Building A Popular Local Pound Cake Into A National Product

Taking A Local Pound Cake National

While there are many wonderful thing to say about a cake – delicious, beautiful and perhaps even inventive or creative – it is rarely described as innovative. There are only so many ways to bake a cake – and while some elements can be varied and swapped, at the end of the day, there are only so many “innovations” one can add before the cake is no longer a cake.

But Janie Clapp has nonetheless earned a reputation as a rather innovative baker – not so much for what she makes as for how wide an audience her baked goods have managed to find over the last 37 or so years. People in all 50 states order Clapp’s pound cakes (and other assorted baked goods), despite the fact that she has never operated a physical bakery outside her home base of Tyler, Texas.

And, she noted in an interview, her first bakery was also her home – though she did upgrade to the second floor of a relative’s antiques shop shortly after wrapping up her first year of business in 1981. That actually turned out to be a worse arrangement than operating out of her garage, she noted, as she had to bake and assemble cakes (some of which were multi-tiered, artistically frosted confectionery works of art) and then carefully carry them down a winding staircase, through the crowded antiques shop and out to her delivery van.

A small business loan and a few location upgrades later, Janie’s Cakes was a success – but, in fact, more of a success than its founder wanted, as she was spending all of her nights and weekends creating cakes.

And so Janie’s Cakes underwent another pivot, streamlining its product line to consist of pound cakes of all kinds, based on a treasured family recipe.

But pound cakes were only half of the pivot, according to Clapp. The other half was the realization that it was time to think bigger than Tyler, Texas as the company’s potential audience. So in her first year of the great pound cake push, Clapp also figured out how to reliably and smoothly ship pound cakes to all 50 states. She also started advertising, using much of the same low-tech, word-of-mouth strategies that got her started in Texas. Clapp also started mailing postcards to far-flung friends and family, encouraging them to spread the good word about her pound cakes.

To this day, shipping those pound cakes remains the business’ major challenge. FedEx has been their go-to partnership solution since they first started shipping, and the shipper has been reliably getting the cakes from point A to point B – no matter where point B happens to be.

But packaging delicate baked goods in material that is durable, insulated and – most importantly – relatively inexpensive? In the nearly 25 years that Janie’s Cakes has been shipping cakes nationwide, that has never gotten any easier – and is always a bit of a moving target.

“We’re constantly reinventing the wheel to ship a perishable item in the least expensive, most effective way,” Clapp’s daughter and business partner Katherine Crow noted in an interview.

The business’ efforts at spreading the word have also increased in complexity and sophistication over time. Clapp, for example, has been a regular fixture on the cable home shopping network QVC over the years – and for a really appetizing Instagram feed, we can’t commend their efforts enough.

But, according to Clapp, despite all the high-profile and higher-tech upgrades they’ve made over the years, their best marketing channel is still their first marketing channel: word of mouth.

And, she noted, it helps that at the end of the day, a good cake is a good cake. And they always deliver a good cake, on time, ready to eat.

“We’ve been around a long time, and we really make everything here from scratch,” Clapp said. “We’re the real deal.”