{Book Review} From Scratch – A Business Story


Imagine being at University and all business theory books and lectures were peppered with interesting real world examples like cupcakes! I probably would have gotten a better grade than a C+ in my business Foreign Trade Policy* class that’s for sure.

Supply and demand, economics and the elasticity of goods would have been much more interesting when talking about baked goods, instead of pinching yourself to stay awake listening to the most monotone economics professor on campus. Technical Analysis would have been bearable when analyzing the trend, floor and ceiling of listed bakeries like Crumbs.

I was recently sent a copy of the book From Scratch: A Business Story to review. It’s a short 60 page book about the journey of Carolyne McIntyre Jackson and Jodi Willoughby as they take their family recipes, two counter top mixers, a pizza oven and open Crave Cookies and Cupcakes in Calgary, Canada. In seven years the sisters now have seven stores in three cities.

I found the book to be highly enjoyable and easy to read due to its non technical nature. The book does not get bogged down in too many details (like elasticity mentioned above). It instead brushes on a few broad business topics, like supply & demand, competition, and market saturation, that would be important to consider when opening a new small business.

The book touches on the reality of owning your own business, which I think is something that might be overlooked in traditional business material. The hours that need to be put in, how to balance family life and how it can also be emotional. To quote Carolyn, “there’s no such thing as work-life balance”. Carolyn and Jodie clearly portrayed the important message – Focusing on your business, your product, moving ahead and differentiating your business from your competitors throughout the book.

Crave Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I think of starting a business the first two things that come to my mind are business plan and capital. The book mentions them both but lacks depth on this subject. I also would have liked to see a few visuals or statistics to tie the story together. Carolyne and Jodi have built 7 stores but I didn’t get a feel of economically how they achieved this. I’m sure figures need to be kept confidential but a chart or graph showing how many cupcakes they sold year on year would have been interesting. That might just be me being a finance nerd working with figures and charts every day!

This book is short, sweet and enjoyable for anyone interested in cupcakes and requires no prior business knowledge. It would be great for anyone interested in opening a small business (without a business background) or someone off to college to study business.

This is the first book in Craig and Steve’s business series and besides from reading the book I was hugely interested in why they wanted to focus their first business book on cupcakes. They were kind enough to answer a few questions for me:

Kelly: What made you choose cupcakes as a topic for your business book? Why did you gravitate towards Crave in particular?

Craig: We thought cupcakes shops would make a good subject for a book because it’s a young industry filled with vibrant personalities, delicious products and resonates with a broad group of people. We also thought it’s an interesting business because people can open a bakery because they love to bake, but are impacted by numerous business issues, such as supply costs that we tried to capture in the cocoa crisis chapter, that they might not be less prepared to deal with.

We approached Crave to be the subject of our first book because they had an amazing story: two sisters raised on a farm who love to bake, plunge into business and grow from one shop to seven in as many years. They also started in 2004, which we discovered from our research on the industry, was the beginning of the rise of cupcakeries. As one of the industry’s pioneers it made the story even more intriguing. And I have to admit, they’re a bit famous around here and make an amazing cupcake.

Kelly: What were the reactions over at Crave when you approached them about writing a business book about their cupcakes?

Craig: Jodi and Carolyne were flattered and a little surprised at first. Once we explained the concept and how we wanted to incorporate their story into a business book, they were excited and very generous with the time they took answering all of our questions.

Kelly: Most important as this is a cupcake blog. Do you like cupcakes?

Craig: Love ’em. They’re the muffin’s cooler older sibling and I’d probably eat them for breakfast from time to time if I still had my old metabolism.

Kelly: Have you tasted Crave? If so, what do you think and what is your favorite cupcake flavor?

Craig: Yes, we have both tried Crave’s cupcakes. We even had a chance to sample some of their test baking when we stopped by their office for an interview session. The cupcakes are delectable, light and moist with generous amounts of icing. From their standard menu, my (Craig’s) favorite is the Nutty Over Chocolate. Steve’s favorite is the Red Velvet Elvis because cream cheese icing makes everything a little more delicious.

Thank you Craig and Steve for a copy of the book to review and answering a few questions! From Scratch – A business story is only $2.99/£1.98 and available for Kindle US and UK. I also have a Crave recipe that I’ve baked up! I only wish I were going to be in Calgary so I could try a Crave cupcake!

*I may have gotten a C+ in Foreign Trade Policy but I did get an A in Managerial Accounting and an A in Financial Accounting

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