Karie Romano was a busy mom to three young children when she began looking for a creative outlet.
She started baking and decorating cupcakes. In 2010, she and her husband, Jim, rented a commercial kitchen to bake the pint-sized treats for farmers markets.
Jim’s corporate job eventually came to a halt in the down economy, and the couple decided to make cupcakes their career.
“Since she was loving cupcakes, we decided to do it full time together,” he said.
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With their following from farmers markets, the couple-turned-business-partners decided to expand to a walk-in bakery. In 2012, they opened Wanna Cupcake? at 2102 East Main in Puyallup.
“It was a bit of a roller coaster at first,” Jim, 53, said. “Some days we would think, ‘Why didn’t we start this sooner?’, other days we would say, ‘Oh my gosh, what did we do?’”
Since then, Wanna Cupcake has expanded to offer full cakes in addition to cupcakes. When the Romanos started their business, it was just them and a part-time helper. Now they have 13 employees.
The Romanos say their bakery is the only craft bakery in the area. All of their cakes are made fresh daily from scratch. Whatever they don’t sell, they give to either the Puyallup Food Bank or the Tacoma Rescue Mission.
The bakery’s priority is to serve its customers well, and in doing so Jim and Karie realized they needed to expand their offerings to retain and grow their customer base. Many of their customers were asking for a spot to hang out and enjoy their cupcakes or other treats — something the current location is lacking.
In finding funding for their expansion, the Romanos have gotten creative. They’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign with a twist: donations come with a variety of rewards.
Pledge $5 or more and the donor will get a free cupcake. Pledge $15 or more and the donor will get a half dozen cupcakes. Pledge $175 and the Romanos will put a brick in the wall of their new location with the donor’s name on it.
“Every one of the options for donating gives a value back,” Jim said. “It’s a way for us to partner with the community, and to help people feel even more like family to us.”
Wanna Cupcake? will move five doors down from its current space into a location that will accommodate an expanded dessert menu, pastries and muffins, a full espresso bar, a drive-thru window and a spot to hang out.
The new space will be more than double in size compared to the current location.
While the Romanos say the bakery business — especially operating as small business owners — is tough, their customers make it worth it.
“It’s a rewarding career to interact with them,” the 41-year-old Karie said. “We’ve watched them go through milestones, from graduations to weddings to babies.”
As business partners, and a married couple of 18 years, the Romanos say their skills complement each other. Karie does the creative side by brainstorming new flavors and decorating, while Jim focuses on the more behind-the-scenes operations.
“We have a passion to serve and give back to the community,” Jim said.
To donate to the Romanos Kickstarter campaign, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/405055559/wanna-cupcake-expansion-project.