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A few weekends ago, I proudly announced my temporary-weekend cupcake kiosk in MacArthur Center Mall.

I was excited…elated…and absolutely proud of my first venture in the retail sector of cupcakes!

Stocking my kiosk with cupcakes!

I was eager to stock it up with a plethora of cupcakes.  According to the health department, cupcakes sold at a kiosk had to be prepackaged. Check.  Cupcake daily menu check.  Cupcake carriers….now that was a hard one, but CHECK!

And then the day came for opening day….let’s just say that cupcake mayhem soon erupted and I was ill-prepared for what was yet to come. Thank goodness I was only scheduled to have my cupcake kiosk open for only two weekends.  Any time longer would’ve resulted in Death by Cupcake!

I had a great time meeting people, being on the Hampton Roads Show, and just seeing the looks on people’s faces as they sampled how good my baking taste!  But if anyone else is considering such a feat, I’m hear to give you words of wisdom.

#1 – Know the codes and regulations regarding selling food in a mall at a kiosk.  Also make sure you check with the city ordinances regarding selling goods for sales tax purposes.

#2 – Promote your business.  Hire an intern to announce your presence on social network sites and continue to throughout your scheduled day.

#3 – Listen to your customers.  For instance, I only would have certain flavors on a certain day.  However, I soon discovered that most customers would ask “Do you have Red Velvet?” daily.  That changed my daily menu, Southern Red Velvet was a staple flavor and I would change it up other flavors periodically.  Red Velvet was always sold out, so was Strawberry.

#4 – Location. Location. Location!  Make sure your kiosk is located in an area that will leverage more attention and attraction.  I didn’t like my location in the mall.  My kiosk was situated in the lineup of mall-soliciters we all try our hardest to avoid!!!!  The flat-iron folks, the makeup girls, the phone cases, and a number of other miscellaneous salesmen begging for everyone’s attention as they pass by.  I was situated between Express and Victoria’s Secret.  Not a bad location, but my placement didn’t make sense to people that finally looked up from trying to avoid the worrisome catch phrases from those trying to bait them to their stands.  Lots of customers would declare, “Why didn’t they place you near the food?!”,  “I thought you were selling scented cupcake candles!”  My samples baited them in!  Once I could get them to make eye contact and that I wasn’t trying to sell them something that would end up on their shelves.  I think that if I had been placed near the food court, people would’ve have known to leave room for a cupcake after they dined!

#5 – Send out a cupcake to mall businesses.  All you want is a mouth, with a sweet tooth.  Nevermind that shoppers aren’t getting the bulk of your tasty goodness.  The guy from FinishLine brought cupcakes for his entire staff to inspire them to sell for a cupcake reward! I was excited to see mall employees, including the security guards parade down to my stand and purchase cupcakes.

#6 – Hire someone to help you out.  As the face of your business, you won’t need to be at your stand the entire time.  Kiosks have to stay open during the same hours as the mall.  Yes…10-9!  Make sure you have someone working those hours that aren’t so cupcake-booming, like 10-11 and 7-9.  Unless you’ve got a line around the corner, most people aren’t looking for cupcakes in the morning, nor in the late night hour.   But ensure that you’ve got staff that are willing to work your register and man the kiosk in those non-rush times.  The cupcake rush starts around 12, peaks around 2-3 and lasts till around 6 or 7pm.  Make your appearance and be the face of your business like you should.  Pass out samples…that’s how you bait & switch!  They “mmmmmm” and then reach for their wallets!

Hope this is helpful to someone out there.  God knows I wish I had’ve known what I was getting myself into.  I thought I was prepared before it started, but I was sadly mistaken.  I made tons of mistakes…but they were the kind of mistakes you learn from.  They’re like earning honors like highly decorated war veterans.  Except my weapon of choice are cupcakes! ((BANG))