Technology doesn’t always have to be complicated in order to help a business save some time or money. Sometimes it can be as simple as using a spreadsheet – especially when your business involves baking large batches of cupcakes.Brian Jackson, journalist

Niki Brinton is the owner of Oakville, Ont.-based Cupid’s Gourmet Cupcakes. She started her baking business in her kitchen, using evenings and weekends to bake large batches of cup cakes and then sell them – first to friends and family, then from a mall island booth, and now from her own dedicated location. Since Brinton’s day job was a math teacher for senior high school students, she didn’t think it too hard to figure out what ingredients she’d need to bake 1400 cupcakes using large hand-drawn charts postered on her wall.

“Thank my lucky stars, a long lost university roommate of mine came in to buy cupcakes one day,” Brinton recalls. “She happened to be a spreadsheet genius, so she whipped Excel out and made up all of my call sheets.”

Brinton had accepted reworking her ingredient calculations and yield by hand when order numbers changed as just a part of doing business. She’d erase and re-pencil in the amount of flour needed in one box, then go through and do the same for all the other boxes that needed to be adjusted accordingly.

Now when she types the number into Excel, all the other ingredients are changed automatically. It’s a simple function of the program, but the equivalent to magic for Brinton’s business process. The spreadsheets she uses also include the supplier codes so she can cite them over the phone and avoid any potential for confusion.

Brinton also avoids the odd miscalculation of ingredients as the result of suppliers multiplying ingredients (involving fractions) incorrectly.

“I have wasted a ton of money early on,” she says. “I’ve stopped wasting it.”

Brinton’s business continues to grow and she’s looking at opening other stores west of Toronto, and maybe even franchising. As her cupcake recipe gets baked on a growing scale, she always goes back to her university friend, the “spreadsheet whiz” to solve new problems.

It’s just one more ingredient that help these gourmet cupcakes stay delicious.

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