Corner Cupcakes closed in Jan. 2012.
Corner Cupcakes is San Diego’s mobile cupcake shop, visiting various locations in the County every week bringing fresh, baked from scratch cupcakes to the public. The ladies who run the truck were kind enough to answer some questions for SDFT about themselves, their business, and their delicious creations.
1. Who are you and what is your background?
Amanda Schnitzius, 28 years old, BA in Mathematics from SDSU. Quit my corporate job as a Payroll Technician in October to open up the cupcake truck. Self taught baker, although my great grandparents were bakers so I think I may have gotten their genes. Tina Swanson, 27 years old, BA in Political Science from UCSD. Quit my corporate job as a Field Marketing Specialist in September to open up the cupcake truck.
2. When did you open for business?
Corner Cupcakes opened at the end of October 2010. However, our company Happy Tiers Bakery, LLC opened in February of 2010.
3. Why did you start a mobile food truck? And why cupcakes?
We were operating as Happy Tiers Bakery, LLC, a wedding and custom cake bakery, part time after our jobs and on the weekends in a rental kitchen in Clairemont Mesa. Business was going really well and we knew that we could take the business full time and it would be successful. Around July 2010 we looked into getting our own storefront, but quickly realized that it was going to cost A LOT of money to start up. So, we talked about opening a mobile bakery instead. We quickly became very excited about the idea…probably more excited than opening our own store. When we were looking into getting our own store, we had planned on there being cupcakes for sale for walk-in customers, so we carried that thought over to the mobile bakery. Thus, the cupcake truck was born.
4. What’s your favorite thing about running the business and what is your biggest challenge?
Amanda: My favorite thing is working outside instead of in a cubicle, and the biggest challenge that I see is getting people to the truck to try out our cupcakes. If you don’t know any better, you might think we’re just a delivery truck, not a food truck.
Tina: I love that everyday is something new! We get to work in a different spot everyday and that is awesome. I think the biggest challenge has been finding the right spots, but we are starting to hone in on that aspect of the biz and its not as difficult as it once was. The other hurdle is letting lots of people know we exist, traditional methods of marketing don’t work as well for us because we don’t have a single store front location.
5. What are some things that are different than you expected about running a food truck?
Amanda: I think I expected San Diegans to be more knowlegable about food trucks and what it is that we do, but it seems that many San Diegans aren’t quite aware of the food truck movement that is huge in LA and trickling down to the streets of San Diego. Tina: I agree with Amanda on this one. I didnt realize SD’s truck scene was as young as it is, but that makes it fun also… we get to be pioneers!
6. How do you come up with new flavors and what is your most popular flavor?
Tina: My favorite flavor is cookies and cream! Its so fun and delicious. Amanda: We find inspirpation everywhere for new cupcakes. Whether it’s a dish at a restaurant or a crazy concoction of different flavors that we like, we are constantly thinking of new flavor combiations. Our most popular is Red Velvet, hands down.
7. What is something “off the wall” that you would love to put on your menu but aren’t sure people would go for?
Amanda: I want to make a Watermelon and Chili Powder cupcake, based on the popular Mexican lollipop that I loved growing up, but I think it might be too crazy for people to be willing to spend money on. Tina: I want to do more savory cupcakes, cupcake versions of popular dishes.
8. I have heard that there is a lot of paperwork, permits, inspections, in order to get on the road. What did you think of that process?
How long did it take from start to finish? Amanda: I think there are 3 different answers to this question. The paperwork we had to do for Federal regulations were a sinch. Paperwork for the state of California was really confusing. We found ourselves being sent around to a bunch of different offices to get one paper filed, for example. For the city, I felt it was generally pretty easy since they had the guidelines for food trucks completely spelled out on the internet. It took us about a month to get up and running.
Amanda: Just do it. You’ll figure it out as you go.
Amanda: We searched around on Craigslist and looked at a couple until we found the one that was right for us.
11. What locations are the best for you? Near school/universities, public events, lunchtime near office buildings, etc? How are the crowds different in different locations?
Amanda: Our best events seem to be big themed events, such as Ray at Night in North Park. People go expecting to see booths selling things and we fit right in to that expectation. Office parks can be great once you spread the awareness that you’re there.
12. Clearly, tools like Facebook and Twitter are important to the mobile food vendors. How has social media affected your business?
Amanda: It’s been amazing! I never used Twitter before we owned Corner Cupcakes and now I’m addicted to it. It’s amazing the loyal customers you’ll find through social media, and it’s a great way to get the same message out to a whole lot of people who are interested in your business.
13. What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten had from a food truck? Which truck was it and where?
Amanda: I’ve only eaten at Devilicious, and their Truffle Tots were amazing.
Tina: I’ve had Devilicious and MIHO… both were delish.
14. Some people get excited about finding a truck and trying something new. Why do you think food trucks really capture peoples’ imaginations?
Amanda: That’s a good question. There’s something unique about the experience of coming to a food truck. A customer once told us that it was like a fun game trying to find out where the trucks were going to be and finding them. I don’t know if everyone feels that way, but I do think that there’s an element of “fun” that comes with visiting food trucks.
You can contact Corner Cupcakes at @CornerCupcakes on Twitter, as “Corner Cupcakes” on Facebook, or http://www.corner-cupcakes.com. They also do catering for special events.