David Arrick became Mr. Cupcake not out of a desire to bake or an affinity for frosting but "out of anger and frustration." It was fall 2008, and he'd lost his job as a Manhattan real estate attorney, his home in New Jersey, and a huge portion of his savings. He'd also just turned 40. At this low moment Arrick walked by a certain venerable bakery—a familiar stop on Sex and the City bus tours—in his West Village neighborhood and saw a line of women around the block. "Freaking cupcakes," he thought. "What if I made them manly?"
Arrick wrote up a business plan and used the $10,000 in his 401(k) to launch Butch Bakery in late 2009. He hired a bakery consultant (Janice Kollar, winner of the Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown), rented a commercial kitchen by the shift, and brought on a publicist. Arrick spent $2,000 to develop a website to sell his masculine cupcakes, and, working out of his apartment, scoured the Internet for employees and supplies. Orders trickled in through word of mouth, mostly from the fashion world—which, somewhat inexplicably, has long been a booster of the cupcake trade. Then, in February, Arrick was featured on the e-mail newsletter DailyCandy. "After that," he says, "everything changed."
In the months since, he's signed a book deal with Wiley (JW.A), ginned up interest in a reality show, and appeared on TV with Rachael Ray. JLo's people even called about an order for Marc Anthony's birthday earlier this year. Arrick now employs a truck driver—"I only hired people laid off during the recession," he says—and four bakers who churn out 300 to 400 cupcakes a week in 12 manly flavors (which include whiskey, rum, and beer), starting at $17.50 for four. Most weeks, Arrick says he sells out.
For now, all the money goes back into the business. Eventually he wants to open up a storefront that he hopes to finance from the reality show, which has production support from the company behind Pros vs. Joes. "So much is happening, but I still have zero money," he says. "I was prepared to fail when I started this. Now people come up to me on the street and call me Cupcake Dude. Cupcake Dude! Are you kidding me?"
COOKING UP A PROFIT
— Orders per hour after a Daily Candy article headlined "Buttercream Bromance": 1,000
— Weekly cost of liquor (whiskey, rum) that goes in the cupcakes; the chocolate is $200: $250
— Customers that are women; at least 80% say they're buying for men: 95%
— Television appearances made by Arrick, including The Rachael Ray Show: 25
Data: Butch Bakery