to my business but somehow, I find the time to do both.
Describe your experience working with your SBDC consultant (how did you hear about the SBDC, how long have you been working with your consultant, what services have you utilized, etc.).
I was referred to the SBDC by SpringGR. I was a graduate of their program in 2019. Jamaal has really been helpful in developing my business plan, working on financials (like budgeting for the business and making projections). We also worked on the labeling for my products.
What are some challenges you faced in getting started and how did you overcome them?
When Covid first hit, surprisingly, the business continued to do well. I think people really started to see the importance of celebrating special moments. The primary challenge during COVID was access to supplies and the increase in the cost of goods. I had to raise prices, but thankfully, customers continued to support the business.
Outside of COVID, another challenge that I’ve faced is a lack of access. I’m originally from a small town where there is no shared commercial kitchen, or programs like SpringGR or SBDC. There was a lack of resources and support in the community to be able to grow a sustainable business.
Moving to Grand Rapids and being connected to these organizations really helped my business.
What’s next for your business?
Right now, I am selling my cupcakes at the Fulton Street Farmers Market and in the process of getting our cupcakes into local stores. I’ve also partnered with a local organization called STREAMS where I volunteer and teach a baking class for teens. Amazingly, it has been mostly young men! I would love to see that program grow.
I’m looking forward to the main season at Fulton Street Farmers Market so that more people can get a taste of my delicious cupcakes!
I currently bake out of the shared incubator kitchen at the Downtown Market but ultimately hope to get a storefront.
Which item would you recommend for people trying Linda Carol’s Kitchen for the first time?
My specialty is cupcakes. The most popular flavors right now are the strawberry shortcake and banana pudding cupcakes. What’s exciting about Linda Carol’s Kitchen is that we are always in the process of coming up with new and fun flavors. The menu changes every month and there’s always a new, fun flavor to try.
Every month is quite often! Where do you get the inspiration for all of these new flavors?
The community! I’m a big foodie so I’m always trying new things. At the Fulton Street Farmers Market, there are lots of vendors with fresh produce and new ingredients that I like to try and incorporate into the cupcakes.
What advice would you give to others who are struggling to get started?
First, you have to believe in yourself and your product. Get out of your own way. Sometimes, the fear of incompetency can stop us from pursuing our dreams.
Next, make sure you know what problem your product is solving and who is interested in buying it.
You should also seek help! There are so many resources and organizations and people who want to help you and see you win. Get out there and network. Get connected with SBDC and SpringGR so that you can learn the necessary skills to grow a sustainable business that you love.
Lastly, read about business. I was gifted a book called “The E Myth” by Michael E. Gerber and that was a game changer for my business and so was Sarah Blakely’s story of how she grew her business. Continue to educate yourself and learn how you can make your business better!