Franchisors

The Friends Turning Bundt Cake into Big Business

The Friends Turning Bundt Cake into Big Business

Dena Tripp and Debbie Shwetz of Nothing Bundt Cakes

Image credit: Alex Hoerner
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This story appears in the June 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Behold the bundt cake, the ring-shaped dessert that enjoyed a brief golden age in the 1960s -- before becoming a staple of potlucks and afternoons with Grandma. But then, in 1997, Dena Tripp brought a Bundt cake to her friend Debbie Shwetz’s house. “I asked her why she hadn’t used my cream-cheese-and-butter  frosting, and she said she couldn’t figure out how to frost the cake,” Shwetz says. “We started talking about how one could decorate a Bundt cake, and the idea for the business was born.” The next year, the duo opened their first Nothing Bundt Cakes bakery in Las Vegas, serving up flavors like cinnamon swirl, chocolate chocolate chip and pecan praline. It was a local success, and the duo began franchising in 2007. Now the company has 164 units across the U.S., with another 40 cooking for 2016.

Bundt cakes! How did you make them cool again?

Tripp: What we wanted to do is find an item that could set us apart. We wanted something super-desirable in flavor and texture. That’s not how Bundt cakes typically come across. They’re dense and somewhat dry. We knew that, and we said, “Let’s do the opposite.” 

What’s different about your cakes? 

Shwetz: We offer full-size 10-inch cakes; eight-inch cakes; small cakes called bundt­lets, which are single-serving, like a cupcake; and bundtinis, which are bite-size cakes. People stop in to get a treat for themselves or for a party, or even funerals.

Tripp:  Our brand is not really a bakery. We’re a retail bakery. We consider our products to be part of a gifting concept and as a treat. There are not a lot of brands that work both sides of that angle.

You started franchising right before the recession. How’d that go? 

Shwetz: It was not a great time to start franchising, and funding was almost nonexistent. But in 2010 Craig Moore, the former president and CEO of the CiCi’s pizza franchise, asked us about becoming a franchisee. He ended up buying part of the company. That was huge. We’ve opened most of our franchises since then.

OK, so what’s the most popular cake?

Tripp: The chocolate chocolate chip. It was our very first, the one with my cake and Debbie’s frosting so many years ago. In the beginning, we didn’t think our cake would change people’s lives at all. But we have had some of the most loyal guests you can imagine. We laugh, because it’s just cake!  

Edition: December 2016

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