When Laura Lee’s grandmother suffered a stroke six and a half years ago, she and her family decided to thank the nurses and the doctors for their services in a sweet way.
“We decided to make something special, so my family came up with the idea of making cupcakes,” Lee said. “Cupcakes are the best way to please everybody.”
Lee is the creator of Cake Heavenly, an online pastry shop she manages with her team of four family members on Facebook.
“We combine our ideas to make the pastries tasty, fresh and fluffy,” Lee said. “We actually combined our secret ingredient with my grandmother’s, because she’s a baker too.”
The idea to open an online business came to her a year ago. Friends kept telling Lee to sell her pastries.
“I did it as a fun thing, something like a ‘thank you’ and it took off just like that,” she said. “I knew baking was my calling card.”
Having an online business has its pros and cons, just like having an offline one does. Eileen Fischer, a marketing professor at York University, said online businesses can reach a wider range audience, but it’s difficult to provide them with the same level of service. Physical businesses have their own strengths and weaknesses.
“Having a physical business means you can interact with customers, learn about their tastes and deal personally with complaints when they do happen,” Fischer said. “The cons are that it’s hard to offer a wide range of products, and the reach of a physical location is limited geographically.”
Lee is currently planning the next way to upgrade her pastry business and says she is hoping to open a physical shop in a year, but it’s a very risky move.
“Right now the online business is doing so well, it’s booming. We want to see how well it’s going to take in about a year from now,” Lee said. “Opening a store may be good for three weeks, but then you don’t know what can happen. For now we are discussing it.”
It is difficult to determine which is better: the online shopping experience or the in-person one, since much depends on what the consumer prefers.
“Some people really like to shop online to save time or to maximize choice, others prefer to touch merchandise, and there are those who shop online and offline equally,” Fischer said. “So I don’t think you can draw a generalization that people in general are more drawn to online shops.”
Lee is pleased with the way her online business is going.
“With an online business you don’t have to rush,” Lee said. “You can take your time and make it better.”