Business Profile Three young mothers take their successful sweets business to downtown Solvang
By their own admission, Tracy Angel, Claudia Contreras, and Shannyn Tupper tend to go a little cupcake crazy when it comes to their children’s birthday parties. Sometimes, however, crazy is a good thing — especially when it leads to a thriving business.
Angel, Contreras, and Tupper are the owners of Valley Sweets, purveyor of fresh-baked cupcakes, gourmet marshmallows, and old-fashioned whoopie pies. The business, which began as a delivery-only enterprise, recently opened a storefront inside The Olive House on Mission Drive in Solvang.
“People asked us to do parties and events, and we realized we could make a business of it,” said Tupper. With flavors like toasted coconut, banana split, and almond guava, the cupcakes at Valley Sweets are not your average baked goods.
All three women grew up in Santa Barbara but moved to the Valley to raise their families in the small, hometown atmosphere. That sense of community is part of what drives their business.
“The cupcakes are baked fresh daily, and they’re only $2.50 each,” said Tupper. “We wanted to keep the price low so a mom could come in with her kids and get treats for them and still have a few dollars left over.”
The women bake the cupcakes themselves in a commercial kitchen in Buellton and use local ingredients whenever possible. Carrots and berries come from the farmer’s market, for example, and apples from Apple Lane Farm.
They feature two flavors every day during the week — one chocolate-based and the other vanilla — and four on the weekends. On Friday and Saturday they also have cocktail flavors, such as the Vaquero Margarita, which features tequila in the butter cream frosting. Among the other cocktail flavors are cosmopolitan, lemon drop, mint mojito, and piña colada, all of which contain real alcohol.
Valley Sweets has its own Facebook page, and every morning it is updated with the cupcake flavor of the day. One recent day’s offerings included Mommy’s Break Mocha — a chocolate espresso cupcake with espresso butter cream topped with a chocolate covered coffee bean — and Snickerdoodle — a cinnamon vanilla cupcake with vanilla butter cream sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
In addition to the storefront, Valley Sweets also caters events such as birthday parties, graduation celebrations, baby showers, and weddings. The Cupcake Party in a Box, perfect for a birthday party, includes one dozen unfrosted chocolate or vanilla cupcakes along with six piping bags filled with butter cream, and six containers of sprinkles.
For larger events, Valley Sweets offers a cupcake bar, complete with cupcake-tenders. The cupcake bar features a complete selection of cupcakes, butter creams, and toppings. Cupcake-tenders help guests create their own individual treats. Angel, Contreras, and Tupper also offer candy buffets with jars of old-fashioned candy and their gourmet marshmallows in flavors ranging from cherry and chocolate to sweet caramel and vanilla bean.
The business is a group venture in every sense of the word. They all participate in the baking, and all spend time running the store, but individually they bring varying and valuable expertise. Contreras, whose family owns Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant, handles the administrative side; Angel serves as the marketing and creative director; and Tupper, an experienced event planner, coordinates the catering activities.
Just as they support one another, they also make a point of supporting other women in the Valley by providing a retail space for some of their products. Among these are handmade note cards, jewelry, and even Superman capes. “It’s a way to maintain that sense of community,” Angel said.
Over time, Angel, Contreras, and Tupper hope to grow Valley Sweets but still maintain the hometown feel. They aren’t inclined to expand beyond cupcakes, marshmallows, and whoopie pies, Tupper noted, but they do plan to create a one-stop birthday shop complete with party invitations, thank-you cards, candles, and even party hats, plates, and napkins.
Add in the Cracker Jack, wax lips, taffy sheets, and hula hoops, and the party is ready to begin!
INFO: Valley Sweets is located at 1661 Mission Drive (inside The Olive House) in Solvang. Phone: 805-686-0200. Event catering, children’s birthday parties, and party cupcake bars with “cupcake-tenders” available. swyvalleysweets.com. See their Facebook page, too.