By Andy Olin, contributor
⏰ 4-minute read
Liz Butts spent close to 10 years in finance for the oil and energy industry before her passion for cake decorating fueled the launch of Sprinkle Pop in early 2017. Butts, who began decorating cakes as a side job when she was 15, was unhappy with the limited options available among sprinkle mixes.
“As a cake decorator I used sprinkles, not all the time, but occasionally,” she says. “And I was really disappointed with the lack of assortment in the sprinkle market.”
Butts decided to create and sell her own colorful mixes. She began production with a single “sprinkle room” in her house, working on nights and weekends. Within a year, she expanded the operation to a warehouse and a team of “sprinkle fairies.”
Sprinkle Pop's designer sprinkle mixes dress up baked goods.
Cakers can choose from a large variety of sprinkle mixes that feature names like Unicorn, Rainbow Road, Sea Glass and Vintage Rose. They can pick from a number of sprinkle types (metallic, shaped confetti, edible glitters) and mix themes (wedding and bridal, baby shower). There are holiday-specific mixes for Hanukkah, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and more. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free mixes accommodate dietary restrictions.
Sprinkle Pop fills wholesale orders for baking supply stores and professional cake and cookie decorators as well as accommodating direct-to-baked-good-enthusiast purchases through its website. Butts’ mixes have been featured in pieces for the New York Times, NPR, Better Homes and Gardens and “Good Morning America.”
“While I didn’t invent the concept of a designer sprinkle mix, I certainly saw a void in the market,” Butts says. “And if I needed them, others did too.”
Liz Butts says that occasionally, potential customers assume her husband is Sprinkle Pop's founder.
Grow Wire: Can you talk about some of the biggest challenges you met in starting Sprinkle Pop?
Liz Butts: I think the hardest part was the crash course in entrepreneurship. I always like to say: You don’t know what you don’t know. I immediately needed to make myself an expert in customer service, sales, marketing, web design, social media ... everything. Taking the time to learn about these things helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses and begin to outsource tasks that I was less than stellar at handling.
The first thing I outsourced was PR. I hired a publicist to help me get my name out there to major publications and websites. After that, I outsourced advertising. Understanding Facebook’s algorithm is tricky, and I didn’t have the time to learn it. The last major hire I made was for a sales rep. Initially, I was looking for someone to just make cold calls for me. That position has morphed into a more traditional sales role.
I do keep social media pretty close to my heart. I have a director of marketing who handles all of our social media, but I’m directly involved with it on a daily basis, whether it’s strategy, content direction, and even content creation.
GW: What about challenges you faced once things were up and running?
LB: This is an easy question to answer: scaling! When a company is in growth mode, it’s so challenging to plan for inventory and hiring people while managing a tight cash flow. I really think it can make or break a company.
GW: Can you describe some obstacles you’ve encountered as an entrepreneur who is a woman?
LB: So, here’s a perfect example: My husband and I work trade shows together for Sprinkle Pop. The business is mine, but he’s super supportive, and he helps me when he can. On more than one occasion we’ve been at a trade show and we’re talking to a potential customer about setting up an account and they say, “I wanna talk to the boss man” — looking at my husband. Of course, that’s easy enough to correct, but there’s still some perception (primarily in an older generation) that women aren’t in charge.
I’ll admit, it makes me a little hot when someone says something like that. I take it personally, but I normally just politely interject myself and clear up the confusion. My husband is really good about stepping in and giving me credit as well. I know people don’t mean to come off the way they do.