Alumna trades in corporate job for cupcake business
For Sara Coleman Fitzpatrick ‘01, a typical work week consists of meeting with advertisers, working with event planners and managing finances. When she gets a free minute outside of the office, she rolls up her sleeves and lets her creative juices flow as shebakes cupcakes for dessert lovers in the Raleigh area.
Coleman Fitzpatrick is the owner and head baker at the Cupcake Shoppe on Glenwood Avenue, the first cupcake bakery in the Raleigh area. Coleman, who majored in business administration at NC State, has been in love with baking for as long as she can remember.
“I have always had a passion for baking, and cupcakes just seemed like something even more special,” Coleman Fitzpatrick says. “Who doesn’t love their very own piece of cake?”
After spending her first six years out of college doing pharmaceutical sales for Johnson & Johnson, Coleman Fitzpatrick decided to take a break from corporate America and begin a different career path during the summer of 2005. She used her business background to create the Cupcake Shoppe, and the doors were open to the public in July 2007.
Coleman Fitzpatrick began the Cupcake Shoppe as a single woman but has since gotten married and recently welcomed her first child.
She has learned that opening a small business is “sort of like raising a child and truly takes a village.”
“My husband, Paul, has become an integral part of the shop and my parents have supported me since day one,” Coleman Fitzpatrick says. “There have been many days where my parents helped me bake, took deliveries and even helped paint. My husband is a constant presence and his favorite task is to sample the latest flavors and provide feedback.”
While the Cupcake Shoppe’s sweet treats are widely recognized in the Triangle, people across the nation have also become familiar with the company. Coleman Fitzpatrick’s cupcakes have been featured in numerous magazines, including Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, Midtown magazine and The Bride’s Book magazine.
President Barack Obama even knows about the Cupcake Shoppe.
During a town meeting at Broughton High School in 2009, Coleman Fitzpatrick represented small business owners in the Triangle and introduced Obama to a 2,000-person audience.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and surreal is really the only way to describe it,” Coleman Fitzpatrick says. “It was inspiring to be part of such a monumental event for Raleigh and represent small, local business owners.”
Coleman Fitzpatrick will be one of the many NC State alumni vendors at the Red and White Food and Beverage Festival at the State Club. Although she and her team are still working to finalize the menu for the event, guests can count on sampling the Cupcake Shoppe’s seasonal cupcake, Pumpkin Maple and the “Big Red” cupcake, which will make its debut at the festival in honor of homecoming weekend.
When asked about her favorite memories at NC State, Coleman Fitzpatrick says they almost all revolve around football games and tailgating. “There is nothing better than a crisp fall day and a sea of red and white to make you smile,” she says.
Ever since Coleman Fitzpatrick traded in her career in sales for an apron and a blender, she has experienced numerous bumps in the road. But her passion for baking and the rewarding experiences of owning a small business outweigh the challenges.
“The biggest reward is seeing our customers happy with the product we produce and seeing them return year after year,” Coleman Fitzpatrick says. “We are so proud of the Cupcake Shoppe and and are so fortunate that we get to be a part of our customers lives.”
The Cupcake Shoppe is one of dozens of vendors - including restaurants, farms, breweries, wineries and bakeries - participating in the Red & White Food and Beverage Festival during the week of homecoming. All of the vendors have NC State connections, with alumni as owners or managers. The festival is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, at The State Club in the Park Alumni Center. Visit the festival website to register and see a full list of vendors participating.