This is the SPP Spotlight, a feature on our blog that spotlights women who have become leaders in the community, made a positive impact on people’s lives, or is a great role model for women in some way. Our guest is Rachel Young, owner of Miss Moffett’s Mystical Cupcakes. Rachel started her business in 2012 and appeared on The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars in June of 2013. Since that episode’s airing the following October her shop has attracted many from all over the country. She is also a public speaker and writer.
SPP Spotlight: Rachel, thank you for being with us. It is a pleasure to have you.
Rachel Young: Thank you, Jeff for having me!
SPPS: You’re very welcome. So, Rachel, let’s start from the beginning. You were formerly in real estate with your mom and an accountant later. You had never baked in your life, is that correct?
RY: That’s correct, Jeff.
What got you started baking and interested in entering the baking profession?
Well, it kind of came out of nowhere. I was an accountant, like you said, and I did not like my job. I was really sad every day. I had to commute to Seattle, which is a 3-hour round-trip commute, if traffic is good. At that time I was trying to have a baby with my husband. We decided when I have the baby I could be a stay-at-home mom. That’s what happened. But while I was pregnant and still commuting, I was thinking about what I really wanted in life, because I didn’t want to be an accountant. So, I started daydreaming about having my own business and being my own boss in a creative role, something I could do that was creating something […]not just pieces of paper and numbers and computers, an actual finished product that at the end of the day I could say ‘I did that’. But I had never baked and didn’t have any hobbies. So I became a stay-at-home mom and started reading mommy blogs. People were baking cupcakes, it was really popular. I was like, ‘I don’t know anything about cupcakes, but it sounds really good – and I want to eat some!’ [laughs] So, I started to make some cupcakes and after the first try, everyone was like, ‘Oh my god, these are so good!’ I had never been super-good at anything before, so I was going to try to make them again, only different kinds; let’s make chocolate, let’s make vanilla, let’s make red velvet. So, I started making, literally, every kind of cupcake that ever existed and coming up with new concoctions…
Okay, so these weren’t just from the mom blogs that you were reading. These were things you started coming up with –
– No, I started creating them. I started to get ideas. I found basic recipes I could create any flavor out of. People would say, ‘Rachel, you should make a mojito cupcake,’ or ‘You should make a strawberry champagne cupcake’ and I would do it. Then after a few months of me baking almost every day, people would ask, ‘Why do you bake so much? Who’s going to eat all of these cupcakes?’ and I started to realize I was making a menu for a business. And around that time, I was asleep in the middle of the night and it came to me as like a download: the name of the business and its inspiration. I woke up and started writing things down. I drew pictures of tarot cards and cupcake flavors and the logo. The inspiration was my great grandmother, Rachel Moffett. The crazy thing about that is I didn’t know her very well. She was in Texas, I grew up in Oregon, but I’m named after her. She was the matriarch in my family and she passed away in 2000. She was a really skilled baker and had her own café. She used to bake cupcakes in the ‘50s and ‘60s – way before they were trendy like they are now. So, I just went with that. It was like she was whispering in my ear all of these ideas. I decided to follow it.
So, did the idea of using your grandma’s recipes all come to you in one night or was that something that occurred to you while you were baking up a storm?
No, during the day whenever I was baking I was just in the flow and not thinking hard about the business. But when I was asleep, it came to me: Miss Moffett’s Mystical Cupcakes. I was like, ‘This is going to be really big.’
That’s so exciting! I get chills just hearing that.
It was really exciting! I woke up my sister, who is a really good artist, and said, ‘You need to design me a logo and this is what it needs to look like.’ She never did. The people around me didn’t get it. My husband didn’t get it. My mom didn’t get it. They didn’t understand what was happening around me. I started designing a website, too, once I figured out the idea –
-Really! Oh, man, you just got the bug and ran with it!
I did! I took what was going to be the main flavors and making them then taking nice pictures of them and putting them on the website. Then I developed the menu so people could go on there and see all of these tarot flavors and order them.
So tell me a little about the tarot and where that comes from for you. Most people, when they think of tarot cards, they think of fortune telling. What does it mean to you and why was it something that you wanted to integrate into the cupcakes?
