So this is what it’s like to be close to someone famous? It almost felt like we were all going to be on TV…! “So surreal,” as Hilary would say–and she’s right.
Since the winter of 2008, Eat Cake! and Hilary have been fairly common topics of conversation here at digital reaction, because she is a perfect client and a fantastic friend. People should know that Hilary not only makes phenomenal cakes, she also has mind-bending business sense. She personifies commitment, stamina, and raw determination. In the words of Hank Davis, “Everything she does, she does at a Ninja level.” If I could hand pick a dream team, she would be one of my very first picks.
From the beginning of our business relationship, Eat Cake! rocked and Hilary rocked. Plus she had this great logo (easily Liss Larsen’s best work in my opinion) with cool little stylistic cues we could build from. The site’s overall simple look was by design, because one of the great things about working with Hilary is that she does not get lazy with the details. No different than when she decorates a cake–details matter and there is very little guesswork. I love that because it gives us the opportunity to deliver the complete vision.
I initially did some general upkeep on Hilary’s first site and helped it evolve a little bit. At the time it was super basic, but basic in a good way visually due to the strong focus on the “Eat Cake!” brand. We eventually did a decent-sized upgrade and turned a few screws, while continually learning about each other’s business. Hilary’s very analytical point of view brings killer perspective, which is a great asset to a creative team. We never had to guess if we would like something, we just knew we would.
Fast-forward through a cool life event or two (huge shout out to Charlie Mahar) and several anniversary cakes (my wife and I have a standing order with Eat Cake! until… forever). Then Hilary opens the incredible Prince Place cake studio and starts killing it instantly.
We actually laughed about the cupcake thing a bit because we had talked about it a couple times conceptually, so it was no surprise she went there and it was even less a surprise how incredibly successful they have been. I knew she needed her version of our “d-page” (our inexpensive basic template-based site) as an affordable way to connect with people–and what better way to connect than with THE BEST cupcake they would likely ever eat. She loved the idea from the start and we still laugh about the day at the Roasters that we first talked about it.
Then, POW! Hilary is suddenly doing Cupcake Wars. She is literally on her way to LA to do freakin’ Cupcake Wars. Let me rewind a bit and say that during the past few years digital reaction had been pretty active as well. We were building sites in ways we hadn’t before after partnering up with some incredibly talented developers, so the sites we were making were just awesome. We were fresh off the heels of another fantastic project, teamshatter.com, so I was really embracing the whole CMS-based site concept and using WordPress to do it. Everything we do now is integrated with WordPress so the projects we deliver are loaded with powerful features, empowering our clients to take a hand in their marketing efforts. It’s been just a huge shift in the way we develop sites and do business in general.
Because the developers I work with are just monsters (HUMONGOUS shout out to Forward, Inc.) the ability to build the new site however we wanted already existed. I’ll talk about working with Otto, Ian, and their insane wrecking crew of developers in another post because trust me, these guys are the real deal …
So when the time came to prepare eatcakeonline.com for the inevitable flood of traffic I knew it would get from the show, I knew we were going to build something great. I actually remember Hilary saying at one point, “I like being at the cutting edge of the internet; I’m mad that we aren’t right now”, which totally set the tone for exactly what kind of site we would build.
The new Eat Cake! site would need some really cool things that we thought were really important:
- Big on Pictures: one of the biggest complaints about the old site was the number of pictures so we customized a gallery that is super easy to use and equally as easy to update and manage.
- Ease of Use: Hilary wanted some very focused areas of customer interaction and insisted that they be easy to use for everyone.
- Style: We already had great colors and a fantastic logo, plus one or two other design cues (upside-down scallops were a great nod) we could use with the new site in a similar but evolved way.
- Blog: This was the big thing for me initially, “Hilary you have to have a blog!” She was a bit reluctant (time-management concerns) but gave me the green light to build her an awesome blog.
We based the blog off of the digital reaction.net blog, which is a slightly modified blog from the inFocus theme (nearly perfect in my opinion) so we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. Hilary was mainly looking forward to interacting with her customers and friends in an open and loose forum. So far it looks like a hit, with a few good posts and an absolutely adorable comment by an 8-year-old girl. The initial few posts confirmed that the blog was going to be huge, just as I suspected all along.[blockquote type="blockquote_line" align="right"]hi. i am amanda and i am 8. i just watched my favorite show cupcake wars and you were on it so i asked my mom to find you. i thought you did the best and i hope my mom brings me to your store so i can see you. you did awesome. amanda[/blockquote]
We are still smoothing out a few bumps and re-thinking a few technical choices, but the site in general is performing great and getting a TON of traffic and great feedback all around.
So what about the future? I love that question because we are already in discussions with Hilary about integrating the site with some really powerful marketing automation tools that are super interesting and should provide impressive results. We had some pretty crazy secrets under the hood for a few months leading up to all this and we couldn’t be happier for Hilary and Eat Cake!. It’s awesome to be this close to something so cool.
So there you have it–my version of a case study. As for the thoughts and ideas that came to mind when thinking back on a few years of working with someone and being able to share in her success? Cool doesn’t quite describe it…
Client focus is where we are at our best and having great clients like Eat Cake! kicks it into the stratosphere. Their success is our success, and we love to be able to thrive off of that kind of synergy.
To see the fruits of our labor, visit eatcakeonline.com, check out Hilary and Aubree kicking major butt on Cupcake Wars and of course make a trip to the Inn Street cake studio for what I guarantee will be THE BEST cupcake you ever ate…
digital reaction…now accepting great clients!