Unlike most of the neon lights in Nashville tempting the thirsty, the sparkling sign hanging at the original Gigi’s Cupcakes located at 1816 Broadway, tantalizes the sweet-toothed instead. With a daily set list featuring eight inimitable cupcakes, the treats tease the taste buds with delicacies ranging from the chocolate lover’s Midnight Magic (whipped up from devil’s food cake and dark chocolate) to the Elvis fan’s Hunka Chunka Banana Love (topped with a banana buttercream frosting dipped in ganache).
Company founder Gina “Gigi” Butler recently introduced a new flavor, the Very Perry Chocolate Cherry, a collaborative cupcake created around the palate of award-winning group, The Band Perry. The latest item, boasting mariachi cherries folded inside a vanilla cupcake covered with heaps of chocolate frosting, marks the first time Gigi’s has created a celebrity-inspired cupcake. It’s available nationwide each Friday and Saturday throughout the month of April.
“I’m so honored because they’re such a great band,” Butler recently told CMT.com during a visit to CMT’s offices where she also spoke on a guest panel in observance of Women’s History Month. “I mean, they’re grounded. They’re faith based. They work hard. They’re great role models. They’re super talented. I would always like to brand myself with something like that. So, this is just a perfect fit.”
And perfect timing, too. On the heels of The Band Perry’s newly-released Pioneer album, the treat’s namesake is inspired by the album’s track, “I’m a Keeper” in which Kimberley Perry sings of changing her first name to Cherry.
“She mentions that she’s always wanted her name to be Cherry,” Butler said of the band’s song. “So, we took it back and we started working on it. We’re excited and it tastes amazing.”
Having recently celebrated her five-year anniversary of Gigi’s Cupcakes, Butler along with the help of her family and friends, has managed to expand her business to a total of 84 Gigi’s Cupcakes located in 23 different states. What’s more, she’s built up her online fan base, too, attracting over 100,000 visitors to her website each month.
“It’s amazing how God can take a broken life,” she said reflecting upon her career path.
She’s referring to a time when sweet success was the farthest thing from her lips. In 1995, Butler left her small Californian desert hometown with dreams of becoming a singer-songwriter in Music City. With little money, no place to live and jobless, she was determined to make it in the music industry. Starting her own cleaning business while also waiting tables at Red Lobster, Butler sang at the Lower Broadway honky-tonks at night.
“I walked on faith,” she recalled. “I would clean during the day and sing at Tootsie’s and the Stage and everywhere downtown [at night]. I mean, I sang everywhere … at every biker bar, old folks home. You name it, I sang it.”
However, the string of late nights and meager wages became wearisome, so Butler hung up those dreams and fell back on her cleaning company, expanding her business and learning about managing money and employees.
In 2007, she received a life-altering phone call from her brother who was visiting New York City. After observing dozens of people waiting in line for over two hours to buy a single cupcake, he suggested she should open a similar shop in Nashville.
Taking her family’s recipes, she incorporated the notes of her mother, great grandmothers and aunts who had also owned bakeries of their own. After being denied by several banks for a small business loan, Butler decided to withdraw $100,000 cash divided among four different credit cards to fund her risky new venture.
“I just did it,” she said. “I was so driven to do it.”
Having just $33 left in her checking account on opening day, she had only a week to pay her bills, her rent and her employees.
“I was scared to death!” she admitted. “I cried every night. I just cried in my bed like, ’God, what have I done? I’m $100,000 in debt. What am I going to do? What if people don’t come to my door?'”
Beginning before sunrise, she began baking. With the help of her mom, dad, family and friends, she opened shop in Nashville on Feb. 21, 2008. With only two employees and no advertising whatsoever, she met pedestrians on the street, asking them to try her cupcakes. Before long, a line had formed outside her door.
“Most people are just too scared to take the risk,” she said. “I think that’s why people get stagnant, and they’re not happy with their lives because they just want to be status quo. If you want to be successful, you have to jump out of the box. You have to.”
Butler went from financial debt and uncertainty to now owning a wildly-popular business with a long list of celebrity clientele, including Hollywood heavyweights like John Travolta and country royalty such as Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
“It’s taken a while, but country music has really embraced us, and I’m so blessed for that,” she said. “It’s such a nice thing and such a nice fit because I know so much about their life and their careers, and I really admire what they’ve done. They’ve always been role models to me in my country music career.
“But now that they’ve embraced my cupcakes, it’s just nice. I feel very blessed.”