Julie Herrera-Lemler is one entrepreneur who just gets things done. By day, she’s a project assistant at a local construction firm. By night (and during the very early mornings), she’s the owner and sole operator of You Betcha Cupcake!, creating homemade, “Minnesota nice” cupcakes since 2009. Blended in amongst all of this, Herrera-Lemler is also a Field Editor for Taste of Home magazine, a baking instructor, Election Judge, Vice President of a local chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction, wedding officiant, public speaker, recipe writer, wife, and mother.
Herrera-Lemler developed a love for baking almost ten years ago and is completely self-taught.
“I didn’t go to school [for baking]. But, I had a passion for it. When you have a passion for something and you just love it, you will watch every video, every food channel, every YouTube video, everything until you get it to the way you want it,” she explained.
She started out baking cupcakes and selling them for charity in her own front yard during Rochester’s city-wide garage sales one summer. The next year, her cupcakes raised triple the amount, even attracting repeat customers. People asked her if she ever considered opening up a baking business, the cupcakes were in such demand.
“I thought, well, I don’t know. It’s just for fun,” she explained.
If she did want to launch her own cupcake business, Herrera-Lemler knew she could teach herself the baking portion. However, she was nervous about actually turning her baking into a company.
She spent the next few years researching how to start a business in Minnesota and took a six-week course with SCORE in Rochester, a free network of professional business mentors and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“They teach you everything, from start to finish,” Herrera-Lemler said.
SCORE helped her find financial and legal experts, although at that time not much food mentorship was available through the local program.
“There’s no book that says this is how you start a cupcake business. It’s really trial and error. Lots of phone calls [with the Department of Health],” she explained.
After the SCORE training, Herrera-Lemler began purchasing supplies for her cupcake business little by little to avoid taking out loans.
“And then I just decided that I was going to start it,” she said.
Locating a commercial kitchen space, especially one with availability in the evenings, was actually the largest hurdle Herrera-Lemler faced in launching You Betcha Cupcake!
“That took the longest. All the other stuff was falling into place and I was just kind of sitting at home waiting for a kitchen,” she explained.
After visiting seven or eight different spaces, a friend of Herrera-Lemler suggested a kitchen space within a local church, which ended up being the perfect fit.
“I approached them with a box of cupcakes and said, ‘Will you lease to me?’ It just all worked out,” she explained.
Since that time, You Betcha Cupcake! has been crafting over twenty-five different kinds of cupcakes for individuals, corporations, and large events.
In the beginning stages of the business Herrera-Lemler said the growth was slow; she had to learn how to network and position the business well on social media.
“I knew how to do a little [social media]. I needed to learn how to do a lot,” she laughed.
Nine years later, Herrera-Lemler and her cupcakes continue to satisfy the sweet tooth of Rochester residents. With the many hats she wears, Herrera-Lemler credits three key points to successfully running a side business for this length of time: support, organization, and prioritization.
Her whole family is on board with the business. Her sons even help to carry cupcakes into wedding receptions and hold doors for guests, with her youngest requesting payment in Legos for his services. Her full-time employer has also been extremely supportive of her company. She’s also had key mentors throughout the process.
To help allocate time to the things she’s truly passionate about, Herrera-Lemler made a list of all the activities she does and decided “which side of the page they need to be on.” She said this is useful to evaluate the passion level to start a business. This exercise also helped to drive activities that she was not as excited about to the back of the list, including groups and endeavors that others wanted her to be involved with more than she did.
“You could use the time you spend on that group reaching that top goal that you want,” she affirmed.