Crystal Ball

NOTE: This post was written in February 2011, following the Cupcake Clash with Duff Goldman.

"Blogging about Cupcakes, Milwaukee
and the Quest to Bring the Two Together"

That is what is says along the top of my blog. In March of 2007, when I started blogging about cupcakes; the east and west coasts were beginning the cupcake boom. Chicago had 2 shops. Milwaukee, well, we had nothing. Nothing even CLOSE to the cute and edgy cupcake shops that served those awesome hand held treats.

It was less than 3 years ago that I walked into the now closed Fratello’s Waterfront Restaurant in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. Little did I know that a few afternoon cocktails and a heavy dose of smack talk would turn into what has now become IronCupcake. IC is going strong in 17 cities in 3 countries. One would have had to have lived under a rock for the last 6 weeks to not know that the first IronCupcake, here in Milwaukee, had the biggest event of its life this past weekend.

What a lot of you do not know is that all of the Iron Cupcake’s are run by cupcake lovers on a volunteer basis. We all have day jobs, responsibilities, a life. Iron Cupcake is organized in our free time. Milwaukee’s is no different. What started as less than a dozen folks in a bar has ballooned to nearly 500 per month and more than 2,000 people in attendance this past weekend. If you have ever planned a party, a wedding, any sort of event; you know what kind of work it takes to make an event even half the size a success. Now, imagine making that happen every month on a much larger scale with very little financial support. Additionally, do it all after 5 pm; when the regular work day ends.

There are blessings, as well as curses when something so grassroots grows so massively. The blessings are obvious. Amazing friends that are made; the fun of sharing the baking experience with others; having an event that is family friendly; and, of course, the many local non-profits that we have been able to donate to and support in the past three years.

But, like I said, there are curses as well. People complain when the price goes up. People complain when parking isn’t easy. People complain because of the night or day that the event is planned on. People complain about which non-profit is chosen. People, strangers, feel like they have the right to tell you how to do what you are support the community…in your free time. These comments often come as anonymous posts to the blog, that are conveniently missing any return address. Some will attack via email when they don’t get their way. I know that with success come these challenges, but this is not a full time business. This is not my job. These attacks are hard to not take personally; when you work so hard to make it so awesome, every month.

I love what IronCupcake has become in Milwaukee. But, sadly, with success comes greater challenges. Going forward, we will discontinue the monthly ICM challenges. It is just too hard to find space big enough for a cost low enough to keep the monthly events going. The general public does not want to pay more to attend the event and the baking public does not want to have to make even more cupcakes to participate on a monthly basis. It is safe to say that Milwaukee, that was on the back end of the cupcake trend has now climbed on board.

A lot of our competitors have now started their own businesses; partially as a result of the exposure and spark that IC has provided. Bake with your kids; wow your co-workers; go into business. Keep on baking.

IronCupcake:Milwaukee isn’t dead; it may perk up again, in a different format at a later date. It is just going to be different. I think we can all agree that last weekend's event was the best of the best; the top of the game, right down to having Duff and Vinny and Michelle attend. Thank you, Milwaukee, for being awesome. Always.

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