Small Business Feb 25 2010

From Contracts to Cupcakes: A Wall Street Career Change

Julie Steinberg

When David Arrick thought about using skills gained at an elite Wall Street law firm to transition from one job sector to another, real estate development in Dubai was his next logical career choice. When that didn't pan out, it was cupcakes. Mancakes, to be exact.

Let's rewind.

Arrick, 42, grew up in Massachusetts and went to NYU. After he graduated college, he became a personal trainer (working with celebrities like Conan O'Brien) to support his work as an actor. He then enrolled in New York Law School (also the alma mater of fellow cupcake purveyor Lev Ekster), taking classes at night and training during the day.

"I wanted job security, so I got a job at Sills Cummis & Gross P.C., a New Jersey-based law firm that does work on Wall Street," Arrick said. He specialized in commercial real estate transactions as well as corporate finance.

After getting laid off in 2008, Arrick went on job interviews in Dubai, where he hoped to get in on the real-estate boom there. He accepted a job, returned to the States to pack up his things, but his offer was then rescinded because of the local financial crisis.

"When I came back to the U.S., I had no idea what I was going to do with my life," Arrick said. "I went to every museum twice, went to every free event New York had to offer, and because I couldn't afford to eat out, I became a really good cook."

Just when things looked bleakest, Arrick found his calling. Strolling around one day in the West Village, a neighborhood in downtown Manhattan, Arrick spied people lining up around the corner for Magnolia Bakery's cupcakes. This piqued his interest in the business.

And then, reading an article about cupcakes shortly after, he found himself disgusted when the writer called them "pink and magical."

"Why did cupcakes need to be magical? They're not magical for me. Where's the masculine aesthetic?" Arrick said. "We needed to butch it up, buttercup." And so Butch Bakery, an online delivery "masculine" cupcakery was born.

The bakery sells the usual fare, but with a twist. It offers flavors like kahlua-soaked vanilla cake with Bailey's Bavarian cream, brandy-soaked lemon cake with orange-infused chocolate ganache filling, and chocolate and beer-infused cake with beer buttercream. Not every cupcake is drenched in alcohol: Butch Bakery offers caramel cake with salted caramel filling; and maple cake with milk chocolate ganache and crumbled bacon.

Right now, Arrick has a staff of five, including the baker. He runs the operation out of a commercial kitchen space in Queens. There's no storefront yet, but he hopes to open a store downtown in Manhattan this spring.

Since December, when he opened for business, Arrick has filled some 1,000 orders. But when DailyCandy, a New York-based e-mail event guide, profiled Butch Bakery two days before Valentine's Day, business skyrocketed. The website crashed after it got 600,000 hits, and orders have been backlogged for weeks (the next available delivery is after March 1).

"We had 400 phone calls, 400 e-mails, it was like the Oprah effect," Arrick said.

So who is buying rum-soaked lime cakes with mint white-chocolate ganache? Are men lining up to savor testosterone-infused baked goods?

Not exactly. Most of the orders have been placed by women, but as Arrick says, "We love the girls, we love the guys, we love the gays. We'll sell to anyone."

Arrick's journey doesn't look like it's going to slow down any time soon. He's been approached by brides, asking if he'll do wedding cakes, and by the Food Network, suggesting that he audition for "Cupcake Wars." He wants to expand into Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles by the year's end.

"It's surprisingly a cutthroat environment for cupcakes," Arrick said. "But my negotiation, corporate and LLC compliance, and accounting skills have served me well. Plus, I can draft complex agreements and contracts."

The lesson to be learned from Arrick's jaunt down Pastry Avenue and Whipped Cream Street? First, the skills you pick up on the Street can serve you well anywhere, even in a bakery. And second, if you can't stand the heat on the trading floor, maybe it's time to get in the kitchen.

See original story on FINS.com

Julie Steinberg is a reporter for FINS.com. Write to Julie Steinberg

Republished with permission from FINS.com




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