MEET GIGI BUTLER, FOUNDER OF GIGI’S CUPCAKES
I was born in Oklahoma and raised in California in a small desert town on a farm. I was blessed to come from a strong, hard working and balanced family who believed in me and supported me in all my endeavors.
At 15 years old I started a cleaning company because I didn’t want to work for anyone else. I was determined to have something of my own, but at that age, I didn’t have many resources. So I bought some mops and buckets and walked a mile to an assisted living community where I knocked on doors for clients. That’s where Gigi’s Cleaning Company was born.
My real dream was to become a singer/songwriter. I started vocal lessons, put a band together and began doing my own shows and making demo tapes. I’d clean during the day and at night I’d sing — anywhere. We performed anywhere from biker bars to senior citizen homes.
In 1994, I sold my little cleaning business, and with all my bills paid and $500 cash in my hand, I moved to Nashville. No job, no apartment and no friends were waiting for me in Nashville, but I knew in my heart that God would take care of me. I found a job at Red Lobster as a waitress and began building up a few cleaning clients. I would clean during the day, wait tables and sing at night. I performed at some of Nashville’s top tourist night spots like Tootsie’s and The Stage on Broadway in downtown Nashville and also did some touring for several years.
When I turned 30, singing until 3:00am and working for tips wasn’t too appealing for me. While it was very hard and it felt like a loss of a dream, I decided to retire from the music industry. At that time, I felt like a failure for a while, and it’s amazing how God can heal all wounds. I decided to then expand my cleaning business and hired several employees to help serve my clients. I was really happy and at peace finally in my life.
Then, in September 2007, my brother Steve went to New York City and stood in line for two hours at one of New York’s famous cupcake shops. He called me while eating the Red Velvet Cupcakes. “These aren’t as good as yours and mom’s. You should open a cupcake shop in Nashville!” Steve told me.
Nashville is a very progressive city but it also supports local businesses, so I thought, Why not? It’s not like I haven’t stepped out on faith before and God has always taken care of me. I come from a long line of bakers, from my mother, grandma and great-grandmother to my great aunts who had bakeries in Oklahoma where I was born.
Gina “Gigi” Butler, founder Gigi’s CupcakesI made my decision. I would do it. Now it was time to get my business going and I needed a loan. Even though I had excellent credit, no debt and some savings, I approached four different banks that all laughed in my face and said, “A cupcake shop, are you kidding?” But I persisted and found a wonderful banker who helped me get cash advance loans on my credit cards with lower interest rates and I took a $100,000 cash advance loan to get my business started. Wow, I was scared!
Some of my friends were pharmaceutical sales reps and I told them I was going to open a cupcake shop. I began baking in my home first and taking a few orders from my friends for their medical staff visits. I would clean during the day and bake 12 dozen cupcakes at night in my little kitchen. That’s where I came up with most of my creations.
The day before I opened Gigi’s, I was struggling. I had to clean three houses just to pay the plumber for the shop. Then, while my mother was cleaning and my dad was putting the chairs together in the shop, my contractor came in with a bill he forgot to give me. It was a $15,000 dry wall bill! I had a melt down! How was I going to do this? My parents dropped everything, hugged me and told me that all would be well. God would take care of me.
When all was said and done, I had $33 left in my checking account and no money for advertising the day we opened our doors on February 21, 2008. People started trickling in and soon a line formed at the door. By March 1st, I had to pay $4,000 in rent, my food bill and my employees in that first week. I paid it all and had $300 left.
Shortly after we opened, my landlord, Alan Thompson, whose background is in franchising, kept saying, “You should franchise your concept.” So, together with him, my dad helping with the store build outs, my mom creating the recipes with me, and my brother Randall coming on board to direct operations, we were set to start franchising the Gigi’s Cupcakes brand. It was more than I could have ever imagined doing when I started the business. Today, seven years later we have built almost 100 Gigi’s Cupcakes locations in 23 states, and we are continuing to expand. My dream for Gigi’s Cupcakes is to work with local owners to help them achieve their dreams as they bring cupcakes to families in their markets.
“If I can convey just one idea to someone reading my story, it would be to believe in yourself, walk with integrity, work hard and trust in God. And maybe your life won’t turn out exactly how you were expecting or hoping it to be; but maybe, just maybe, it will be so much better than you could have ever imagined!
With God, all things are possible!