— -- Georgetown Cupcake founders and sisters Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis Berman opened their first brick-and-mortar bakery during the recession in 2008, when bank loans were near impossible to come by and maxing out credit cards and life savings was the only way to get their dream off the ground.
“When we started it was 2008, no banks were lending at all,” LaMontagne tells ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis. “They say that sometimes the best business ideas die in bank parking lots because if you don’t have the money, people keep telling you no, so we had to find a way to get to yes.”
Leaving their stable careers in finance and fashion behind to pursue their dreams of owning a bakery, the duo rolled up their sleeves and took on every expense they could, from painting the store walls to sleeping on couches for a year. Starting out with little capital and zero experience made the success story of Georgetown Cupcakes even more remarkable, and the sisters' story caught the nation’s attention when TLC aired their reality show, “DC Cupcakes,” from 2010 to 2013.
Now, there are six Georgetown Cupcake locations around the country and a TLC “cupcake cam” with 24/7 live feeds of their flagship DC bakery location. The sisters also are best-selling authors of "The Cupcake Diaries" and "Sweet Celebrations."
When the sisters sat down with Rebecca Jarvis for an episode of Real Biz with Rebecca Jarvis, they shared one of their secret ingredients to success: family.
“Being sisters has actually helped us, we don’t sort of tip-toe around each other,” said Berman. “If Sophie doesn’t like something she tells me to my face, she doesn’t sugar coat it. I think we’re able to make the best decisions for our company by just hashing it out.”
With only a year-and-a-half age difference between them, the Kallinis sisters were always close. They spent their afternoons baking with their Greek grandmother, who lived down the street from their Toronto house and taught them traditional Greek recipes from scratch. That family tradition has now carried on with their mother, who has stayed on as an employee since the store opened.
“It was just the two of us, and our mom came to help us for the weekend and she ended up never leaving,” Berman said.
Having their grandmother’s recipes and their mother’s support, combined with Sophie’s business background and Katherine’s creative background from fashion, made a company expansion possible. Their brand has also grown thanks to social media, and the bakery boasts over half a million Instagram and Twitter followers (who can reap benefits like snagging free cupcakes).
“I think that it’s important when you choose a business partner to make sure that your relationship can withstand it, and family businesses can go either way,” LaMontagne said. “There are going to be highs and lows in a business – nothing goes straight to heaven. It’s going to be a roller coaster.”
For more business insights from successful entrepreneurs, watch Real Biz with Rebecca Jarvis and follow Rebecca Jarvis on Facebook.com/rebeccajarvis for live interviews like this one.