Secret Business Admirer Helps Family-Run Cupcake Bakery
By Annemarie Burton
It was a typical Friday morning at Mockingbird Cupcakes, a specialty cupcake bakery in west Omaha run by twin sisters Sarah Alsup and Rachael Henderson. The smell of baking cupcakes wafted through the air, mixers whirred in the kitchen, and freshly frosted cupcakes glistened through the glass display.
Then something unexpected happened at the bakery.
Three men walked into the bakery and presented co-owner Alsup with a gift bag containing a child-size t-shirt. On the front was a stick drawing her five-year-old son Christopher had made. On the back was a digitally transformed version of his drawing: a cupcake creature wearing an apron with the Mockingbird Cupcakes logo on it.
“To see my youngest son’s artwork displayed on a t-shirt moved me almost instantly to tears,” Alsup said.
One of the men identified himself as Joseph Kenney, of 316 Marketplace, a marketing company that connects faith-based consumers with like-minded businesses. Kenney explained that he and his team had been providing free marketing services to Mockingbird Cupcakes for a year without notifying them. They believed their work had generated several thousand dollars for the company.
“I was overcome with emotion,” Alsup recalled later. “I walked over to Joe to give him a hug, thanking him for his generosity. Tears rolled down my cheeks.”
During regular visits to the bakery, Kenney sampled many cupcakes, which he highly recommends. “You can tell they use real ingredients,” he said. “No box mixes here.”
Kenney also observed the sisters’ “unwavering work ethic and Christ-like mentality” when interacting with the public, their employees and each other. “They are Christ-centered people who are wonderful but unafraid to show their imperfections,” he said. “They’re real people. And so are their cupcakes.”
When he heard the bakery was struggling to build its customer base in a saturated market, he wanted to help.
“316 is dedicated to revealing the unique character attributes of faith-driven businesses in the community,” Kenney said. “We are also committed to using our resources, when manageable, to provide services to those businesses who need a little helping hand. Often we do this unsolicited and we never meet.”
Secretly 316 Marketplace expanded Mockingbird Cupcakes’ digital presence online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and online reviews. They included the company in their online directories, which are valued at over $1,000, to drive more customers to the small local business.
Alsup and Henderson started to notice positive reviews on their social media accounts. “Conversations about Mockingbird were taking place in the digital sphere,” Alsup said, “and we couldn’t identify the catalyst of this welcomed publicity!”
The dream of operating their own bakery came true when the two stay-at-home-moms opened Mockingbird Cupcakes in 2013. They specialize in made-from-scratch cupcakes, cakes and pies and also offer catering and decorating parties. Their diverse menu, posted on their website, includes cupcakes called Breakfast in Bed, Razzamataz, Pink Bubbly, and Tequila Mockingbird, as well as seasonal flavors like Pumpkin Pie.
While savoring an Almond Sweetie cupcake one day, Kenney saw Christopher’s stick drawing hanging on the menu board and snapped a picture of it with his phone. That’s when he got the idea to collaborate with Creatureland Studio, a local design company that transforms children’s artwork into imaginative digital prints, and reveal his secret marketing work to Alsup and Henderson.
Using the photo, Martin Bruckner, owner of Creatureland Studio, created the cupcake character, calling it a “mustachioed, attitude-filled little pastry.” In addition to the t-shirt, Bruckner presented the sisters with a framed copy of the character print and a certificate of authenticity.
“Both women were so very gracious and thankful,” Bruckner said. “It was truly a priceless experience for me, and I felt that I had instantly gained two friends that will last a lifetime.”
Aaron Kessler, photographer and owner of Candlefire Films, was also invited to this supportive gathering of local businesses. Candlefire Films produces feature-length films and offers video and photography services for Omaha businesses. Kessler photographed the encounter at no cost and was impressed by the “Omaha spirit of collaboration” he witnessed.
“Both Creatureland and 316 sell these services to keep their businesses running,” Kessler said, “but for Mockingbird Cupcakes, they offered them completely for free, touching the hearts of owners Sarah and Rachael.”
Creatureland Studio and Candlefire Films have both worked with 316 Marketplace to enhance their marketing strategies, but this time they were the ones paying it forward for this unique bakery in Omaha.
“The generosity of both Joe and Marty to do this for someone they don’t even know is phenomenal,” Alsup said. “The experience was truly magical. I truly believe the Holy Spirit was present in our exchange.”
Henderson also expressed gratitude for Kenney and his “almost unbelievable acts of kindness” that have helped them realize their dream. She said she appreciates the small business collaboration shown by 316 Marketplace, Creatureland Studio and Candlefire Films.
“Meeting Joe, Marty and Aaron made us feel a part of something,” Henderson said. “A club of entrepreneurs who only want each other to succeed. This feeling makes coming in at 6:00 a.m. to bake the cupcakes easier.”
We encourage everyone in the #Omaha area to prayerfully consider stopping in to the bakery for a cupcake. Don’t forget to introduce yourself to Sarah and Rachael. You won’t be disappointed. You will be treated with dignity and respect. They make incredible cupcakes!
Bakery Address: 17306 Lakeside Hills Plaza, Omaha, NE 68130