Quick Q&A With V. Taybron

Necessity was the mother of (re)invention for V. Taybron, who borrowed a friend’s kitchen (and flour and sugar) to make cookies so she could sell them for cash to get the lights turned back on in her apartment. Six years later, she has a thriving mail-order baking business, had a flag flown in her honor at a military base in Iraq, and keeps her readers happy with a steady stream of original recipes. We spoke with her about starting over, how to know if your cupcakes are done, and why sprinkles are the easiest way to glam up dessert.

Q: You accidentally launched a global baking business. Can you tell us how it all started?
A: It wasn’t intentional at all. I was working at an advertising firm in Atlanta and just could not make ends meet. I had a degree and was getting paid almost nothing. I was splitting bills with a roommate, and when she moved out I didn’t know what to do. My electricity was cut off, so I called a friend and went to her house and used whatever she had in her pantry to bake something. I made cookies and bagged them up, then went to hair salons, malls, parking lots, and door-to-door to sell them. I made a couple hundred bucks and launched this baking career. It was an accident, but a happy accident.

Q: How did you decide what to bake?
A: It was based on what was in her kitchen. She had flour and eggs, so I knew we were just going to get cookies out of there. I looked around and thought, “Does she have sugar and cinnamon?” So I made snickerdoodles. But I’ve been cooking and baking my whole life. It started in the kitchen with my grandma where she made teacakes and things like that. So it’s always been a huge part of my family.

Q: How did the business evolve from that day in your friend’s apartment?
A: I was doing desserts locally in Atlanta for things like office parties, or people who needed cakes. And I had a newsletter that I distributed through MailChimp that I didn’t think anyone was reading. Honestly, it was more like a journal for me than anything else. I had even forgotten that the newsletters auto-posted to Twitter. Then someone from a military base in Iraq contacted me to tell me that people on the base had been reading the newsletters. He said, “’You really encourage my guys. We miss our families and our wives, and the way you write about sweet potato or red velvet cupcakes reminds us of home. Is there any way we could get some over here?” So they wrote up a contract and I shipped cupcakes to them. Ten days later I got a flag in the mail with a picture of them flying it in my honor in Iraq.

Q: How did you get the cupcakes there? Is that how the cupcake-in-a-jar was born?
A: Yes. I wasn’t sure myself how I could package them for shipment overseas. So I got some jars out and tried that. It worked.

Q: What are your top sellers?
A: The traditional red velvet. Everyone is obsessed with red velvet. And MC Grahammer is another big one, too. (Graham cracker cupcake with graham cracker crumbs, cheesecake filling, and cherry icing.) It’s a fun way of mixing it up and making it funky.

Q: You also have a lot of entrees and savory recipes on your site. How do you decide what to post for readers?
A: I’m really a whatever-way-the-wind blows person. It just depends on what I feel like having on any given day. Last night I wanted spaghetti and meatballs, so I made that. The most shared recipe on my site is the teriyaki lemon pepper chicken wings. I used to overthink it, and then I saw how popular that recipe was. People just wanted a hot wings recipe remixed a little bit. I was thinking too hard.

Q: You also sell really unique sprinkles on your website. Why do you love working with sprinkles?
A: Sprinkles are like make-up for dessert. You can use them to give a plain sheet cake a personality, or put some frosting on a cookie and add sprinkles to glam things up. Don’t overthink it. There’s no right or wrong way to use them to make something pretty.

Q: What’s your long-term dream for your business?
A: Everyone asks me if I want a bakery, but I really see myself owning a cupcake truck. I’m one of those people who likes to go places and see other things. So I would like to be mobile, and do pop-up events in every major city. I also would like to curate content for a food show. We’re working on that for YouTube, but I would love to develop it into something huge. That’s my big girl dream.

Q: What lessons do you think people can take away from your story?
A: I would say that it’s okay to not have it all figured out. I didn’t know how I was going to pay my electricity bill or feed myself. And because of that I had to really think and do something that could have been scary or embarrassing or humbling. It turned out to be the best thing for me. We’re all in life just winging it. And luckily I winged it the right way by taking the extra risk. Some of the hardest things end up being your biggest blessing.