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The Shareholder Online The alumni magazine of Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business

Auburn alums now successful GiGi’s franchisees

Jennifer Cooper, who co-owns four GiGi's franchises with her husband, Patrick, tells the couple's business story with Harbert College management students.

Midnight Magic. Rocky Road. Strawberry Shortcake. Wedding Cake. Lemon Dream Supreme. Scarlett’s Red Velvet. Even Chocolate Caramel Macchiato.

No, these aren’t coffee flavors, milkshakes or gourmet ice creams. They are specialty cupcakes – and can be purchased on College Street in Auburn.

Auburn alums Patrick (’04, management) and Jennifer Cooper (’06, secondary science education), co-own four GigGi’s Cupcakes franchises, including the College Street location. Monday morning, students in two management classes from the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business visited the Auburn location and were offered business tips from Jennifer Cooper, who provides management oversight for the business.Two keys to success, Cooper explained, are location and personnel.

The couple opened the College Street location in 2012, and relocated their original Auburn/Moore’s Mill (opened in  2010) location to Prattville, Ala., in December of 2013. The difference? Foot traffic in downtown Auburn (particularly on football game days) and Interstate 65 traffic in Prattville. 

Tori Spates decorates cupcakes at GiGi's College Street location in Auburn.

Tori Spates decorates cupcakes at GiGi’s College Street location in Auburn.

“Thirty percent of our Prattville sales are interstate traffic,” Cooper said of the Prattville franchise, located beside a popular gas station and Starbuck’s. “They (customers) come from Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. They knew there was food at the exit, Chick-fil-A, Moe’s, etc., and many love the GiGi’s in Nashville (Tenn.), and were ecstatic. What makes us different is we are a dessert.”

Cooper said the Prattville franchise’s average Fridays and Saturdays consist of 390-plus transactions.

“We would have never gotten that at Moore’s Mill,” said Cooper, who also co-owns with her husband franchises in Montgomery and Columbus, Ga. “It’s the same store. Same ingredients. Same ovens. It’s all about location.”

Cooper told students that customer service is crucial to retaining patrons, and much of that depends upon the men and women operating the franchises.

“You are only as good as the people who work for you,” she said. “If they are not trained properly, your life will be harder. We work really hard with our managers. We have high standards. This (GiGi’s) is a treat. If you have bad service here, you might not come back.”

The couple has also enjoyed success within the corporation. Their Montgomery store was awarded Top Sales 2012 and Top Valentine’s Sales 2012. The couple was also awarded the Swirl Award in 2012 for being the top franchisees to represent the GiGi’s brand in every facet of the business.

Part of the overall customer experience includes nearly spotless stores with a bright, friendly environment. It also includes never being out of cupcakes – even 10 minutes before closing time.

“That’s good marketing,” said Cooper, who noted the company has also begun to market stuffed cookies, muffins and cheesecake.

GiGi’s, founded in 2008 in Nashville, now has 98 franchises nationwide.

Cupcakes weren’t in the couple’s plans when they got married in 2005. Jennifer, a Memphis, Tenn., native, taught seventh grade life science, while Patrick managed the family-owned sock mill in Fort Payne, Ala. Free trade laws did a number on many mills across the South, and the Coopers’ was no exception. By July of 2009, the couple was expecting their first child (Clay) and Patrick was unemployed. Something had to change.

“We had no idea what we were going to do with our life,” Jennifer explained.

A month later, the couple, who began to explore entrepreneurial opportunities, met their business future by accident. The Coopers were at a friend’s wedding in Nashville when Jennifer discovered a GiGi’s location.

“I was like, ‘Oh, let’s get a cupcake,” she said.

She ordered White Midnight Magic. It’s been magic ever since.

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