The TV show Shark Tank has given various entrepreneurs a chance to take their small business or idea to the next level. In season two of the show, baker Kim Daisy made a deal with real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran for a $50,000 investment. A South Carolina native, Ms. Daisy’s cakes have received national attention since being on Shark Tank.
Though partnering with Barbara Corcoran and being on a popular TV show helped her business, Ms. Daisy met with some challenges before greater success came calling and the order volume of cakes increased beyond anything she could have ever imagined.
It all started back in the early 1970s when Kim’s mother started making chocolate cakes and selling them one at a time. More than 40 years later, Daisy Cakes will do over two million dollars in sales this year. With the holidays getting into full gear, the cake queen, as she calls herself, tells us why cake is the ultimate dessert.
Kim shares her journey building Daisy Cakes and explains what keeps people complimenting her desserts. You can read the highlights and listen to the entire CYInterview below:
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Telling us how things are in Pauline, South Carolina at the Daisy Cakes headquarters, she told us this:
“It’s crazy good right now. It’s the holidays and we’ve been at full capacity honestly since before Thanksgiving. So we’re trying to get out as many cakes as we can and get everybody, you know, celebrating with Daisy Cakes between now and the end of the year. So hopefully we’ll be doing some, you know, continued good business and get everybody happy with Daisy Cakes.”
From Queen Latifah to the investors on Shark Tank and everyone in between, people have given Kim’s cakes great compliments. The recipes she uses were passed down from her grandmother and great aunt Daisy. The cakes are made from scratch. On why people say the cakes are so good, she shared this:
“I think it’s the simplicity of the ingredients. You know, it is real simple ingredients. It’s butter and sugar and eggs, fresh eggs and it’s, you know, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt just combined into something fabulous and delicious and simple and wonderful. And it’s, you know, it’s real ingredients. It’s not fake ingredients and it’s real sugar, real butter. … I truly do believe it’s, you know, the simpler, the better. And that’s why I believe these cakes are so wonderful.”
Some people talk about having family recipes passed down from generation to generation. Few ever believe they can make money with their cuisine, but Ms. Daisy sure did. She explains how Daisy Cakes came to fruition:
“Well, I know back in 1972 is when my mother and I sold our first cake. It was a yellow cake with chocolate icing and even though we just made it out of our home kitchen and sold a few of them, nothing like we do now of course, but you know that people wanted our cakes even way back then you know you are onto something because people can make their own cakes, they can go to the store and buy their cakes. You know, there are plenty of places to get a cake besides from my momma and me. But I, you know, truly even that many years ago, we were onto something. …
Even while I was in college, you know, somebody wanted a cake, they would ask me if momma would make it or if I could go home and make it and I would. And then from there, having worked, started a catering business right out of college and then I’ve had a couple of restaurants along the way, I mean,you know, you just begin to recognize the fact that what we’re doing is generating income, making a business, providing our lifestyle that we love, working hard in the kitchen and also, you know, being able to share what we love to do with so many people. And that was local of course with the restaurants and everything, but then to, you know, be made aware that oh my gosh, we can ship these cakes across the country and do it and then have people support your business and have it grow, you know, that’s very satisfying and rewarding. Not just financially, but, you know, personally it just makes you feel good that people want to order a cake made here in Pauline [South Carolina] and share it with their families.”
Though it’s been over 40 years since Kim and her mom sold their first cake, she and her mother, who is now 80, are still working together at Daisy Cakes, baking every single day:
“My mother is 80 years old and she works every day. And, you know, she’s in the kitchen the past couple weeks of course. What she likes to stand and do is when the cake layers are ready, she likes to dump them out of the pans and stack them on the sheet pans and then get the pans ready for the next batch of cakes that are going, batter that’s going in. She loves it. It’s fun. It keeps her busy. She likes to, she’s not one to sit around and do nothing. She’s a doer and she likes to be busy and she likes to stay out of the house. She likes to be out here with us. She does work like dumping the cake layers, she separates the doilies, she stickers lids for the cake names, she, if it’s something that needs to be done, she’s hands on and she’s doing it with us. So she, I think she loves it and the fact that I’m here.”
The aftermath of what happened to Daisy Cakes after being on the popular TV show Shark Tank was something this cake maker was not prepared for:
“I was season two and when we aired in April of 2011, Barbara [Corcoran] had no idea what kind of sales we would generate. Clay Newbill, the executive producer had no idea ‘cause it had only been season one and people were certainly catching on come season two, but they just didn’t know what to tell me as far as what to expect. So the website crashed, the phones all but blew up and we had just shy of 1500 cakes baked and ready to ship. Except that, you know, in the 48 hours after airing, we had over 2000 cake orders and just scrambled to, you know, get them all shipped from the car port and the heat because it was already hot here at the end of April. And so we knew from working literally around the clock, 24 hours, we had three shifts here in the May to fill orders, we knew we couldn’t keep that up. It wasn’t cost effective for one thing.”
After realizing she could not keep up with the demand for her Daisy Cakes, Ms. Daisy moved the majority of her cake production out of state. What followed was some negative experiences with the quality of the product. Even with all the success from Shark Tank, she admits they could have gone out of business in 2013. She shares a cautionary tale of success that even with success, negative things can occur:
“We moved Barbara’s office down to a large production bakery down in Georgia. So we moved the majority of the production down there and still baked here in Pauline, but we have four Sears Kenmore Ovens. So we weren’t doing too much to help, you know, fill the massive orders that came from Shark Tank. So we moved down to Georgia and that was going great actually, except that we were, we got on QVC and the owner of the business down there also has a product, cakes on QVC, different from mine, but nonetheless cakes. And so they basically fired us as a customer because they said we were their competition now.
