I have a sweet tooth so when Flourgirls Cupcakes got in touch with me asking if I wanted to try out some of their cupcakes, I couldn’t say no. I have to be honest, I’m a bit of a cupcake snob. I love baking my own and I find a lot of bakery cupcakes are never quite as good as the ones I turn out – perhaps they’re too crumbly, the frosting is too oily, or they just aren’t flavourful enough. So I was thrilled when I received a small batch of cupcakes from Flourgirls and discovered that they were indeed delicious!
The varieties I tried were For The Love Of Chocolate – an incredibly rich all chocolate cupcake, Carmelita – a vanilla topped brown sugar cupcake with caramel hidden in the centre, Red Devil – a traditional red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting, and the Boston Cream cupcake – a vanilla cupcake filled with custard and stopped with chocolate buttercream.
I was excited to learn more about Flourgirls and their founder Susy Picanco. Susy started Flourgirls in 2007 after spending a few years in NYC studying at the French Culinary Institute. While at the institute, her love of food began to grow. Looking at the market around her and thinking about her own love of dessert, Susy decided that opening a cupcake business was the way to go. Here’s what Susy had to say about her journey.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Susy Picanco and I am the Chief Baking Officer of Flourgirls, a Sweets Studio specializing in cupcakes, cake pops, French Macarons and Occasion Cakes. I’m a creator and sweet visionary of all things sweet!
How long have you been in this business?
Flourgirls has been an evolving passion for me. I started Flourgirls back in 2005 just baking for friends and referrals, which then blossomed into me leaving my “day job” and giving Flourgirls 110% of my effort and making the leap to a physical store location in 2007. Looking back and seeing how everything has evolved I can’t believe it’s been 10 years already!
What do you find that women who lead all have in common?
I think women who lead are typically excellent multi-taskers. It amazes me how much you can have on the go all at the same time. I think women also have a lot of empathy in general which makes them great with people management whether your managing a large team or a team of 2 or 3. Time Management is probably another big one that comes to mind and goes hand in hand with being a great multi tasker.
People often wonder about the differences between men and woman who lead. What are your thoughts on that?
I’m not sure there is a difference between the way a man leads vs how a woman leads. When I first started my career in Marketing I was fortunate to be mentored by a gentleman who was empathetic and really took time to teach me the do’s and dont’s as I began working in the industry. I don’t think that leading is gender specific, I’ve met great male leaders and have met great women leaders, I’ve also met bad ones in both categories. As you work and grow, I believe you gather a skill set and also learn from leaders around you.
How have you overcome gender roadblocks in your career?
I’m not sure that I’ve encountered gender roadblocks as much as I’ve learned to not apologize for things that I once thought would be considered things that are looked down upon. For example. I started my business before I had my daughter, when she was 11 months old, I opened my first store. People thought I was crazy but I did my best to balance my passion for my business as well as my passion for being a great mom. I learned that there are times when she comes first and I have to put things on the back burner and that’s ok. I don’t have to apologize for that.
Have you ever had any surprising moments in your career that stemmed from the fact that you’re a woman?
I don’t think I could pinpoint a specific moment but I have had many a time where I have been approached by other women seeking advice on their own businesses or even other areas in their life and it’s a wonderful feeling when someone lets you know that you have made a difference in how they’ve approached something or that you’ve helped them take another step towards a goal because you’ve inspired them in some way. It’s wonderful to me when someone takes the time to tell you that someone you’ve said or done has inspired them or touched them in some way.
What is your advice to women who want to kick ass in the business world?
Wow, great question! I think the first thing is passion. When you are passionate about what you do, everyone feels it. Have you ever gone into a store and there just a great energy about it, that stems from the owner, right down to the employees. Keep your chin up, it’s not easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it but eventually you get to a place where you look around and notice that all your hard work is paying off and the journey was all worth it.
Who are some of your role models?
In my direct circle my role models would be my Mom, Grandmother and Godmother, all amazing women who have worked hard and rock the kitchen!! I have so many fond memories of baking with my mom and Grandmother, my Godmother always had something amazing baking in the oven. Celebrity Role model would be Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), I love her cookbooks and shows and her love for food, friends and family and most importantly entertaining is me. She seems like she would be nicest person to have at a dinner party don’t you think? Las but not least, Julia Child, one if the first books I owned was Mastering the Art of French Cooking, it’s like the bible for the kitchen and I think she had people look at food in a whole new way.
What are some of the shining moments you’ve had with your business?
I still remember the day I left my full time job to focus on flourgirls. I was scared but really felt if i didn’t try I would always wonder what if. I was featured in an article in a website (which no longer exists) called sweetspot.ca, that day literally changed my life. I remember the phone ringing off the hook and emails coming in by the hundreds and I thought, wow, the universe is saluting my decision. From then on, I worked hard to move things to the next level and I think the next big moment was when I opened the door to my little bakery. Many people thought I was crazy and said it would never work and here I am 10 years later and loving it.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
Flourgirls has been an evolving business and i think we will continue to evolve. I’ve seen a shift from a day to day retail scenario to more of an events model where we are doing more things like weddings, corporate events and collaborating with other fabulous women on creating sweet tables that are as beautiful as they are delicious. With fabulous staff at my side, I would like flourgirls to continue to grow as a brand and extend our reach well beyond the GTA.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The beauty of my work is that it’s possible that two days are never the same. I spend a lot of time in our Sweets Studio, it’s important to me to be a part of the store and mentor my staff as well as engage with customers. I love that quiet time before we open (between 8am-10am), I review emails that may have come in through the evening/night, go over projects, deliverables for the day and assist staff with to-do lists for items for the day or week. Photos are also a biggie for me. It’s such an important part of what we do so i try to take photos daily of what’s going on and interact with our followers on social media. End of day is spent planning once again and looking ahead.
What was your first job out of school?
I was so excited when I landed a job as a Project Coordinator. I have a bit of an obsession with lists and keeping things organized so it seems like the perfect fit for me. A few weeks into the job, I knew I had found a job that fit me well, working with many different personalities and organizing projects in the community.
What are the 3 skills required to do your job well?
Great time management and multitasking go hand in hand. There are a lot of things going on at the same time and you need to be on top of things. Customer Focused is also an important one. Our customers are amazing, I have customers that have been coming to us for years. I like to think that we build a relationship that grows with many of our customers. It’s amazing when we’ve done someone’s wedding, then their baby shower, 1st Birthday etc, etc. It’s almost like our extended flourgirls family.
What do you love most about your career?
I love getting to do what I love everyday! Not everyone gets to do that. I crave that interaction with my staff, clients. Having this career allows me the freedom to be there for my daughter in a way that I may not have been able to if i was still commuting to the city daily. I’m still amazed when I walk through the doors of flourgirls and look around and think, I built this with the help of so many amazing people by my side!
If you could try a different career, what would it be and why?
Ok don’t laugh but I have two answers for this one. The first would be an Event Planner. I have a crazy love of planning parties, dinners, anything really. I think with all the experience i’ve gained, and all that i’ve seen in doing so many weddings and events, that’s probably someone that would be a natural fit. What’s the other one you ask? My secret obsession…..photography. Every photo on our walls at home are either a photo that we’ve taken or a photo we are in. There’s such emotion and connection when you look at photo and you can connect with the exact moment in time that you took a photo. So Photographer would probably be my other one – another people loving career – see do you spot a pattern here?cupcakes, Female Business Owners, kickin ass and takin names, Kickin Ass Takin Names, kirthan aujlay