THE BLOG
09/30/2013 03:22 pm ET Updated Nov 30, 2013

Women in Business: Q&A with Tiffini Soforenko, Founder and CEO of Yummy Cupcakes

Tiffini started Yummy Cupcakes in 2004 after 18 years in the corporate world, working for Universal Studios as the Director of Operations in LA and Japan. This July, Yummy Cupcakes opened their first-ever franchised location in San Diego and there are more coming in Michigan and other states in the next year.

At Yummy Cupcakes, Tiffani has created more than 400 proprietary gourmet cupcake recipes including 94 Vegan and 23 Sugar-free. There are also gourmet cupcake treats like Cupcake Truffle Pops, Cupcake in a Jar, Cupcake Pies, Cupcake Parfaits, Cupcake Push Pops, Cupcake on a Stick.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I firmly believe that every experience, including the mistakes and failures, make a person who they are. I have had a great deal of success and have been very blessed in my life. For that reason, I know what is possible so I think I push harder than I might otherwise. I also want to be able to help others be successful whether that's by employing them and creating opportunities for them or by having them join our team as a Yummy Cupcakes' Franchise owner. I have also had a fair amount of struggles both professionally and personally. I think that allows me to really appreciate everything I have and to know that success is never the result of just one person. I love making people happy and seeing people succeed. Being able to lead in an industry where I can do that each day makes what I do that much easier.

How has your previous employment working for Universal Studios as the Director of Operations aided Yummy Cupcakes?
I was with Universal for over 16 years and in that time I held many positions, starting as a Tour Guide. I was in charge of the Guest Services Department and I even went to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka to open that theme park. I learned so much during my time there that I could go on and on. I learned about operations, cleanliness, labor laws, maximizing efficiency, guest service, events, and budgets to name a few, but the opportunity to deal with so many different types of people is really what made the biggest impact on me both personally and professionally. I was the first female to hold the position of Director of Operations for a theme park in all the Universal Studios Parks. I learned to be who I am, to speak up for what I believed in and to be confident in my decisions. I learned from those who were great at what they did and who treated others well, and I try to emulate those positive behaviors in what I do now.

How do you maintain a work life balance?
I have three amazing children that are 11, eight and four years old. They know that all my hard work and all that we do is to try and build a better future for them. When we first started, I was coming in early every day we were open to bake and decorate the cupcakes. Now that we have grown, we have amazing staff at our shops so I am able to come in to my office at normal hours and take weekends off to be with my family. I am often on my computer doing work when they go to sleep at night, this way I don't miss out on time with them - I just miss out on some sleep. They don't love when I travel and when I travel to our locations in other countries it usually means a 10 day trip. I have a great husband who makes the time I am gone a fun time for them and then they all throw me a party when I come back. They also like the goodies they get when I come back like getting Nutella from five different countries.

What have the highlights and challenges been founding Yummy Cupcakes.
The best part of founding Yummy Cupcakes was being able to create something completely unique and new. When we started there was no such thing as a cupcake-only bakery and so we had the opportunity to craft a concept from the ground up with ideas that were all ours. That also created the biggest challenge in that people thought that this concept was a little crazy and things like business loans and investors were not possible because we had a concept that was unproven in the marketplace. Through the years we often thought about taking on investors or getting a business loan, but right or wrong, have chosen to do it ourselves. The other challenge is getting our name out there and letting people know that all cupcakes are not the same and that there really is a difference in taste and quality. That is a message that gets more challenging as more cupcakes stores open. As with any cycle of business, we see the bad ones closing and the good ones thriving. After almost 10 years, we feel good about being in the latter category.

What advise can you offer individuals who are seeking to open their own business?
Have passion! Owning your own business is great. It allows you to focus on what matters to you, to impact people in a way that you could never do as an employee, to really see the effects of what you do each day, and to have flexibility and control over your life. Know your stuff - Opening a business is just that...a business. You need to make sure that you have the knowledge and skills required to be able to open, operate, and profit from that business. Be realistic, stay focused, be driven, know your market, and be prepared to make tough decisions and put in the hours. Though the rewards are there, owning your own business can be tough at times. I love that we now offer people the opportunity to own a Yummy Cupcakes of their own through our franchise division. To have somebody to tell you the best way to do things, to give you all the tools you need to operate, to train you, and to be there along the way to provide support is great.

What do you think is the biggest issue for woman in the workplace?
In my previous job, I dealt mostly with men as I was in a role that had never been held by a woman. The baking industry is primarily women and though that aspect is different from my previous job, I feel a difference because of what I do rather than the gender of the people I am dealing with. I think for me the hardest thing is the guilt of being separated from my kids. I feel like I have to give everything 100% and at the end of the day there often just isn't enough of me to go around. I try very hard to leave home at home and work at work and really just be in the moment, whatever I am doing.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and Movement?
I love that she encourages women to "aim high - seek challenges and take risks -- and fight the instinct to hold back." I have two daughters and a son, and the message is the same for all of them - I want them to know that they are amazing and that the world is full of opportunities and options. They need to take the one's that speak to them, just as I have done.

How has mentorship made a difference in your personal and professional lives?
I have never had a mentor in the true sense of the word but I have had the opportunity to be around, and to work with and for some amazing people. I feel lucky that I have had so many chances to try things, ask questions, to succeed and to fail. It is through those times that you gain knowledge. I have learned a lot from my mother and I learn every day from my children.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Maxine Clark, the founder of Build-A-Bear. She took a simple concept that people were already familiar with in the teddy bear. She reinvented it and presented it to people in a new way. She used creativity, nostalgia, sentiment, and playfulness to create an empire. She also created a culture with her team and though they grow they never seem to change their core product.

What are your hopes for the future of Yummy Cupcakes?
I hope that we continue to grow both domestically and internationally. I hope that we continue to provide opportunities and jobs for people all around the world. I hope that we are a household name and a solid, mainstream brand around the world. I hope that we continue to have the best cupcakes anywhere (I know that one for sure!) I hope for locations in Paris, Italy, Hawaii and lots of exotic beach locations - after all... I have to go there to support them!