Mother + Daughter: Partners in business

From cupcakes to pilates, yarn to fashion, these mother-daughter duos thrive in Howard County

  • Michelle Kupiec, center, of Elkridge and her twin daughters, Amanda, left, and Allison, right, 16, have some fun during a photo shoot at Kupcakes & Co.
Michelle Kupiec, center, of Elkridge and her twin daughters,… (photo by Jen Rynda )
July 27, 2011|By Mary T. Robbins Phelan and Jennifer Broadwater

When it comes to keeping a business in the family, fathers and sons are the classic combination that typically comes to mind. But for a few small businesses in Howard County, it’s the team of mother and daughter that brings a special touch to the enterprise.

From memories of long-ago shopping trips to the newness of cutting a ribbon and opening the doors for the first time, mother and daughter business owners say they share a special bond that, quite simply, no other business partner could ever match.

Kupcakes & Co.

To say that the beginning of June was a busy month for Michelle Kupiec, of Elkridge, is an understatement.

Kupiec, with her twin daughters, Amanda and Allison, and her husband, Bill, owns Kupcakes & Co., which had its grand opening at the Lyndwood Green Shopping Center June 4. The family, along with a handful of new employees, made more than 3,000 cupcakes for the opening and sold every last one.

“It has been a joy to show Amanda and Allison that when you work really hard and you have so much passion for something, all your hard work and dedication can pay off,” says Kupiec. The girls, 16, not only work at the cupcakery but have helped their mother develop the business. They will be seniors at Howard High School this fall.

Prior to the opening of their storefront in Elkridge, Kupiec did all of the baking for the business out of a small rented commercial kitchen in Baltimore.

“They (Allison and Amanda) have seen me start off where I was by myself, baking 200 cupcakes a day, then going shopping to buy ingredients for the next day, hauling everything up to the second floor to the commercial kitchen,” she says. “They have seen the evolution of the business and all of the growing pains of starting a business. Sharing all that with them is important to me.”

The girls were amazed, their mother says, at all the work that went into the physical building of the new space.

“They were able to see the stress and the worry,” she says.

At the cupcakery, Michelle and Amanda are often in the back, baking up a storm, while Allison works the front register, greets customers and keeps tabs on inventory.

“It doesn’t seem like work at all,” Allison said.

That same sentiment is shared by Amanda, whose love for all things cupcakes comes from countless hours of watching The Food Network on cable while she was recuperating from spinal fusion surgery four years ago to correct a severe case of scoliosis.

“From watching The Food Network every single day, it got me so intrigued with the whole food industry,” Amanda reflects.

Kupiec recalls Amanda’s excitement at her first attempt to make a cake from scratch.

“She could barely walk  — she had 18 screws and two titanium rods in her spine — but she wanted to make this cake,” she says.

“Baking cookies and cupcakes are the things that got my mind off my back,” Amanda says. “I said to my mom at one point, ‘I think we should open a cupcake shop,’ and she was like, yeah, right.”

Amanda’s goal is to one day enroll in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

“My mom has inspired me in the kitchen,” she says. “It’s awesome that I can be in a business with her and we can watch it become a great hit.”

Both daughters say they are exceptionally close to their mom.

“She is one of my best friends,” Amanda says. “She is like my hero. I have grown stronger by having my mom there by my side.”

Adds Allison: “I like working with my family. I like that this place is very special to us as a family because we have watched it grow. I like that it is our place.”

As a boss, her mom treats her daughters like any other employees, “but better,” Allison says. “She is really nice and really respectful and fair.”

Amanda is known for her passion for baking and staying behind the scenes at Kupcakes & Co., whipping up new gourmet flavors. Their lineup includes some 24 flavors, including chocolate-dipped strawberry, hazelnut crunch, mocha latte, salted caramel, snickerdoodle, Key lime and raspberry lemonade. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the vanilla-cherry-flavored Blossoms of Hope cupcakes benefits the county’s Blossoms of Hope Foundation in support of breast cancer patients.

Meanwhile, Allison is the one who loves to come up with new ways to promote the baked goods and help the business grow. At Allison’s suggestion, Kupiec began selling cupcakes to Pazani Trattoria Italiana, in Elkridge, and now sells cupcakes at four other local restaurants, including Shannon’s Saloon and Alexandra’s at Turf Valley, in Ellicott City.

Like any family, there are occasional flare-ups, but Allison says at Kupcakes & Co. they are quite rare.

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