So the search began again for another bakery and we found a large production bakery up in the Bronx and so from Georgia we moved to a large production bakery in the Bronx, which was great because they were able to bake the cakes and the fulfillment center nearby out of Long Island was a fulfillment center that was approved by QVC. So they were able to ship cakes for the orders that we generated at QVC. But, you know, again that wasn’t the magic bullet because the quality of the cakes went south in a bad way. And so we had to find another bakery. So we found a bakery in Nashville, which was easier because I could drive there and didn’t have to fly back and forth to New York.
So we moved the production to a facility in Nashville and there again for a while it worked and then the cakes, the quality, you know, just wasn’t what it needed to be. And we tried to expand to some different fulfillment centers in Maryland and in Kansas City to try to get shipping rates lower and it just was a complete failure and it was catastrophic actually. It almost, it really almost ruined the business. And I’m gonna tell you right now, it is a sheer miracle for this business to still be here and a testament to what, you know, never giving up will, the outcome can be because we are going crazy with sales, higher than they have ever been and last year was, 2013 was horrible sales because the quality of the cakes that had started first of the year.
And now we’ve turned the corner, we really are at capacity. We cannot take another cake order to get it to people in time for Christmas and cause they’re all hand assisted and they’re all made from scratch. We can only, you know, there’s only so many hours in the day and there’s only so many people here who know how to do things the right way, which is, you know, the Daisy Cake way. So it’s been an interesting experience. I’ve learned, you know, don’t put all your trust into one person to try to make things good for the business.
And Barbara was right, my mother was right, they said, you know, we gotta bring all the baking back to Pauline. People will just have to wait. Not to be ugly, but people will just have to wait on a cake. And we do, we tell people. We started telling people in September, we’re not gonna bake your cake in September, but if you want a cake for Thanksgiving, would you please go ahead and ,you know, put your order in so that we can know how many cakes we have to ship out for the holidays, Thanksgiving and the same thing for Christmas. But it’s been, it has been, some days I just say, ‘God, I am so tired of learning something. I’m so tired of having to learn another lesson.’ But you know, that’s all part of it too I guess and I enjoy it and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. … I’ve got to stay busy like my momma and be creative and stay, you know, I like to work, I’m a worker. I’m not a sit around and watch TV type of person.”
Beyond her original investment of $50,000, Barbara Corcoran has contributed a lot of wisdom to help bring Daisy Cakes to the next level. Kim shares what the Shark Tank star has done for her:
“I wouldn’t be able to have navigated the business to where we are today without her and you know, and she’s very business savvy of course, but she’s also very hands on. She is not a control freak, but yeah she really does care. She cares about Daisy Cakes being successful and she cares about all her other entrepreneurs being successful. And yes if we are, she benefits financially, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about, you know, just the camaraderie, it’s about the, you know, teaching like for me, an old dog new tricks, a new trick or two, but she cares about us and she wants us to, you know, I think she thinks it’s a good thing for us to go through some hurdles and it’s not all gravy so to speak.”
Daisy Cakes is expected to have its best year ever with two million dollars in sales. The entrepreneur shares the good news:
“We’ve just surpassed it, just surpassed it. … I’m telling you and our worst year was last year, 2013 was our worst year. And it is a miracle that we’re still here and I’m just never ever, ever giving up. Don’t even focus, I feel like I have blinders on. If somebody tells me no, I don’t even hear it. I just ignore them and I just keep trudging forward and say forget it. You know, I don’t even associate with those people. There’s, I don’t want any negative. I mean, I experience, you know, it’s been tough and it’s been hard, but, you know, just ignore that and I keep going forward with making this business successful. And it is, absolutely, 2014 is going to, will go over the two million dollar mark in sales. … I don’t put it all out there again, but that is gross sales. But that is, it is tremendous and it is an absolute testament to what, you know, never giving up can lead to.”
The holiday season yields a panoply of tempting desserts. On why you should eat cake, the cake maker says:
“Oh my gosh, because it’s just so, you know, it’s that dessert comfort food right? I mean, a cookie is a cookie. They’re crumbly, they’re good, but, you know, and a pie is fine, but it will only serve just a few people. A big old Daisy Cake will serve 16 to 20 people. And it’s, you know, four layers of, one of our little quotes is four layers of genuine goodness. And it’s, what I love too about the cakes is if you don’t need the whole cake, you can leave it in the freezer like ice cream.
And you can take it out, cut a slice or two at a time, pop it back in the freezer, you know, let that little slice sit out for about 20 minutes to come through to room temperature and you’ve got this delicious, fabulous, you know, homemade dessert and you always have a nice homemade dessert on hand if company pops in during the holidays or any time and they’re good in your freezer for up to six months as long as you keep them well wrapped in the little tins, but I don’t even think they’ll last that long because people are gonna eat them before then and they’re ordering a new one.”
2014 also led to Ms. Daisy appearing on the Queen Latifah talk show. She is still in awe of people talking about her cakes in the media. When it comes to advice for people being on Shark Tank, Kim offers these words:
“I say do it. Don’t wait three years and look back and say, oh I wish I had done that. Just do it. No harm is gonna come from it. And look what might happen. You might get on the show. I know they’re already starting casting for season seven, which they’ll start filming in the summer. So why not? You have absolutely nothing to lose and so much to gain just from the exposure of the show. I mean it’s phenomenal and now we get all those reruns on CNBC.”
Editors note: Ms. Daisy sent along a delicious lemon cake for us to try.
You can learn all about Kim Daisy and her company Daisy Cakes at www.ilovedaisycakes.com
You can follow Daisy Cakes on Facebook here.
You can email Chris Yandek at ChrisYandek@CYInterview.com
You can follow Chris Yandek on Twitter here.