For two new entrepreneurs in the baking business, there seems to be no down time since starting their business, JJ’s Cakery. Aptly named for owners/sisters, Jill Castleberry and Jackie Ressler, JJ’s Cakery is located at 3801 Memorial Highway in Mandan, and just recently a group of YPers met at their location to learn about their road to success…and might have enjoyed a little sampling, too.
It all started about six years ago when older sister Jill made younger sister Jackie a pig-shaped cake, posted a picture on Facebook, and the rest is sweet, sweet history; or more like a delicious story, still baking.
Primarily self-taught, the sisters also learned some tricks from their mother, cooking shows on TV, and because of today’s vast technology, are learning/finding new ideas every day from different sites on the Internet, such as Pinterest.
Since the post of the famous pig cake on social media, the business has grown primarily from word of mouth referrals. Jill started the process and with increased demand decided she needed help; that’s when she recruited Jackie. Four years ago, they realized the high demand for their product, but weren’t quite business-savvy enough to venture out on the entrepreneurial road, so they took a step back. Jill worked at the Idea Center for three years where she learned a lot about what it actually takes to run a business. The duo started running numbers and decided to venture into the business world.
The hardest part was finding a location. The high price of rent mixed with a new business venture was daunting, but thanks to the help of Jackie’s father-in-law (who owns the building in which their bakery is located), the girls were able to move into their current location for an affordable price.
JJ’s primary business is custom cakes and cupcakes. They started with seven flavors of cupcakes and now offer 30. The sisters get bored and start thinking of new flavors or people ask them to experiment with something new. Currently, they make 10 dozen cupcakes in the morning and offer five flavors each day for walk-in customers to choose from. They researched pricing, time, intricacy, affordability, and knew they wanted to make their cupcakes and cakes affordable, while still being able to pay for their time. Cupcakes are $2/piece, and they also offer a tiered pricing system for large orders, such as weddings. If there happen to be any leftover cupcakes on a given day, they are frozen and at the end of the week, delivered to the homeless shelter.
Jill handles the majority of the baking and frosting- she’s admittedly the creative outlet of the duo. Jackie admits she is not a huge frosting fan, as her specialty is fondant work, which is one of their niches that helps to set them apart from the competition in the Bismarck-Mandan area. They also boast that their cakes and cupcakes are made 100% from scratch.
JJ’s is feeling embraced in a community that is a neighbor to their hometown, Bismarck. One of the pro-community organizations in the area, Made in Mandan, has been a great help to the business in sharing news about them on social media, which is the medium of chose for JJ’s to post their daily flavors along with pictures of what delectable creations they’re working on each week.
Besides their daily cupcake business and weekly events, they’re also looking to branch out into more corporate events. They’ve already worked with local companies MDU Resources, Capital Credit Union and Cloverdale.
Ask the team about their weekends and it will make you yearn for sleep. Because they do not decorate the cakes until the day of the event (they bake the day before), they are typically at the store bright and early at 5 a.m. most weekends.
Currently, Jill is full-time with the business, while Jackie still works 30 hours a week at the state. They have eventual plans to expand, but are working on details of when and how. They would love to grow the business here and possibly branch out to Colorado, where they have family. While that’s still a dream in the making, their current expansion is into the birthday party market. They are starting to host birthday parties in their expansive, open space, where kids will receive a six-inch cake with frosting, fondant and the tools they need to create their very own masterpieces. They want kids to be able to have really cool cakes like they had when they were younger. Their designs have included anything from racecars and coolers to garbage trucks and of course, traditional wedding cakes.
JJ’s will continue to keep up with wedding and decorating trends and looks to expand into a possible “preferred customer” special, for those guests with a strong sweet tooth.
Next time you’re craving something decadent, homemade by a sweet pair of sisters, be sure to visit JJ’s “on the strip” and choose your flavor of the day. Snickerdoodle, anyone?!