Okay, so when I was in Seattle and unhappy in my profession I reached out to the tarot, because it was almost like going to see your therapist. If you’ve ever done a tarot reading, especially one for yourself, it’s like, ‘I need some guidance today. I’m feeling lost and need clarity.’ That’s what it does; it brings clarity to your situation, at least for me. So, I learned how to read the tarot cards and would write them down in my journal. I’m a pretty mystical person, as it is. So, when I got the inspiration for the cupcake shop [I knew] each flavor needed to have its own personality. For me, bringing in the tarot deck – just the major arcana, the ones that are the archetypes: The Empress, The Emperor, The Hanged Man – the ones that are people are the flavors. So each flavor has its own personality. And that night [the idea of the shop] came to me, I pulled out my tarot deck and looked at those cards and was looking at the symbolism, the colors, and wrote down the flavors that came to me.
That’s really fascinating. Now, shortly afterward you and your mom, who works with you, applied to be on the show Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. What prompted that and what was the process like leading up to your appearance?
So, I started baking cupcakes before I knew Cupcake Wars existed. And when I started my business I was telling everyone about it and people were like, ‘Do you know about Cupcake Wars? Have you seen that?’ I didn’t watch TV, so I started watching it and – I swear to God, I still do this – I started crying near the end of every episode.
Yeah! I was like, ‘That’s going to be me!’
So they were tears of inspiration?
Yes! I saw the people being announced the winner – and the ones who are not winning – and either one of those situations made me tear up, because I wanted it so bad. And I could relate to both of them. I so strongly desired to be on the show. So, after watching Cupcake Wars, I was pretty adamant that I wanted to be on there. I researched casting and how to apply and they happened to be casting at that time.
Oh nice, it was serendipitous!
Yeah, and I was friends with a videographer and asked him to take an application video of me, which is how you apply. You post it on YouTube and send the link to the producers.
Okay, which people can still find that video.
Yeah, it’s still on there. Then after a couple weeks, the producers called me and said they loved my video and wanted me to be on the show. It was actually pretty easy once I put it out there for them, they loved it.
When you watch the episode, it looks incredibly stressful and fast-paced. Was the experience just as frantic as it looked?
Yes and no. The experience lifts you up to a different level. There’s adrenaline and exhilaration and it’s so exciting to be in that place with those producers. And the producers coach you big time! They keep you on track and want you to succeed. The producers don’t want anyone to look like a fool on that show – and they tell you that upfront. [They told us] ‘We want to spotlight your business and make you look good.’
That’s awesome, because that’s not the case with all reality shows, right?
No, and each contestant has their own producer. So, I had my own producer to go to who was so amazing. So, while it looks stressful – and it is stressful – it’s also so much fun and so exhilarating! The people were so nice, the producers, the judges, the contestants – everybody, so nice!
What was one of the biggest benefits you gained from that experience?
The biggest benefit was my cupcake shop, because after it aired there was not a lot of activity for a month. I was surprised, because I expected people would come out of the woodwork to try my cupcakes. But there was no storefront, so there was no opportunity for people to try the cupcakes.
So you were still online-only at that time?
We were selling at Paprika Café, but we didn’t have a sign, people didn’t know where to find it, there was no parking – all of these little things… and there was a disconnect between Mystical Cupcakes and Paprika Café; it just wasn’t a very good match. So, I was pretty disheartened after the show aired and I didn’t know what my next step was, because I didn’t have any money to open up my storefront. And there was already too much competition in Olympia, it didn’t make sense to open up a storefront. There was Bonjour Cupcakes, Sweet Charley B’s, and Abby’s. So what happened was Amanda Beers, who owned Sweet Charley B’s, saw my episode of Cupcake Wars and she was already thinking about closing her doors, but didn’t want to close it and not have a cupcake store existing. So, she contacted me and asked me to take over her lease (she still had 18 months on her lease). I decided to do it. She left everything there, all the equipment, ingredients. She said, ‘All you have to do is put a sign up and you can have the shop.’
And that opportunity might not have happened had she not seen you on TV.
It wouldn’t have happened. I don’t think she knew I existed.
Wow, that’s amazing! So, now you have a shop, let’s talk about your shop. You have so many incredibly creative flavors from Strawberry Rhubarb Pie to Better Than Sex, which is a German chocolate flavor. And you even have themed flavors like for 4th of July. How many flavors do you have now?
I lost count! [laughs] I think there’s over 150.
Over a hundred and fifty. Obviously you won’t have 150 made every single day, so how many can people typically expect in your shop?
They can expect a minimum of eight flavors.
Okay, excellent. A hundred fifty is a lot to draw from for eight a day! This is something people may not realize. You have a fundraiser going on between Miss Moffett’s Mystical Cupcakes and Princess Ella. Can you tell us a little about what that is and what’s going on there?
