Cupcakes With A Cause
Lori Schneider, founder and CCO (chief cupcake officer) of The Cupcake bar, is brightening the lives of children in need, one customized cupcake at a time.
If you ask lori Schneider why she loves her job, the Austin entrepreneur might wax poetic about her deep love for baking or tell you about the time she visited the Culinary institute of America while working for sandwich chain Schlotzsky’s, or share how, while growing up, she dreamed about slipping into the sugary world of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. But probe a little further and the founder and chief cupcake officer of The Cupcake bar, her 9-year-old startup, will likely describe in detail what it feels like to hand a child a uniquely decorated cupcake he or she designed themselves.
“If I can give a cupcake to a child who maybe has a lot of things going on in their life, things that a child should never have to go through, and, for a second, they can just be a kid and not have to think about things they shouldn’t have to, that’s where it’s at for me,” Schneider says.
Since The Cupcake Bar’s early beginnings in 2007, Schneider has made it a priority to give back to the Austin community, focusing her support on organizations specializing in children’s needs. She works regularly with SafePlace, a resource for those who’ve experienced sexual assault or domestic violence; Austin Child Guidance Center, which provides mental-health services to children; and Urban Roots, a youth-development organization that teaches kids life skills through agriculture.
“I have a child, a 5-year-old, and just hearing about different kids’ needs, it gets me at my heartstrings,” Schneider says. “I find as I’m getting older that I tend to gravitate toward those [causes].”
The Cupcake Bar doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location, which is kind of the whole point. Schneider’s business methodology is built on catering to the customers where they’re most comfortable, be that setting up shop for an at-home birthday party or adding a fun, colorful addition to a baby shower. With the help of her dedicated employees, fondly referred to as “cupcake bartenders,” those with a sweet tooth get to customize their own cupcakes by handpicking the filling, icing and toppings. Schneider’s favorite creation is a vanilla cupcake with whipped-cream filling, salted- caramel buttercream icing and confetti sprinkles.
The demand she’s seen for her personalized cupcakes, Schneider confides, often brings her to corners of Austin that need a little brightening.
Charitable donations are given on a case-by-case scenario, whether that means catering a gala with hundreds in attendance or a more intimate event where The Cupcake Bar team gets to interact one on one with at-risk children.
“There are so many different organizations here, and you kind of want to spread the love,” Schneider says, reasoning that it’s hard to pick just one nonprofit to work with. “I’ve found that my common ground is helping children, and from there, it’s ‘How do we spread the love?’ ”
Schneider says developing long- term relationships and connections with her clientele is incredibly valuable, but she makes it a priority to consistently reach out to new organizations. If she could give one piece of advice to likeminded business owners looking to build philanthropic connections, it would be to never underestimate the power of giving time.
“Have a starting intention,” Schneider suggests. “You don’t have to do everything. Maybe you can’t donate actual resources, but you can give time. Any little thing helps.”
At the moment, she and her team are currently baking up a new development called The Cupcake Squad. As Schneider describes it, the concept will be a sweeter, more youthful take on Meals on Wheels, through which she and her squad will surprise groups of kids with cupcakes. The idea is inspired and modeled after the nonprofit Happy Birthdays, a program that gives out birthday boxes filled with fun goodies to foster and homeless children in Central Texas.
On a personal level, Schneider is continuously inspired by the charitable impact of jewelry designer Kendra Scott, who, similar to herself, is a major contributor to Austin’s philanthropic community.
Giving back is easy when you have a job that lets you do what you love, Schneider says, noting that passion is the key element to establishing success as an entrepreneur.
“[Your work] should be something that you’re going to have fun doing,” she says. “When you’re really passionate about [your job], it makes it so much easier to give back. I don’t expect anything. I genuinely want to help.”
Photo by CThompson Photography.