Ugonna Ezuma-Igwe | Managing Editor
Cupcake Craze by Azaria is owned by Azaria Woods. A rising junior at UNC Chapel Hill from Kannapolis, NC. Cupcake Craze by Azaria specializes in personalized homemade desserts. Azaria makes a variety of desserts for a variety of events, including birthdays, holidays, gifts, etc. Azaria’s menu includes cupcakes, cakepops, dipped delicacies, seasonal desserts, and more.
NM: Why did you start your business?
CCA: I have always had a passion for art, and as I got older I discovered my love of [and] talent for baking.
NM: When did you start your business and What inspired you to start your business?
CCA: I began Cupcake Craze by Azaria in 2012. I started by selling treats at school, and my first official sale was at a market with my mom while she was selling books (she decided to share her booth with me). From there, I began taking orders for personalized cupcakes, and the next summer I learned about cakepops and added them to my menu. Now, most of my orders are for cake pops. I turned my hobby into a business because I wanted more independence and to reduce my financial burden on my parents.
NM: Have you found it challenging to be a woman and a business owner? If so, what challenges have you had?
CCA: I can’t recall any challenges I’ve had regarding my business and gender, but the main source of challenges for me is being an involved student at a challenging university and a businesswoman. Baking and being a student at UNC has been difficult mainly because of time constraints. I also work as an RA and dance, so my schedule can get pretty hectic. Most times my customers are respectful of the fact that I have a life outside of this job, but some can be less understanding when it comes to my timetable and my inability to make an order for them.
NM: What did you do to overcome the challenges you’ve faced?
CCA: In regards to the scheduling issue, I make sure that I plan time for all my responsibilities, including myself. In regards to the challenges with my customers, I have tried to make sure the guidelines for the timeline of ordering are very visible on my order page. I hate to have to tell people no, but in order to respect the boundaries I’ve set for myself to succeed in all areas of my life, I have to. A big realization I came to was that I’ll never be able to please everyone in all I do, so I just have to prioritize myself.
NM: What inspires you to keep going?
CCA: My family is definitely what keeps me going. Everything I do is for them, especially my little brother and cousins because I want to be someone they can look up to and come to for help with anything. I just want to make the people that have invested in me and I love the most proud, and being able to do that by doing something I love is extremely fun. Additionally, my parents have always pushed me to have a strong work ethic, and due to that I take a lot of pride in my work and hope to be one of the best at what I do someday.
NM: What did it take to start your business?
CCA: It took a lot of intrinsic motivation for me, as an 11 year old, to stay up late or wake up early to work on orders, but definitely the main factor in Cupcake Craze’s success is the support of my family and friends. What really makes a business grow and thrive is the support team around it. I work hard, but I recognize and appreciate the contributions that my family has made to support me, be it financially, physically, or just by reposting my work to show their friends what I’ve made.
NM: Where would you like to take your business?
CCA: While I’m in school, I’d just like to continue taking small orders and improving my skills. Eventually (once I have established my career as an athletic therapist), I would love to open a small storefront, if provided the opportunity.
NM: What was the most challenging part of starting your business?
CCA: The most challenging part of starting my business was learning how to run a business. Luckily when I was starting I had my parents to help me navigate everything. I had no clue about pricing or managing a business or advertising or anything. They helped me out a lot by working with me to set a price list, organizing/managing inventory, setting up the facebook page, managing money, making schedules, and connecting me with resources and examples to look at to improve my quality and efficiency. Now that I’ve been doing this for 7 years, I’m pretty independent with all of these things, but sometimes I’ll either ask them or do some research to see what I can be doing better.
NM: What sets you apart from other business?
CCA: I feel like my creativity and customer service set me apart from other businesses. No matter how an exchange with a customer goes, I want them to feel like they had an interaction with a genuine and virtuous person; so I do my best to accommodate everyone’s needs (financially, design-wise, explaining things and how they work). Especially since most of my customers have not met me before, I do my best to show my personality in the messages to make them feel more comfortable with me and the order, since ultimately they have to trust me with their vision, the delivery, and most importantly, their money. As far as creativity goes, I just really love the looks on peoples’ faces when I give them their orders and they’re so shocked at how their vision translated through me to the cakepops (or whatever it is they ordered). No two orders from me will ever be exactly the same, and that’s really cool to me because it feels like everything is personalized.
NM: Where do you draw inspiration from?
CCA: My inspiration comes from a lot of different places. Sometimes some people will message me pictures or ideas that they like for their orders. Sometimes I’ll see something on instagram or pinterest that I either want to remake or redesign in my own image. Then a lot of the times I’ll see something that I want to make in cake pop or cookie form and just go for it until I feel satisfied with what I’ve come up with.
NM: What was most surprising to you about starting your own business?
CCA: I was honestly surprised by the amount of support I got. I knew my parents and friends would support me however they could, but I have done a lot of orders for people outside of my family who found out about me through word- of-mouth. I don’t think I ever expected this much support, especially from parents at Carolina (the majority of my customers at this point), who had never heard of/met me. I definitely underestimated the power of word-of- mouth.
NM: What business achievement are you most proud of?
CCA: Something I’m extremely proud of is my growth as a person, businesswoman, and artist throughout the process of cultivating a business. Especially with ADD, being able to balance baking with school, dance, and my on-campus job has been a challenge and can be overwhelming during busy times, like holidays or midterms, but I have managed it all well. Actually my first semester of taking a high volume of orders at UNC, I had the highest semester GPA at that point, so I think the chaos gives me some sort of stability that helps I guess.
NM: What’s your favorite part about owning your own business?
CCA: Aside from gaining some financial independence at a young age, I really love the creativity aspect of what I do. I feel like my favorite/best orders are when customers give me freedom to do what I feel is best in terms of design. It really allows me to be as creative as I want to be within the scope of what my customer wants, so the experimentation and research process of deciding a design is a lot of fun for me.
NM: What do you wish you had known before starting a business?
CCA: You will have to make sacrifices, but they will be worth it. Also balance is extremely important if you have a business and are in school/working/etc, so know how to set boundaries and say no.
NM: What can we expect to see from you?
CCA: I hope to continue my trend of constant growth. By the end of the year I want to expand my flavor options and improve my specialty decorating skills on cookies and cake pops.
Work hard, learn from others who are where you want to be, be willing to make sacrifices to be great
Cupcake Craze by Azaria can be found on Facebook: Cupcake Craze by Azaria and Instagram: @cupcakecrazebyazaria. Below are images of the work of Azaria Woods