Yeah, so Princess Ella is a real little girl named Ella Scott who has cerebral palsy. She’s five and I went to high school with her mom, that’s how I know her. I was really touched by seeing pictures of her on Facebook and all of the trials and tribulations her family was going through to take care of her and all of the magical moments, also. Everything about her was just very lovable. So her mom’s name is Marissa and I asked, ‘Hey Marissa, is there any way my business can help with medical bills or give support or help other children like Ella? Is there something we can start to help children with cerebral palsy?’ Marissa was so excited, because that was something she wanted to start for a long time she just didn’t have a partner to help her do it. She always saw Princess Ella as being a spokesperson for something like that. So, together we’re starting something called the Princess Ella Foundation. The way my cupcake shop is helping with that is we have a Princess Ella flavor that comes in vanilla or chocolate with our signature whip cream cheese frosting in either light pink or light blue with pearls and glitter on it representing Princess Ella and the pretty dresses that she wears. We donate a percentage of the sales to Princess Ella.
That’s wonderful. So, that’s something people can look for when they visit your shop. Are they called Princess Ella cupcakes?
Yes! That’s the flavor. They can be custom ordered, too. We can do mini’s.
Do you have anything planned in the future for Miss Moffett’s Mystical Cupcakes that we can look forward to?
In the future, I’d love to expand. I have the downtown shop and the mall shop. But what I’d really want to do in the future is franchise and have more locations. Our cupcakes are so different from the other cupcake shops. They’re different in sweetness, taste, and creativity. I want everyone to feel like they’re going into their grandmother’s kitchen and eating their grandmother’s baked goods, not just something that you’d buy at a grocery store. Everything in our cupcakes is made from scratch. So, I feel like our products, our inspiration, and message are really special. I’d like to spread that out to other areas of the world.
Of the world?! Not just the state or country. That’s ambitious! What you’re saying would be great, because there is a difference between the cold, sanitary feeling you get from some places, especially department stores. Your shop definitely has a certain warmth to it when you walk in. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming and does feel special. That’d be wonderful if you could spread that. You’re also a public speaker with the goal of helping others. Can you tell us a little about your public speaking?
Basically, I was invited to do a public speaking engagement at a local college and the theme of it was leadership. So, I started writing a speech based on my story and where I came from. Then I talked about what leadership means to me and how I’ve grown as a leader myself. But when I was writing the speech I started to realize I was writing the book of my life and that it was something that could be shared with other people and help other people. I was living a life that made me unhappy, but I figured out how to change things for myself. I shifted my reality to something that meant something to me and was fulfilling. I want to show other people how to do the same thing.
How to take control and be proactive and turn things around into something that is helpful and creative for others.
Yes! To be the masters of their own reality.
That’s wonderful and you’re certainly doing that right now and on the road to greatness and success. You’re trying to be – and will be – an inspiration to others. Obviously, your grandmother is a huge inspiration to you. Are there any other women who’ve inspired you over the years or today?
My mother is one person that has inspired me. It’s been a funny partnership, because she’s my harshest critic. When I was developing my recipes she would come over and tell me they were not good. I would get upset and think about crying. But over the course of a year or so of developing my recipes, had it not been for her telling me the truth my cupcakes would not be as good today. I know they wouldn’t be. She really pushed me. She continues to push me. I push back a lot of the time, but I do appreciate her and all of her guidance. Even though she works for me and gets a paycheck I know that she cares so much about me and my business. My mom is also an inspiration for another reason: my mom was a single mom of seven kids and put herself through college [during her] late 40s when she still had four or five kids still at home. Watching her do that and everything she went through was such an accomplishment. It was really neat to watch. Now I’m a single mom so I can see everything she went through and it puts it in perspective. Going through similar things now [I realize] ‘Dang, that was really hard’, I really respect her. She didn’t lose her temper very much, she had a lot of patience, and she cooked dinner every night – all of the things that you take for granted when you’re a kid. And then you grow up and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m doing that now and it’s really hard.’ You know?
That’s remarkable. So, she’s been an inspiration, both personally and professionally for you then. Well, Rachel, thank you so much for being with us.
Rachel Young is the owner of Miss Moffett’s Mystical Cupcakes. You can find her two locations in downtown Olympia, across from the Farmer’s Market, and in the Capital Mall. You can also find her episode of Cupcake Wars available to stream on YouTube and the Food Network’s official site. Check out her website, where you can also book Rachel for speaking engagements. Of course, you can also find her on all of your favorite social media platforms – Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I’m Jeff Gibson. This is the SPP Spotlight.