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Sisters build baking empire ‘the old-fashioned way’

Introducing Carolyne McIntyre Jackson and Jodi Willoughby, cofounders of Crave Cupcakes, a Calgary-based chain of bakeries specializing in ‘sweet indulgences from scratch.’

This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That? We've asked readers on our LinkedIn group to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories. Their answers are edited.

Introducing Carolyne McIntyre Jackson and Jodi Willoughby, cofounders of Crave Cupcakes, a Calgary-based chain of bakeries specializing in 'sweet indulgences from scratch.'

Let's start with the basics. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and where you operate?

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Jodi: My sister Carolyne and I opened our original location in September 2004, in the area of Kensington in Calgary, Alta. We have expanded to six locations: four in Calgary, one in Edmonton and one in Saskatoon.

We are a business of 'from scratch' bakeries focused on classic homestyle baking that includes cupcakes, cakes, cookies, squares and pies. We are passionate about baking from scratch – everything in our bakeries is made from scratch including the caramel in our icing to freshly squeezing lemons for the juice in our lemon curd. We are obsessed with creating the best from scratch baking you have ever tasted. We tinker with recipes until they are the best we can make them. We strive for each customer to have the best experience possible and to leave our bakeries with exactly what they came looking for.

2. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and to branch out on your own with this idea?

Carolyne grew up baking in the kitchen on our farm in High River. At the time we opened, baking from scratch was almost a lost art and we felt there were a lot of average baked goods on the market. We wanted to bring our farm values of hard work and baking from scratch to Calgarians and create baking that was worth eating every time.

3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?

We have all types of customers - teenagers stopping in after school, businessmen and women taking baking to meetings, moms and dads picking up baked goods to take to take to school or to celebrate birthdays.

When we first started, there was no Twitter or Facebook or Instagram – the word got out the old-fashioned way – by word of mouth. In the beginning we sponsored a lot of great local events, we would talk to people about the product and people ate our cupcakes. Word of mouth spread and we got busier and busier.

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Now, we have a very active social media presence and continue to sponsor community events.

4. What are the roles of you and your co-founder in the business?

We are sisters and we love what we do. We bring a lot of passion and love of baking to the business. When we first started out, we did everything from baking the cupcakes to serving the customers, there is not a job in the bakery that we both have not done.

We bring different strengths to the business and over the last nine years our roles have evolved to Carolyne being the primary visionary focused on operations and growth and myself bringing a passion for people and I focus my time on the people that work for us and work to create an environment to make Crave a great place to work.

Do you have any employees?

We have around 75 employees.

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5. You've been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?

We have a true passion for what we do. We obsess over creating the best-baked goods possible. We love what we do, we love the bakery business and we are fortunate to have surrounded ourselves with very creative and like-minded people to work alongside us.

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