By Carol Traulsen
In 2005 Tina Miller and her four daughters came across an article about a cupcake bakery in Sunset magazine. It sparked an ongoing conversation about the kind of cupcake bakery they would have if they went into business. For months, conversations at the dinner table revolved around what their choice of wall color, décor, music, and menu would be. Now, their mother/daughter venture: Hello, Cupcake on Pacific Avenue is Tacoma’s premiere cupcake bakery. Their iconic pink boxes can be found in the hands of cupcake connoisseurs all over Tacoma. We sat down with them to find out the secret behind their success.
HHM: How long have you been in business?
Reina: “We opened shop in August of 2007 but I spent a year before that developing recipes and overseeing the construction and remodeling of our retail space.”
HHM: How did your dream become a reality?
Tina: “I saw an article in Sunset magazine about cupcakes and we just began talking about what we would do if we had a cupcake business. We talked about everything from color scheme, the tile on the floor, the menu, and the music we would play in the shop. Reina even started a notebook with all of the things we could do. This went on for a while and finally my other daughter was home on a break from med school and she just pushed us. She said she’d be home Labor Day weekend and we just need to do it. The ideal space opened up for rent and we just jumped in.”
Reina: “Baking has always been one of my passions. After reading a magazine article about a cupcake shop, I became excited about the idea of creating a beautiful shop and creating a quality product for people to enjoy. I love that I get to be a part of something that brings happiness to people every day.”
HHM: Why go into business with your daughter?
Tina: “We get along really well. The dream was the same for both of us. It was something we were both excited about. As time went on we realized we wanted to do it together.”
Reina: “My mom was equally excited about the idea of opening a cupcake bakery. We have similar tastes and interests so daydreaming about our shop became a favorite pastime. When presented the opportunity to turn the dream into a reality there was no question as to whether we should go into business together. We work well together and have had the same goals and vision for the shop since the beginning.”
HHM: When did you know you’d made it?
Tina: “I knew we were on to something when we sold out of cupcakes 90 minutes after we opened. But then you wonder how you’re going to keep the momentum up. When I realized this wasn’t something we could do just by ourselves that we need more people I knew we’d be successful.”
Reina: “ I am constantly surprised to hear from strangers that they know of and love our bakery. For me, I felt like we made it as a business when I realized we had become a destination in Tacoma. We would hear from customers that they had traveled from different cities just to visit our shop. It was also very validating and flattering to receive the Schoenfeld Award from Tacoma Chamber of Commerce for exemplary performance and pizzazz.”
HHM: What advice would give to women who want to into business?
Reina: “ I encourage everyone to follow their dream (starting a business or otherwise). Starting a business is intimidating, and you will encounter bumps along the way, but when you are passionate about something you’ll have an easier time finding solutions to those roadblocks.”
Tina: “Do it. It really helped Reina find her voice as a young adult. At first when we were dealing with getting permits and talking to contractors she would ask me what to say. She was just twenty at the time. As time went on she didn’t need me to tell her what to do when she was talking to them. They were all very respectful and they listened… it didn’t matter that she was young.”
HHM: If you could be any cupcake flavor what would it be?
Tina: “Carrot Cake. The recipe was one of our first, it’s been my family for a long time.”
Reina: “ That’s easy! Vanilla with chocolate buttercream. I like a classic flavor combination.”
HHM: What’s your best seller?
Tina: “Red Velvet. No question.”
Reina: “Definitely Red Velvet. it’s a mild chocolate cake topped with a smooth cream cheese frosting. I think the frosting is part of what makes it so popular. Our seasonal cookie dough is popular too. We’re looking into making that a regular on our menu.”
HHM: What did you learn about your relationship with your daughter?
Tina: “Reina dropped out of college to help me pursue this. She was very serious about it. I’m so proud of who she is as a person. She was the one who was testing recipes and fine tuning things. I was so impressed with her. We were in a good place to begin with, it just got better and we grew closer.”
HHM note: At this point her eyes welled with tears. I commented that she seemed very moved and very proud of her daughter.
Tina: “She’s just such a great person.”
Reina: “I consider myself lucky to be working with my mom because I know I can always count on her. For us the lines between work and family have blurred so those conversations are intertwined. But when you love what you’re doing it’s always fun to talk about it.”
HHM: Advice to women wanting to start a business?
Tina: “Go over details, make sure you’re on the same page. That’s for anyone who’s going into business with someone- whether it’s mother, daughter or not. It’s more important to have boundaries when it’s family.”
HHM: What’s your favorite/least favorite part of being a business owner?
Tina: “Feeling like I’ve made something that’s a treat for the senses. What people see, the music they hear, the cupcakes, we created that experience. It’s really nice to come in after hours and admire what we created. I love looking at the cupcake on the tile floor. It’s sort the symbol for all of this. The worst part is having to still take all of the dirty towels home to wash them!”
What’s clear is that this mother/daughter team pays attention to detail, and since the store has opened many changes have occurred. They’ve hired more employees, added flavors to the menu, and made some subtle décor changes. Reina has recently married and started a family of her own. She remains the store’s manager and handles the shops operations remotely. She and her mother still talk over every decision and visit in person when they can. They vacationed together in February. The love, admiration, and respect between them runs deep. For many families going into business together can ruin relationships. It’s made Tina and Reina’s bond stronger, even across the miles. They are smart, savvy, hardworking women who enjoy having a business that makes people smile. These two prove if you have a plan, a passion, and some resources good things will come to you. Having something sweet offer in exchange never hurts either.
You’ll Find Hello, Cupcake at
1740 Pacific Ave, Tacoma WA 98402