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Customer Spotlight: Cupcake Graphics

by Sara Duane | November 19, 2014

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About Cupcake Graphics

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, it was only a matter of time before Melissa Nini started her own business.  Though she first graduated with a degree in hospitality, she later discovered that her true passion was for graphic design. After returning to school to enhance her design skills, she started entertaining freelance clients for small business branding and marketing. Then a set of wedding stationery she created for her cousin was a huge hit, and before she knew it, Cupcake Graphics was born, a full service design studio specializing in custom wedding invitations and wedding stationery suites.

What made you decide to start Cupcake Graphics?

I come from a large family of entrepreneurs, so it was only a matter of time before my entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and I started my own business.  I truly found an art that I am passionate about and did not see any other option than to share it with the world.

Biz_CardWhat makes your business unique?

Graphic design is art with a purpose; a purpose to solve a problem or achieve an objective.  All graphic designers do this but with a different perspective and artistic flare, which adds to the distinctiveness of each one of our businesses.

However, it is also the experience that is provided to your clients that makes your business unique and, in turn, successful.   There is a reason why companies like Disney and Apple are so successful.  It’s the over-the-top experience they provide to their consumer.

At Cupcake Graphics we really take customer service to high levels.  Whether I am designing marketing collateral for a client or creating a complete invitation suite for a bride, the Cupcake Experience is always the same; enjoyable and personable.  Something as simple as texting a picture of a bride’s invitation shortly after completion with excitement in my message, speaks volumes to a bride and the experience she will share with her friends and family about working with Cupcake Graphics.

I am a strong believer if you have a great product, pair it with an exceptional experience and success will follow.

Calisist_Seating_ChartCan you describe the process of how Cupcake Graphics began?

I graduated college with a hospitality & tourism degree and worked in the hospitality industry throughout college and after graduating.   As you grow into your career, your interests change and I decided to lead a different path.

I soon found myself in a marketing and event-planning role at a local wealth management firm where I was delegated to manage all creative direction for all client and potential client events.  My interest in graphic design stemmed from this role.  I soon went back to school to better understand the graphic design software and began freelancing for startups and small businesses.

I somehow stumbled into the wedding industry when a close family member of mine approached me to design her wedding invitations.  She was interested in an invitation suite that was very detailed, but I took the challenge head on and together we designed an absolutely beautiful invitation suite for her big day.   It was so gratifying to know that I had designed something that was such an important part of her day and made her so happy.   The invitations went over so well, I then went on to design the rest of the event stationery for her wedding.

Soon enough friends, family and even strangers expressed their encouragement to pursue my talent further, so I did.  Additionally, the venue of which my cousin had her wedding at recognized my talent and signed me on as their preferred stationery vendor.  In just a year the company has grown to become the preferred event stationery vendor of six venues in Philadelphia/Central Jersey area.

Vintage_InvitationWhat do you like best about being a business owner? 

When I know my designs have contributed to the success of a marketing strategy, to the happiness of a bride on her wedding day or to the overall satisfaction of a host and their special event, it is absolutely rewarding.  That kind of fulfillment makes it feel like I’m not even working!  In addition, having full ability to manage the creative direction of the brand and make decisions on how to expand the business keeps my workaholic tendencies fulfilled.  My mind never stops and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What do you like least? 

I do have to say playing “accountant” is not enjoyable for me.  As a business owner you have to wear a lot of hats, and accounting is not my best fit!

Ruggirello_Seating_Chart

What advice would you give designers about going into business for themselves?

Network!  Get your name out there.  Develop a “power” team with professionals in your industry and refer each other regularly.

What is your best source of new customers? (Online, tradeshows, etc.)

The best kind of marketing, in my opinion, is testimonials; past clients spreading the word about their great experience with your company.  It doesn’t cost anything and your clients are out there speaking from experience.  Potential clients will act on testimonials, especially from those they trust.

Parisian Bridal ShowerWhat is your business’ greatest strength? What is your greatest business challenge? 

Communication is definitely our strength.  I take the time to understand my client’s needs and I communicate the status of the project often throughout the design process.  Understanding their needs also eliminates frequent revisions which allows for a faster design process, and let’s face it we live in a world where having things almost immediately is expected!

Speaking of fast, this can also be one of my biggest challenges.  There are a number of online stationery providers that offer up invitation and stationery templates that brides can choose from and purchase directly online, quickly.  I too could provide a product for the template bride, but it would take away from the Cupcake Experience.  My product is so custom that color swatches need to be seen, stocks need to be felt and conversations need to be had in order to deliver the high-end, quality product that I offer.  Although it takes a bit of time, it’s also what makes it all so fun and most importantly, personalized!

Who is your market?

Cupcake Graphics is a full graphic design company that services small businesses and special events so our market ranges.  Small companies that do not have an in-house graphic designer but see the value in professional designs in their marketing campaigns and every day collateral, would be an ideal client.  Newly engaged couples who are looking for a very personalized experience and quality product are a great match for us as well.  And last, but certainly not least, event coordinators or event planners that could utilize the service of a graphic designer for any kind of special event ranging from a corporate meeting to a formal gala.

Mercer_Oaks_Ad

What is your philosophy/mission?

Our mis­sion is to pro­vide inno­v­a­tive and taste­ful graphic designs, generating successful results and responses, com­pli­mented by an excep­tional client experience.

What are the main questions you ask to ensure your customers get the best final result?

I ask my engaged couples to describe, in a few descriptive words, what kind of genre they would describe their wedding.  I then take the time to learn about the couple personally and incorporate their personalities into their stationery suite.

For my small business clients, I tend to ask my clients what they absolutely do not want in their design.  This is a great way to avoid presenting something that is going to turn a client off completely.

Vintage_StationeryWhere do you draw your inspiration from? How do you keep the creative energy flowing?

My inspiration stems from so many different areas, but I do have to say Pinterest and Instagram are my best friends.  I check them regularly and my creative mind just wanders.  I am also VERY inspired by the Roaring 20’s era and anything vintage!

What is a tool that you wish you had, but don’t?

I would LOVE a high production printer in house.  However, these great machines take up a ton of room, not to mention time, to learn how to operate.  Both of which I both do not have too much of!  That’s why I love my trusty printer relationships.  One of them being Smartpress.com!!

How does social media play into your daily routine? Is there an average amount of time you spend on it daily? 

I would say about half of my client base stems from social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest so you can imagine why I spend about a ½ hour a day, if not more, allotted to creating good content to share.

Modern Bride

What books have you recently read? Which blogs do you read regularly?

BOOKS:

  • The Graphic Artists Guild – Ethical Guidelines; A fantastic book for those just entering the industry
  • The E-Myth – Why most small business don’t work
  • Steve Jobb’s book is next on my list!

BLOGS:

  • Smartpress of course!
  • Design Crawl
  • AIGA
  • Wedding Wire
  • The Knot

Do you do any form of marketing for Cupcake Graphics? If so what type(s)?

I attend the occasional bridal show for preferred partners but the majority of my marketing is done solely through social media, email marketing and referrals.

Keep in touch:

Website: www.cupcake-graphics.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CupcakeGraphics?ref=hl

Instagram: http://instagram.com/cupcake_graphics

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/cupcakegraphic/

Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CupcakeGraphics1?ref=hdr_shop_menu

Each month Smartpress.com features a talented artist, illustrator, photographer or graphic designer in our Customer Spotlight. If you are an interested in being featured in the Customer Spotlight, please email us at spotlight@smartpress.com to be considered.

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