Our first taste of success was the result of an accidental encounter and a mutual gesture of goodwill on an airplane.
After meeting an employee at Harpo Studios on a flight, a customer of ours was given tickets to a filming of Oprah’s show, and she repaid that kindness by sending her newfound friend one of our key lime Bundt cakes.
The employee then placed her own order and raved about our product when we followed up with a phone call, so we did what any quick-thinking, Oprah-watching, inexperienced new business person would do – we asked about being on the annual “Oprah’s Favorite Things” episode.
It took a while and several rounds of elimination to hear back, and we weren’t particularly surprised when we received a call with a quiet, “The Bundt cake is a no,” on the other end of the line.
However, we were very surprised to realize we had misheard, and the Bundt cake was actually a go.
Mixing it up
We tried to prepare, but that’s difficult when you’re not entirely sure what you’re preparing for – would we be able to keep up with the number of orders? Call volume? Web traffic? We took precautions such as getting another oven and checking with our IT consultant, and felt relatively confident about what would come next.
However, the immediate flood of calls and online orders was overwhelming and astounding – our three phone lines rang non-stop, our voicemail box filled up every 45 seconds, and our website crashed after 800 orders in 4 hours.
We found ourselves dealing with unexpected logistical problems like being kicked off of our server due to the unending traffic, realizing our cooking space was insufficient, and discovering there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
And we learned a lot. Trial and error was our greatest teacher at this time, and there were a lot of trials and a lot of errors as we found our sweet spot as a business and brand.
Rise to the top
Our newfound success enabled us to buy more equipment and space, and to take chances with placement and products that would have been too big of a risk before. Our appearance on Oprah’s Favorite Things led to partnerships with companies like Whole Foods, Neiman Marcus, Williams-Sonoma, Dean and Deluca, and FoodyDirect.
We appeared on a CNBC primetime special called “The Oprah Effect” which ran for over a year, and ironically, was also shown where it all started – in-flight on airplanes. We’ve also been on Good Morning America’s Steals and Deals multiple times, several Food Network shows, Oprah Magazine’s “O List” more than once, and InStyle magazine twice.
And aside from that initial serendipitous encounter, becoming one of Oprah’s favorite cakes all began by just asking: by taking a chance and putting the idea out there – and hanging on for the ride of whatever came next, while learning from the bumps, breakdowns, and detours along the way. So take it from us: if you’re a business owner with a great idea and a big leap ahead of you, make the jump. It’s so worth it!