lead image CTC.com

Are CakeDrops the next big thing for wedding season?

lead image CTC.com

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Sometimes inspiration comes from an unlikely place. And sometimes, entrepreneurs rise up unexpectedly.

In the case of CakeDrops, both are true.

A fraud attorney by trade, Steve Willison had his own law firm for nearly a quarter century when he found himself at a crossroads. It was time to build up the firm or make a change.

“I was leaning toward making a change,” he recalled.

As he and his wife, Kimberly, searched for what their next big move could be, they discovered 4th Avenue Sweets, a small brand producing miniature cakes in the back of a candy shop.

“The food industry — baking — was not on my radar,” Steve said. “But the more I thought about the contrast it was to practicing law, the more I needed to look into it. One thing led to another and here we are.”

One of the first moves for the Willisons was to rebrand as CakeDrops, a high-end dessert option for sophisticated events such as weddings and corporate gatherings.

CakeDrops launched in August 2022, with the first products released in November.

The product is a compacted cake that doesn’t require being mixed with icing to bind it together, with a filled core and a ganache coating. The duo reformulated the original recipe including the coating to make it a bit softer so as not to crack when it’s bitten.

The rest, Steve said, is “magic.”

“This is a different crumb, a different mouthfeel from a traditional cake,” he said.

Creating these new recipes have been an exhaustive exercise in trial and error, and the Willisons are discovering a passion for the process they never could have predicted.

“There are so many things we have found that should exist, but don’t,” Steve explained. “Dialing it in has been somewhere around 20 versions before we got one that works.”

The new product launched with corporate events for organizations such as Amway as well as in local school districts. Some attendees followed up directly to find out how they could order CakeDrops for their own events.

The product launch came just in time to start ramping up for local and regional wedding shows, with wedding season just a few months away.

“When we go to these wedding shows, we’re finding an unbelievable amount of interest,” Steve said.

Having attended three shows this year, the result is having summer a quarter booked without any advanced marketing outside of the shows.

“Attending the bridal shows has been so fun to see people’s reactions,” Kimberly said. “Seeing their facial expressions and the eyebrows go up when they taste it has been really fun.”

This dipped and decorated item lends itself well as a wedding dessert, with either a chocolate or a white coating with striping or sprinkles to either match or complement the wedding theme or colors. CakeDrops are marketed as an easy dessert for wedding guests, and they can be accompanied by a small slicing cake for the couple’s cutting and photo op.

The Willisons are targeting other milestone events such as graduations. The sprinkles and other accents can also be customized to a school’s colors.

“We’ll be coming out soon with a line that gives a customer the ability to pick varieties with your team colors for either graduation or tailgating in the fall,” Steve said.

As the Willisons take on wedding and graduation seasons with CakeDrops, they’re setting their sights on scaling up to serve customers outside the Grand Rapids area to reach further into Michigan and beyond.

“We have found that this is a product people want, and they can’t get them anywhere else,” Steve said. “And we’re not going to stop evolving.”

Related Posts