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How Trophy Cupcakes Found its Sweet Spot in the Pandemic

June 9, 2021 - by Brooke Wilson

How Trophy Cupcakes Found its Sweet Spot in the Pandemic

If Jennifer Shea has discovered any affirmations about life over the past year, one might be that sugary treats are still the connective piece that bond friends, coworkers and families with something worth savoring.

Her boutique cupcake bakery, Trophy Cupcakes, emerged as a pioneering business in 2007 in partnership with her husband Michael, Trophy’s Director of Technology. With several locations from Wallingford Center to Woodinville, Bellevue residents can fuel their sugar fix with heavenly desserts at Café Trophy in The Bravern shopping center.

Naturally, her sweet tooth fueled her childhood passion for 4-H baking competitions while family recipes honed her knack in the kitchen with the guidance of aunts and grandmas. When she started college, her curiosity about different ingredients, farming, and food psychology found answers through a degree in nutrition and dietetics. Years later, upon discovering a niche cupcake market in New York on a trip with friends, her culinary interests crystallized into the sugar-plum vision that would become the Trophy Cupcakes franchise.

Her unique treats and shop interior are a complementary pair; pastel shades flecked with glitter curate an experience designed to satisfy both the stomach and craving for an Instagram-worthy aesthetic.

Over the years, her inventory has expanded from classic cupcakes to include other confections like macarons, pastries and cakes featuring themed flavors and decoration. Champagne, party favors, and other festive baubles are also stocked in color-coordinated displays.

Even as the pandemic brought rough tides for independent businesses, Jennifer and her team sailed into the unknown armed with creative ambition and the spirit of possibility.

Fundraisers, charity benefits and other donation drives have long been part of Trophy Cupcake's business practice and culture. Now, regular partnerships with local nonprofits like Mary’s PlaceSeattle Children’s Hospital, and UW Medical Centers translated into aide for first responders against the virus.

Through her ecommerce site, Jennifer launched a Pay it Forward purchase option where customers could fund these donations, which the bakery pledged to match by the dozen. Within the first four days, her inbox was flooded with orders for more than 20,000 cupcakes. To compete with increasing demand, she hired additional drivers to facilitate an in-house delivery service and help retain her talented baking staff. 

Since COVID-19 struck, the word “pivot” is near inescapable when talking about how businesses have reoriented focus - and Trophy Cupcakes is no exception. 

Vacuum-sealed technology paired with a customizable concept for DIY cupcake kits hatched an idea to ship bundles of sweetness around the country - with online baking advice and free shipping to boot!

In spite of the virus, leaning into philanthropy and flexible models for reaching customers proved essential in realizing the mission Jennifer set out when she first drafted her business plan: to spread joy, and seize the ordinary moments as an opportunity for celebration and connection – a sentiment echoed globally in the age of coronavirus. 

For the Latest: 20% of proceeds from each Pride treat purchase goes directly to @SeattlePride to further its year-round advocacy and allyship efforts in the greater Seattle community.

Out & About: Visit Trophy Cupcakes on wheels at Marymoor Park during its outdoor movie series, currently running through August. 

Keep an Eye Out for: Exclusive blueberry cupcakes rolled out for the month of July, developed in a special seasonal collaboration with the WA Blueberry Commission. FYI - Washington State is the highest blueberry-producing state in the nation!

This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.