Creative Simplicity at Crave

Creative Simplicity
Simplicity. The secret behind many-a-great idea, bold design, favourite recipe and memorable weekend is simplicity.  Crave President and Founder, Carolyne McIntyre Jackson, describes the founding of Crave Cupcakes as a simple conversation:
“I always loved to bake.  I always brought cookies and cakes wherever I went.  We went out with our cousin one night and he said, ‘you should really sell your cookies.’ I said, ‘ok,’ and asked Jodi if she wanted to help with the business.”
Jodi Willoughby, Carolyne’s sister, knew that she and her sister would work great together.  They developed a logo and menus, had blue boxes made and rented some commercial kitchen space. They made hundreds of cookies, packaged them in blue boxes and their cousin gave them out as gifts. People who received the cookies started to call for more. Finding commercial kitchen space and keeping up with increasing demand became challenging.
“We decided that if we wanted to do this, we would have to really do it,” says Carolyne.  The cookies were a hit, but cookies had been done before.  Another element was needed to make Crave a strong competitor on the local dessert scene.  Cupcakes seemed a good fit – another single serving, hand held, home-style dessert.  A simple Google search of the word “cupcake” brought up a few bakeries in New York and one in Toronto that were selling cupcakes exclusively.  Further market research revealed a growing trend of boutique cupcake shops in North America.  The concept had yet to hit Calgary, but Calgary exuded all the elements of a city fit to support such a business.
Building a business based on one star product was not done without criticism.  Faced with questions of how a bakery could survive selling only cupcakes, how they would do it without using cake mixes and egg mixtures, Carolyne and Jodi knew they had to stay true to their brand and their passion for baking fresh from scratch. They drafted a business plan based on scratch cookies and cupcakes, found commercial space in Kensington and went for it.
Crave Cookies and Cupcakes opened their Kensington doors in September of 2004. It was busy. Jodi and Carolyne worked 16 hours a day, six days a week for a year and a half. Keeping up with demand was a challenge that didn’t go away.
“I think deep down we always knew we did not want it to be just one store. That is why, from the beginning, we worked hard on the branding and creating a great customer experience. We wanted to make it great from the beginning,” says Carolyne.
Today Crave employs 75 people across five retail locations and one office.  Plans to expand are continuing with two new locations opening outside of Calgary in the next six months.  The initial success and continued growth of the company has come from a combination of staying true to their brand, working with great people, staying on top of industry trends and being passionate about the business.
With more staff on board than ever before, Jodi and Carolyne are able to step back from the day-to-day operations and manage the company at a higher level.  Looking to the future, the sisters are focused on creating a special experience for customers, developing a strong corporate culture and, the big goal, exposing 50 million people to the Crave experience by 2020.  Where to start?  Setting annual goals for expansion and staying true to the concept Crave was built on: making people feel special.
In a time where everything seems to be getting more complex – from technology to food - creative simplicity is a theme that runs through all of Crave’s operations.  The icing is made from five great ingredients. The retail stores are clean and fresh.  And the simple secret to Crave’s success?  “We are passionate about what we do.”


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