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Catastrophic Muck-Ups And How to Avoid Them

The One Where Cupcake Central’s Cookbook Got Burnt

Catastrophic Muck-ups with Cupcake Central

After she was fired from her IT job in the 2009 Global Financial Crisis, the founder and director of Cupcake Central, Sheryl Thai, decided to chase her dream of opening up a cupcake store. Once she’d achieved that, she set her sights on another dream – publishing a cupcake cookbook. And she did, but it turned out to be a catastrophic muck-up.

The full catastrophe

“One of the biggest catastrophic muck-ups we’ve encountered was the very first cookbook we published. I had this dream that I wanted to publish a cookbook, but it was a pretty big risk because we’d be giving out all our secret recipes.”

But Sheryl has never subscribed to the scarcity mentality. She believes the more you give, the more get back in return, so she threw herself into getting a cookbook, chock full of her cupcake recipes, published.

“To keep myself accountable, I told everyone on social media that we would be releasing a cookbook. As we were chatting with publishers, Borders bookshop was closing down and a lot of publishers were hesitant to take on new projects. I was chatting with about 12 publishers and one of them was keen, and eventually, they turned around and said look we just don’t think your profile is strong enough to create a cookbook. But I’d already told the world I would release a cookbook so I had to follow through.”

“My personality means I want everything perfect, so this feedback tore me apart.

An unlikely solution

The solution came from an unlikely source – a street press magazine. Sheryl saw a free hospitality magazine delivered to her store and loved the quality and production of it. She found the creator’s contact info inside the front cover and reached out to them.

“They’d never made a cookbook but were keen to take on the challenge so we met up, found some incredible designers, and away we went. The process was incredibly painful because no one had made a cookbook before. We contracted a copywriter, and proofread it and edited it twenty times, so when we went to print it was such a huge relief.”

Cupcake Central

Finding the positives amid the negatives

But that’s when the full catastrophe hit. Despite their best efforts, mistakes started appearing in the book, and her customers let her know about it.

“There were so many spelling and grammar errors, and we completely missed one recipe and I was just devastated. One customer emailed me and said I’ve circled at least 10 errors in your book, you should take this off the bookshelves because it’s just not good enough. My personality means I want everything perfect, so this feedback tore me apart.”

Finding the positives amid the negatives

Sheryl meditated, took a step back and looked for lessons in the experience. And then she saw that despite the spelling errors, the book wasn’t a total write-off. She received a lot of emails and messages from people all around the world showing her cupcakes they’d baked and thanking her for sharing so many recipes for happiness.

“Ultimately, what I learnt from this experience was that even though so much went wrong, it wasn’t that bad. And although there were a lot of problems, we had so many people from around the world sending in photos of their cupcakes thanking us for creating the book. At the time it felt like the end of the world, we’d just printed 1,000 cookbooks, which was a huge expense at the time, but it all worked in the end.”

See how Sheryl grew Cupcake Central from her kitchen bench to eight stores in just eight years in our Good Business Spotlight.

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