Guest article by Angela Bowers
Imagine a world in which cupcakes, icing, cookies and sweets of all shapes and sizes fill your horizon. They taste as sweet as they look and live in a space equally as precious with comfortable couches, inviting music and adorable red and Tiffany blue décor.
This dream world is found in a quaint little place called Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop. Sugar Mama’s originated on South 1st Street and opened another location on the east side. The owners, Olivia and Steve O’Neal, moved to Austin in 2006 so they could start their business here, and opened up shop in 2008. The couple moved to Austin because of its reputation for supporting creative people and small businesses.
The culture of Austin nourished and encouraged the growth of Sugar Mama’s as they worked from the ground up and expanded to a second location. However, with success comes challenges, and Sugar Mama’s fights to keep its original values in the face of pressure for change.
Recipe for Success: Keep It Simple
Sugar Mama’s customers can’t get enough. But despite online reviews that rage when Sugar Mama’s runs out of a specific treat, Olivia stands firm when it comes to keeping her shop simple. There’s only one person behind the counter at a time, and a finite number of people in the kitchen.
Sugar Mama’s guarantees a fresh product, meaning everything is made each morning. Once they run out for the day, that’s it! A simple nature in this fast paced, ever-demanding world makes Sugar Mama’s unique and gives its baked goods that extra special quality of homemade treats. “Cupcakes should make people happy,” Olivia expressed when discussing backlash from customers. “If we run out, you can always come back tomorrow and we’ll have more!”
Spreading the Sweetness Locally
Sugar Mama’s not only protects the quality of its product, but also the livelihood of others. They give to local charities, provide employees with a livable wage and only utilize fair trade ingredients. “It’s difficult to fight for social justice in business, but it’s important to us. My daughter, Harlow, was born in Ethiopia and when I consider her country and others in Africa, I know their cocoa bean trade is not safe. There’s a lot of child labor going on there and all over the world. We use a lot of chocolate here at Sugar Mama’s, but we only import premium, fair trade ingredients.”
Olivia also expanded on the importance Sugar Mama’s places on charitable giving. They give as much as they can to local charities. “It’s a by-product of who we are,” Olivia explained. “When you run a business, you don’t have as much time to give. So we give as much as we can to local charities because that’s the way we can give back to our community right now.” She also expanded on the importance of treating their staff well as a part of caring for the good of others. Olivia shared that her staff make a livable wage and receive health care benefits–both rarities in the food industry.
Celebrating Life’s Special Moments
In addition to their cupcakes, this thriving bakeshop specializes in cakes for weddings, baby showers and birthday parties. “We want to be a part of people’s celebrations,” Olivia shared. “There are at least two couples who have invited us in to each celebratory moment in their relationship starting with the engagement in our shop, then their wedding cake, baby shower cake, and all the way up to the third birthday cake. We want to provide great experiences and be a part of the surrounding community.”
Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop embodies the quintessential culture of Austin: locally focused, quality work, yet simple and creative. It’s a unique place of delicious goods with rock solid integrity and a desire to share the happiness of a cupcake with others.
1905 S 1st St (southside), 2406 Manor Rd, Suite B (eastside) – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite treat at Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop?
Angela Bowers is an event planner, native Texan and a lifelong Longhorn. She enjoys writing, listening to podcasts, playing with her dog and hiking in her spare time. Connect with Angela on Twitter.