Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday: < .22 Cents

Our lives can be shaped by the simplest interaction with someone.  Maybe it's because, at the precise moment when two paths cross, what one has to say is precisely what the other needs to hear. Or maybe it is that, while living completely separate lives, our journeys feel amazingly similar.  Whatever the reason, it can be both memorable and affirming.

Such is the case with Wes, owner of Hey Cupcake, in Austin, Texas.  I think CSPgrad, my side kick for this trip, would agree.  I arranged to meet Wes for an interview, after participating in Leadershape at St. Edwards University.  The students proudly informed me that Wes was not only an alumnae of St. Edwards, but that he was a young entrepeuneur in the cupcake business.  I knew I wanted to feature a week of cupcake fun on Highlowaha and Wes seemed like as good an insider on the subject as any.  That's answers, why Wes.  That and the fact that the R.V., out of which he sells cupcakes, is located smack in the middle of town.  It is strung with Christmas lights and has a massive spinning cupcake on top!  The guy knows how to make a statement and I wanted to know more.

We spent about an hour with Wes, but within the first five minutes it was clear we were talking to a passionate guy, motivated by the thrill of thinking big and taking risks.  Cupcakes, by the way, are not his passion.  He fell into cupcakes while on a trip to New York (on business about bottled water).  He smiled explaining, "Most people think I love cupcakes.  It's not the cupcakes, it's the process of creating something."  Wes explained, that more than the cupcakes, he liked creating an experience - a place for people to go get away from what's going on in the world.  He got his whole operation up and running, by the way, in less than three months.

I guess it was at that point I felt like I could relate to Wes and what he was trying to do.  Create something that helped restore some sense of nostalgia or memory of when life was simpler.  He described the process of starting his business as amazing, insofar as each and every obstacle presented to him somehow worked itself out.  I tend to believe it was the "...universe conspiring", but Wes hadn't read the book, The Alchemist, so he didn't understand my insistence that cupcakes might actually be his Personal Legend.  

I think the icing on the cupcake came when Wes talked about how, he at times felt under siege (my words, not his) of his ideas.  He explained that frequently he calls a friend or family member to release the ideas running through his head.  Their job?  Take notes.  Katie and I couldn't help but look at one another and laugh.  We had just spent a three hour car ride - me spouting off ideas for Highlowaha and Katie generously taking notes.  Wes and I were connected by our enthusiasm for what we were creating - he cupcakes and me highlowaha.

It didn't hurt that Wes was inspiring.  He is truly visionary.  He took us on a tour of his expansion - a cupcake compound - and immediately rushed us over to a tree.  To me and Katie... just a tree with a few knots in the trunk.  But to Wes so much more.  To Wes it was Mr. Bubble Tree.  The knots were eyes and a nose.  Anchor an industrial sized bubble maker in the tree tops and immediately you've created the ultimate kid attraction, making Hey Cupcake way more fun than any old ice cream store.  I could go on about how Wes kept using the word "we" even though, when asked, he confessed there was no "we."  He said it seemed presumptive to say, "I" when there was no way he would be where he was without the help of others.   Wes is an all around good guy, a successful businessman, and a skilled leader.

But all is not peaches and cream - or icing and sprinkles - for Wes.  At one point during our meeting Wes talked about business expenses and lamented over the fact that every box they use to package their cupcakes costs .22 cents.  There's only so much profit margin you can eek out of a cupcake to begin with, so Wes is feeling the effects of costly packaging.  I began to think this was the perfect challenge for our creative highlowaha readers.

It's Wednesday, so why not jump in and whack Wes's packaging dilemma.  For those of you new to our community.  Each Wednesday we work with our friend von Oech to creatively problem solve.  He provides us with a creative principle and we work at applying it to whatever happens to be the week's challenge.  This week... less expensive cupcake packaging ideas.  Now for a little nudge from Roger von Oech.

Deck is in hand.  Fanning them out.  Feel the karma... reach for the left hand side of the deck.  Select a cluster of four or five cards.  Take hold of just one and pull.  

This was an uncanny choice of cards this week...

Substitute.  When you don't have a certain resource available (or want to change from ones you do), you substitute.  Indeed, much of human progress is the result of substituting one idea or thing for another: words for grunts, tools for fingers, money for goods.  If you've ever used a potato for a radio antenna, or created a knife out of a broken light bulb, you have this ability.  What can you substitute?  

I will, by the way, send Wes a compilation of all our ideas.

Oh, and what are you vying for?  A great looking, size large, Hey Cupcake t-shirt.  It's brown with pink writing.  On the front it says, "Hey Cupcake" and on the back it says, "Who you callin' cupcake?"  Trust me.  You want one.

Below is a picture I received from a fellow highlowaha reader.  Confirmation, that while I can bake a yummy cake in my Big Cupcake Mold, I have not even approached novice status in the decorating department.  This picture shows the true potential...  Thanks, Jessica!
Signing off until tomorrow...

No comments: