Katherine Berman &
Just like Rent the Runway’s co-founders, there are a ton of women who have leapt into the uncharted, often-insane world of entrepreneurship. We’re inviting these risk-takers to be part of a community we’re calling The Real Runway: a collection of voices to motivate and inspire your own runway, whatever that may be.
It all started with… their grandmother.
Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne spent much of their childhood with their grandmother baking, and in later life always talked about opening up a bakery together. But entrepreneurship wasn’t encouraged in their family, and they ended up pursuing respective careers in fashion and venture capital. Despite their success, Katherine and Sophie wished to live a life with more passion. They agreed to quit their jobs mid-recession, and on Valentine’s Day in 2008 opened the doors to Georgetown Cupcake. Today, they run a cupcake empire with six stores across the U.S., two published cookbooks and a TV show. They gave us a glimpse into how parting from tradition led to sweet success.
On Sophie: Dress, Rebecca Taylor; Bracelet, Eddie Borgo; On Katherine: Dress, Osman; Bracelet, Lele Sadoughi
So you decided to open a bakery during the recession.
Sophie: Our families thought we were completely insane. We gave up really great careers for this passion we had. We had no experience running a bakery and so the decision itself was very, very scary. I think any entrepreneur can relate to that fear of giving up something very known and comfortable for something completely unknown and terrifying. But it’s something that comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur — you just have to act on it.
Was it always the plan to build Georgetown Cupcake into the empire it is today?
Katherine: We never anticipated growing it to several locations or owning a multi-billion dollar company. At the beginning, we always said, “If it’s just the two of us working at our bakery for the rest of our lives, that’s enough.” It was more about pursuing a passion.
How did people react to you opening up a cupcake business?
Sophie: It was hard for people to take us seriously. I actually think that’s probably one of the hardest things when you’re a female entrepreneur — being taken seriously. At the end of the day, we knew we had a solid business plan and we knew what we needed to do. If you’re secure with yourself and you know what you’re doing, you find comments like the ones we received (and still receive) comical.
Don’t listen to those negative voices in your head. Just focus on what you’re doing and don’t give up.
— Katherine Kallinis Berman
What was your opening experience like?
Katherine: We did everything we could to get our first store open. We used personal credit cards. We painted the walls. I’m glad we did everything because it allowed us to know our business inside and out. We know that every job at Georgetown Cupcake is just as hard as any other job, whether you’re a dishwasher or you work at the register. I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to see and understand every level of their company.
On Katherine: Dress, Osman; Bag, Gigi New York; On Sophie: Dress, Vie la V
Was it always smooth sailing? Did either of you ever almost give up?
Sophie: In the early days we often thought, “Can we really do this?” The first several months especially, Katherine and I did not sleep. We worked 24/7. We had too much business and we weren’t able to meet it. A lot of people at that point would have thrown in the towel. Some people even advised us to shut down. But we really powered through. We re-thought our business model and we made it work. Our biggest lesson was learning that you have to be able to adapt to change. That has been the secret to our success for the past seven years.
As entrepreneurs, you have to realize that there will never be a perfect day and stuff will go wrong continuously. Once you’re at peace with that, you learn to function.
— Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne
Your brand is so unmistakably pink. Is there a story behind that?
Katherine: It was an accident! Everything was originally black and white — our awning, our boxes, everything. We happened to open on Valentine’s Day and I told Sophie, “I think we should have pink boxes in the bakery.” She said, “No way. They must be black and white.” I eventually twisted her arm. We opened and all these people came through like a tornado. The next day, I was putting cupcakes in white boxes and every single person asked, “Do you mind taking them out and putting them in those pink boxes?” It’s funny how everyone wanted a pink box, but now when people see it, they know it’s Georgetown Cupcake.
Dress, Vie la V; Clutch, Halston Heritage Handbags; Bracelet, Eddie Borgo
Have your personal styles been impacted by owning your own business?
Sophie: One of the best parts about getting being our own bosses is that we can wear whatever we want. We love bright colors both in our bakery and in our closets.
You both took a big risk to launch Georgetown Cupcake. What’s the reward?
Katherine: People are always going through something in life that others aren’t aware of. To see someone smile after walking into our store and to know that we’ve brightened their day means everything to us. We get to play a small role in someone’s happiness, which makes everything that we do worthwhile.
Entrepreneurs stay in business because of the fulfillment they get from living their passion and pursuing it as a job. We acted on our passion. We didn’t want to let it go. That’s the payoff.
— Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne
Follow Georgetown Cupcakes