When Lori Karmel bought We Take the Cake, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, bakery with lackluster sales, she wasted no time turning it around. Her strategy: Amp up its image. Karmel kept the two original bakers, who knew the recipes, and hired a customer service rep to take orders so she could concentrate on marketing. She set out to add what she calls the "wow" factor. "We had very high-quality cake, but our image just didn't match," says Karmel, 41.
She brought in a cake designer to create eye-catching edible works of art. Now the cakes are shaped like everything from designer handbags to skateboards. "The design grabs people's attention," says Karmel. "Then they taste it and are hooked." She also redesigned everything--from the logo to the storefront to the packaging, switching from dated tins to trendy faux hatboxes--to instill a whimsical retro glamour.
Her strategy worked: Clients now include Dean & DeLuca, Neiman Marcus, the St. Regis Resort in Fort Lauderdale and Whole Foods. Five years after buying the business, sales have mushroomed from $170,000 to a projected $1 million this year.