Life is sweet for eastern New Orleans businessman
6th August 2012 · 0 Comments
By Edmund W. Lewis
Scott Hunter is a businessman who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to step out on faith to get it. The owner of Sweets & Eats Famous Cupcakes took a major faith walk when he left the relative stability that comes with a career in journalism to start his own Internet-based company. He took another leap of faith when he returned to post-Katrina New Orleans in 2006 while the city and its residents were still reeling from the devastation caused by Mother Nature and faulty levees. And he took a third when he decided to launch a cupcake business in an area of the city that has yet to fully recover from Katrina.
But that’s just who Scott Hunter is and what he does.
No one who has sampled Hunter’s delectable offerings at Sweets & Eats would ever question his decision to throw caution to the wind and go for it.
After living in the Carrollton area until he was six, Scott Hunter and his family moved to eastern New Orleans, where he lived while attending McDonogh 35 and Eleanor McMain high schools before graduating from New Orleans Math and Science Academy. After high school, Hunter headed east to Atlanta’s Morehouse College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance.
After several stints as a reporter in Albany, Ga. and Charlotte, N.C., Hunter was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and found himself launching an Internet-based company that sold skin-care products.
He returned to the Crescent City in 2006, just a year after Hurricane Katrina and the Great Flood of 2005 devastated 80 percent of his hometown.
Hunter, an affable, inquisitive businessman who understands the importance of going the extra mile for his customers, says he became intrigued with the idea of selling cupcakes after watching his sister return from a trip to a neighboring parish with about $100 worth of cupcakes. A light bulb came on immediately, Hunter said..
Recognizing an opportunity to bring a little life to the eastern New Orleans business community while adding a little flavor to the palates of New Orleanians, Hunter set out to learn what it takes to make the ultimate cupcake, a quest that took three months to complete.
Since he admittedly doesn’t cook, Scott knew he was taking on a lot when he began to study the fine art of making cupcakes. Each lesson has brought him deeper into the craft and helped him to develop a newfound respect for baking. “I never knew there was a science to baking,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “I had no idea.”
The 31-year-old says he and his staff have spent countless hours critiquing recipes and experimenting with various flavors and textures. Some needed to be tweaked while others didn’t make the cut and won’t ever the the light of day in his shop.
In spite of the hard work and study that went into preparing to launch his cupcake business, Hunter still finds it hard to fathom how far he’s come in such a relatively small amount of time. “If someone had told me a year ago that I would know the ins and outs of making cupcakes I would not have believed it,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “Now I can make them with my eyes closed.”
Sweets & Eats Famous Cupcakes, 5951 Bullard Avenue, officially opened its doors in December 2011 and has been steadily gaining the attention, appreciation and admiration of a growing customer base that once had to drive to another parish or across the lake or river to find an extraordinary cupcake.
With nearly three dozen flavors of cupcake already on the menu and about a half-dozen different varieties available for sale on any given day, it’s difficult to choose a winner even among customer favorites like Red Velvet, Wedding Cake, Bananas Baby, Mama’s Sweet Potato and Sweet Praline, but Hunter clearly favors Mama’s Sweet Potato. The bakery also offers snowballs, pralines, brownies and customized cakes.
Hunter is preparing to unveil a new line of sugar-free items in a week or two but is adamant about getting the flavors just right before sharing them with his rapidly expanding customer base.
Sweets & Eats was preparing at press time to provide complimentary cupcakes to the congregation at Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church during its worship services on August 5. Hunter says he looks forward to hiring more people and finding more ways to bring smiles to the faces of those whose paths cross with his.
Hunter has some simple, straightforward advice for those thinking about starting a business. “Don’t jump in without a complete business plan,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. He explained that although he had a vision for his company and a general idea about what it would take to get there, he could have avoided some of the twists and surprise turns he encountered along the way if he had had a complete business plan.
He also advises potential entrepreneurs to be prepared to take on some unexpected challenges along the way, like hidden costs. To illustrate his point, he says that he was unaware of the hefty costs associated with paying a utility deposit for his business which obviously requires quite a bit of baking. While he expected to spend several hundred dollars for the utility deposit, he ended up paying several thousand dollars, something that could have easily derailed his plans if he had not had another source of income.
“When it comes to running a business, you have to always expect the unexpected and remember that the buck stops with you,” Hunter told The Louisiana Weekly. “If you don’t find a way to do it, it likely won’t get done.”
Above all else, Hunter relishes having a chance every day to engage customers in meaningful conversations and form friendships with them. It’s about having a place to commune with others, he says. “It’s about more than cupcakes, pralines or snowballs,” he said. “It’s about giving people a reason to smile and something to look forward to. Recapturing the joy and enthusiasm that Hurricane Katrina tried to take away from us as a community.
“The businesses that I appreciate are the ones where there is a real connection between the owners, the staff and the customers,” Hunter added. “That’s what I look for, that connection and that personal touch.”
For more information about Sweets & Eats Famous Cupcakes, visit www.sweetsandeatscupcakes.com.
Hunter said he does everything he can to ensure that his customers feel that same sense of connection to him and his staff and feel welcome to come into the shop and be themselves. He said that as he moves closer to Sweets & Eats’ first anniversary, he is especially proud to know that if you treat customers with kindness and respect they will return the favor. “I’ve heard some business owners say that some customers won’t consistently support businesses in their communities but that hasn’t been my experience,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “We’ve been blessed with great customers that keep coming back and not only buy our products but share important community resources and information with us. They’ve embraced Sweets & Eats and made us feel like part of the family. For that, I am very grateful and very proud.”
This article was originally published in the August 6, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper