One day I attended an event and as I was leaving I was handed a cupcake. Now, I’ve never really been a cupcake fanatic, more of a savoury girl, myself so I immediately thought that one of my boys would love it… As I drove home, it occurred to me that I simply can’t share it with my boys. After-all, I have 4 and they really wouldn’t appreciate 1/4 of a cupcake, let’s be honest. So, I took a bite… Two more ‘bites’ later and it was gone. And I was in cupcake heaven. I seriously considered turning the car around and
demandingasking politely for another….
I will NEVER forget my first cupcake from The Cupcake Queens and have been lucky enough to gorge on a few more in my time BUT the real hero here is not the cupcake (they are bloody good though…) it’s their inventor, Melbourne Wonder Woman, Monique Milenkovic.
I had a chat with this very inspiring mother of FOUR CHILDREN UNDER 6 (!!!) about why and how she does what she does.
Meet The Ultimate Cupcake Queen…
Leigh: Please share why you decided to create your fabulous business? It must have been a daunting decision.
Monique Milenkovic: Back in 2005 I spent far too many hours searching for the perfect cupcakes for my wedding and had to settle for some very average pastries from a local bakery. I don’t know anyone who wants ‘average’ anything at their wedding! A few months later, a very close friend was looking for the same thing and also not having much luck.
It occurred to me that we couldn’t be the only people with a secret passion for cupcakes but the idea of starting my own business was daunting.
It was the sudden passing of my first born son in 2009 that gave me the motivation. After a healthy pregnancy and labour, he was diagnosed with an extremely rare heart disease. He was only with us for 3 days and I came to truly understand how short (and precious) life is.
I decided it was time to ditch my corporate life as a HR Manager and open a cupcake shop. That sounds a bit like the plot of a Hollywood chick flick but it’s what I did. I had this vision of having a great work/life balance, working a few days a week close to home. That never happened. Once I opened up the shop I simply couldn’t keep up with the demand. Just to make life even busier, two months later I became pregnant with my daughter, now 5 1⁄2 years old. So it quickly went from establishing the business to putting the right people, systems and processes in place so that I could take some time out to have my daughter. Since then I’ve managed to expand the business (and my family) so taking a chance has paid off!
LV: What are the ages of your children?
MM: I have 4 under 6: Sophia 5 1⁄2, Oscar 2, Thomas 1 and George who is just 9 months.
LV: What is your top selling Cup Cake?
MM: Our Top 3 are Vanilla Vanilla, Red Sparkle (our version of Red Velvet) and Salted Caramel.
LV: What is your all-time favourite Cup Cake?
MM: It used to be Vanilla Vanilla but now I’m addicted to our Salted Caramel, I can’t get enough of it. I always hope there is one that doesn’t quite pass quality control in our bakery so that I can have it for breakfast… I mean morning tea!
LV: What is one important lesson you have learned whilst running your own business?
MM: Where to start? One lesson it took me awhile to learn is to take true responsibility for your business. Acknowledge your mistakes, own them but don’t beat yourself up over it. As long as you learn from every mistake you make, you’re still going forward.
On the flip side, celebrate your wins. It’s so important to stop, pause, reflect and celebrate your success. Each milestone is an achievement. I particularly encourage celebrating your ‘firsts’. I still remember the excitement I had when I opened my very first store. Don’t get me wrong, I was still super excited when we opened store number 9 this year but it was a different sort of excitement.
LV: What advice would you give to women wanting to embark on small business?
MM: It can be tough, it can be lonely and it can be bloody hard work – and it’s also incredibly rewarding. When you’re working on your passion, it really isn’t working at all.
Pep talk over, the advice I’d give is to develop laser like focus and set clear goals. We can all get carried away in day to day running of a business but it’s so important to keep coming back to why you’re doing what you’re are doing – otherwise you’re likely to end up going nowhere.
LV: Who inspires you and why?
MM: My parents. They worked tirelessly in their own hospitality business all their life and managed to raise three (wonderful) children. A few years ago they retired and it’s lovely to see them now enjoying the rewards of all that hard work.
LV: If there was a bake sale at your children’s school would you bake your own cup cakes or swing by the shops and grab something quick?
MM: Busted! With my eldest in Prep, I’m already guilty of this. I just popped past one of our stores on the way to work and picked up some cupcakes! Our closest store to home is the Williamstown store and it opens at 8am on weekdays – perfect for those last minute pick ups!
MM: I’m super organised, in an old school way. I use my diary religiously, I write lists and I label EVERYTHING – yes I mean everything. If anyone from DYMO is reading this article, I’m your biggest ambassador. I’m convinced that my labelling addiction is keeping DYMO in business.
I simply can’t do this all on my own so I’m not afraid to ask for help from friends, family, staff and those around me. I’m so lucky to have a super supportive husband and a great team of people behind me. They say it takes a village to raise a child – whether it’s my actual children or my cupcake store ‘children’, the sentiment rings true for me.
LV: Are there any plans to branch out Nationwide?
MM: I’ve opened 9 stores in 6 years so I’m incredibly proud of how the business has grown. Deciding how and when to expand is always a challenge but I think we’ve got it right in the past. I always have one eye to the future so the most I can say is watch this space!
LV: Who has been your most exciting customer to date?
MM: Wow, we have had SO MANY exciting customers so it is so hard to pick just one… But… The gorgeous Dannii Minogue is a favourite… She has been a customer since day dot and she is beautiful inside and out. Such a warm, generous, down to earth person who absolutely loves a cupcake (or two!).