Gigi’s Cupcakes started in Nashville, TN, six years ago and quickly spread into each of our SB sister cities and beyond. Today, with over 90 locations, Gigi’s Cupcakes is the largest cupcake company in America. Owner Gina Butler came to Nashville to see her name in lights through music, but found her success expressing her creativity in a different medium — food. When she opened her first shop, she had only $33 left in her bank account and hoped that her business would allow her to transition out of her occupation as a housekeeper. We think she’s done it! Each Gigi’s location offers unique cupcakes highlighting the local flavors of the community.
First off, with your name Gina, why is the company name Gigi’s Cupcakes?
My childhood nickname growing up was Gigi. I started my cleaning company at 15 years old, which was Gigi’s Cleaning company and I had it for 20 years. So when it came time to name my cupcake shop, naturally I wanted to name it Gigi’s Cupcakes.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Oklahoma, but I was raised on a little farm in Quartz Hill, California. I’d go back to Oklahoma to my grandparent’s farm and would spend summers there.
What prompted you to move to Nashville?
I moved to Nashville to follow my dreams as a country music artist. I packed up everything I owned and moved across the country to become the next big country
star. I didn’t know anyone in Nashville. I waited tables and had my cleaning business that I’d work during the day and then I’d sing on Broadway at night.
What inspired you to open Gigi’s Cupcakes?
After years of singing in bars, realizing that my dream wasn’t going to happen, I knew I needed a different plan. I took a step back from music and focused on my cleaning company that was going well; I had a few employees and it was a nice business. Then my brother called me after standing in a line at a cupcake bakery in New York while I was in the middle of cleaning a house. I picked up the phone to talk to him and he said that I should open a cupcake shop in Nashville. He knew that I love to bake and it’s one of my passions. “Your cupcakes are better than these,” he told me. I got off the phone with him and still had my cleaning gloves on, looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and decided to go for it. I’m not afraid to fail, I love to bake and I could find another career.
Do you have a favorite cupcake flavor?
Hunka Chunka Banana Love. This is a recipe that I’d make (banana nut bread) and deliver to all of my cleaning clients for Christmas gifts. I knew it was special and I needed to find a way to create it into a fabulous cupcake. It’s now one of our best sellers.
Aside from baking fabulous cupcakes, do you enjoy cooking any other dishes?
Yes, I love to entertain in general. I simply love to cook. I enjoy making casseroles, pies, candy, cakes, anything. I’m a southern cook and I love to cook big meals for
family and friends that will come over for Sunday supper — so a meat and three usually works best with lots of healthy vegetables and salad as well.
Do you have any tips for others who may be interested in culinary careers?
Culinary is an art and it’s all about going with your gut and different taste buds. Go with what your taste buds are and make it personal for you.
Are there any cooking mishaps or memorable kitchen experiences you’d like to share with our readers?
I had opened the first store on Broadway and I was thinking about franchising when I met with a potential franchisee. I was showing
them some of the recipes and how to make frosting in my big, 40 quart mixer. I turned on the mixer real fast and added powdered sugar. It went all over the entire
room and dusted me from head to toe in powdered sugar. It was hilarious. I just looked at them like, “and that’s how that’s done!” We all had a good laugh.
If you could choose another career, what would it be?
This may sound funny, but I would love to be a matchmaker – maybe the southern version of Patti Stanger. I love to set people up, so maybe a business where I’d cook for people, introduce them and make sure that the evening goes okay. They could enjoy my food while I’m making a potential love match. It could be a Meet, Meat and Three.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
To be myself. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. I tried to be somebody else while pursuing music and somebody came up to me and said, “Why are you trying to be somebody else on the stage? It’s not working. You’re not Martina McBride or Trisha Yearwood; just be you.” Once you’re authentic and genuine then you will shine in whatever role you need to play in life.
What’s your favorite way to relax and unwind?
Read the Bible, walk and enjoy the outdoors.
Out of all the places you’ve dined in the South, is any meal particularly memorable?
The vegetarian meal at Etch in Nashville is amazing. I’m not even a vegetarian, and it’s probably one of the best meals I ever put in my mouth. Park Café also has a great salmon dish. And, I had an amazing meal at the steakhouse at French Lick Resort, 1875 Steakhouse.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
What’s included in your list of travel essentials?
Baby powder, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, good moisturizer and eye cream, lip balm and at least 30 SPF sunscreen.
What books are you currently reading?
What are three things you can’t live without excluding faith, family, and friends?
Let’s make it five. My five “non-negotiables” that I can’t live without (other than my daughter) are the Bible, fruit, vegetables, water and sunscreen. Those five things I do not argue about. Read your Bible, eat your fruits and vegetables, drink your water and put on your sunscreen. That’s the makings of a good day.
Special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for her amazing photos that she graces us with time and time again. For more on Ashley, see: ashleyhylbert.com
To find out more about the fabulous people who live in the Middle Tennessee area, pick up a copy of Nashville Lifestyles. This month is their popular 25 Most Beautiful People edition which includes the fabulous Taylor Swift, local boutique owner Stacey Rhodes, Laura Lea Bryant and more: nashvillelifestyles.com