The BBB Is More Than Just Reviews; It Helped Alisha Graham Build Her KC BusinessDavid Cawthon
Alisha Graham started her business within weeks of moving across the country to Kansas City. But the idea of Cupcake Joy had been in the works for years. It just took the right encouragement and connections to get Alisha’s venture fully baked. Here’s how she made it happen with the help of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City.
Out of the kitchen and into the business world
Alisha enjoyed working in finance, but she thought baking was fun. So fun, in fact, that she decided to take a class or two — first at arts and craft store Michael’s and then at her local community college.
“I intended to take a couple of classes to get my feet wet and figure this thing out,” Alisha says. “I enjoyed going and enjoyed the seminars and instruction, so I ended up finishing the program. From there, I thought, ‘OK, I understand how to bake. Now the next step is what do I do with it?’”
For more than 18 years, Alisha put her expertise to work baking for friends and family as a side hustle. Her dream of baking full time stayed on the back burner until her husband’s job moved the family from Georgia to Kansas City in September 2021. Then, things got serious.
“Once I came to Kansas, I had a great opportunity to partner with the Better Business Bureau and interact with some great people over there,” Alisha says.
Upon learning about her dream of starting her own baking business, BBB president and CEO Marvin Carolina asked Alisha, “What’s stopping you?”
It was a good question — and one that finance-minded Alisha answered with, “I want to do it the right way, and I want it to be in order.”
Fortunately, the BBB was just the organization to help.
Cooking up a business entity and registration
Alisha worked with the BBB to create a business entity and get her business registered in both Kansas and Missouri. But before she worked with them, Alisha had no idea the BBB offered these services.
“When most people look at the BBB, they think that’s where you go to complain. That’s what I thought they did, too,” she says. “But they explained to me that it’s more than that. Their goal is to work with businesses so people aren’t complaining, to build solid businesses that people want to shop at and be a part of. It’s another way to build a community.”
Richard Williams is a business services representative at BBB who worked with Alisha. He stresses that much of what they do is listen.
“We talk to business owners about their needs and match them with the resources they need or guide them in the right direction, whether it’s a new entrepreneur looking to start a business or a seasoned business owner who needs help to take their business to the next level,” Richard says.
While each situation is different, learning about each entrepreneur’s unique goals and figuring out how to help them get there is key to every relationship. With Alisha, it was about creating her vision with the right foundation.
“I had the opportunity to work with Alisha on her goals and ambitions,” Richard says. “We talked about her business entity and brought in an expert in the industry. We talked to her about her vision for her company and what her needs were and we provided resources and suggestions to help. We try to help people connect the dots.”
A nuts-and-bolts person, Alisha had a clear idea of how she wanted to move forward — and she made that happen.
“Some people say they want help, but they won’t do the work — but she would do the work,” Richard says. “Opportunity is when preparation meets what’s happening. And when that occurs, bam! You’re ready.”
Business prep and making the small-business numbers work
Thanks to guidance from the BBB and its resources, Alisha’s business became a reality — on paper, at least. But soon, her networking paid off. Cupcake Joy, her catering-style bakery, had its first order on Oct. 15, 2021 — about six weeks after she moved to Kansas City.
But as Richard mentioned, that opportunity worked out because Alisha was prepared.
“It came down to writing a business plan, doing analysis on the product and figuring out what you need to produce the product and what that cost looks like and how much you’re going to charge for that product,” she says. “You need to know how much you’re charging and make sure you’re not overpriced. The people at BBB asked those questions. ‘Do you have a business plan? Have you looked at other bakeries similar to yours? Have you accounted not for product and supplies but also your employment?’”
Alisha was ready. Now, she’s creating cakes, cupcakes and desserts for events, parties and food trucks. In addition to getting her own food truck, Alisha hopes to become the go-to for to-die-for desserts.
“I want to be able to supply small businesses — serving real estate agents at open houses, not just typical birthdays or weddings,” she says. “I want to be the household name that when you have an event, that’s the company you want there to make it special.”
That special touch is the foundation of Cupcake Joy.
“I want to put something out in the world to give other people joy; that’s where the name Cupcake Joy comes from,” Alisha says. “It’s been my desire to share that with others. Now, I have the opportunity to do something that I’d always dreamed of.”
Guidance for new KC entrepreneurs
The opportunity to start her own business hasn’t been without its scary moments.
“We all have things we’re good at and enjoy, things we’d do even if someone wasn’t paying us,” Alisha says. “That’s the hard part and the scary part of starting a business. Producing the product is the easy part. The scary part is taking the step to actually become a business and market yourself.”
Alisha has faced those challenges head-on. She encourages other entrepreneurs to do the same.
“I would tell them don’t be afraid to try,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to do something that people around you might not support or agree with, but you have this feeling within you that this is something you want to do. Find the energy to do it. Don’t feel like you’re alone.”
Alisha also stresses the importance of finding the right guidance.
“I was blessed to come into contact with people who were willing to help me and point me in the right direction,” she says. “I know that the Kansas City BBB supports new businesses, and you can start with them. They may not have all the answers, but they give you solid organizations to partner with. Starting a business may seem overwhelming, but it’s a lot easier than you think it is.”
More help for Kansas City-area business owners
The Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City is just one of the organizations in the KC metro focused on helping entrepreneurs meet their goals. Find more with KCSourceLink’s Resource Navigator, our searchable database that can help you connect with more than 200 organizations.
Not sure where to start? We’ve got your back. KCSourceLink’s Network Navigators can create a free Personal Action Plan to help you get where you want to go. Just provide a little information about your venture, and we’ll craft a custom to-do list to get you off on the right foot. And did we mention it’s free?
You can reach Alicia Graham at Cupcake Joy at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram at CupcakeJoy.us and follow her on Twitter at CupcakeJoy_us.