Emily, owner of Gigi’s Cupcakes, won first place in our contest for the most original Employee Appreciation Day celebration. We sat down to talk with her and learn a bit more about her business, her Team Appreciation Day celebration, and her story.

How’d you get started?

I wasn’t sure what I’d do for work when I arrived back home in Indiana. Knowing I wanted something stable, with reasonable hours, I started looking for a job at a bank.

One day, I was making my niece’s 9th birthday cake. I started thinking: I enjoy baking so much, I wonder if there’s a way I can make money doing this?

So I decided to do a little research. I wanted to start out as an employee and get a feel for the operation, but no bakery would hire me. Then I decided to look for local bakeries that were looking to sell their business. All of them had bad reputations, though, and I didn’t want to take over a failing business, so I knew I had to do something new.

Fast forward a bit, and I’m in Indianapolis for a Colts game. I see a Gigi’s Cupcakes food truck outside the stadium. I had no idea there were bakery franchises! I knew they had a great reputation, so I started doing some more research. I watched and read every bio and interview I could find with the founders and talked to all the owners I could.

Then I applied, and after several interviews, Gigi’s did a market analysis and suggested Lafayette was too small to support a gourmet bakery. But they left it up to me, and I decided to push forward.

We opened eight months later, which gave me plenty of time to get the word out. First, I sponsored kids’ sports teams, buying the cupcakes in Indianapolis and handing them out here in Lafayette.

I was worried people wouldn’t remember the name “Gigi’s” by the time we opened, but luckily I was dead wrong — the giveaways worked. We also held an EMT Appreciation Day, and I was amazed by the positive response. EMTs aren’t always considered during other holidays that honor healthcare workers. That’s really the genesis of what would become our team appreciation day celebration this year.

What do you love about your team?

My team is hilarious, witty, fun and spirited. Everyone has their own set of skills, but they all work hard, and they’re all amazing. We learn from each other in ways I never anticipated– and not always about baking.

How’d you decide on this activity to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day?

I really just love their personalities, so when I heard about Employee Appreciation Day, I wanted to show them how much I love them. I’m already handing out the leftover cupcakes to public servants every day after we close, but my team never gets to be a part of that, even though they’re the ones baking the cupcakes. So I wanted them to get recognized for their work and generosity, while still paying them for their time.

We do other appreciation events every month, where we all pick an activity like frisbee golf and do it together on our free time, but this one was special. We did it during the normal workday, and everyone got to see how their hard work really impacts the community. They loved it, and we’ll definitely be doing something similar next year.