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Web Followers Chase Curbside Cupcakes

  • June Soh

Customers line up to buy cupcakes after being alerted to the truck's arrival via Facebook and Twitter.

Customers line up to buy cupcakes after being alerted to the truck's arrival via Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook and Twitter help mobile cupcake business create a sensation among office workers

It's a sizzling summer day, with temperatures approaching 39 degrees Celsius. A brisk business is taking place with a long line on a curbside in downtown Washington, D.C.

Kristi Cunningham, and her employee Troy Clark, are busily selling cupcakes.

This eye-catching pink truck started appearing on the streets last November with a catch phrase "Bringing cupcake bliss right to your door". The idea for Curbside Cupcakes, as the business is called, started with co-owner Samuel Whitfield, who is also Kristi Cunningham's fiance.

"I was just sitting in the office one day with coworkers and we all wanted a cupcake," says Whitfield. "But nobody wanted to go all the way across the town to get one. So it just came into my mind, how about a cupcake truck."

So Whitfield, 32, quit his job as a contract attorney with a Washington law firm and got creative about financing his new venture.

"Credit cards, home equity, whole bunch of different venues or avenues, ways of financing that we did just to get the one truck off the ground," he says.

Working within a very small budget, Whitfield came up with an idea to connect with potential customers at a very low cost.

"Social media. So it is Facebook and Twitter," he says about turning to social media to inform customers of the truck's whereabouts on any given day. "We do have a Website as well. We link Facebook and Twitter, if you are used to that. And that is how theyfound out. It just grew by word of mouth and through those two venues." Curbside Cupcake's co-owner says he sells 1,000 cupcakes each day.

Curbside Cupcake's co-owner says he sells 1,000 cupcakes each day.

Whitfield says that Curbside Cupcakes has just passed its 12,000 Facebook fan mark. Judy Hathaway is one of them. She works at an office building right at this regular stop.

"Get the cupcakes once a week, yes. I am signed up. I have an email notification that they are on your way," says Hathaway. "They also send you a notification when they run out. They tell you all different stops where they are at."

Susan Waddell came down with a coworker. Her office is right across the street.

"This is my first time. My niece who works one of these buildings sent me a text message and said to come down."

Whitfield constantly updates Facebook on the truck's whereabouts and the cupcake flavors it still has left.

"We have four scheduled stops a day. After that, if we have any left over we have a thing called a 'wildcard' spot. People vote all across the city for us to come to their neighborhood."

Most days, Samuel says, 1,000 freshly baked cupcakes are all sold out by the fourth stop.

"There are some other places in DC that have decent ones, but they are actually really good," says Rodney Shaffer, a repeat customer.
"And plus they are local. You can come get them when they are near your office."

Kevin Murphy bought six to share at the office. Co-owner Samuel Whitfield says Curbside Cupcakes has just passed its 12,000 Facebook fan mark.

Co-owner Samuel Whitfield says Curbside Cupcakes has just passed its 12,000 Facebook fan mark.

"It is fun. I mean it is a little sweet treat for everybody pretty much."

Susan Wadell agrees. "It makes a very nice break in the afternoon and a sweet to perk up a day."

Whitfield does not think the recent popularity of cupcakes in the Washington area is just a passing craze.

"No, I don't think so. A lot of Americans, we grew up with cupcakes and it's something familiar. It's something fun," he says. "And it's something that, obviously, by the lines, the people coming down are very excited. They are very into it."

Whitfield is getting ready to roll his second truck onto the streets next month.

He's in a sweet situation and has never regretted quitting his career as a lawyer, not even once.

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