CauseCakes Is A Creative, Sweet New Way Of Paying It Forward.
It all started with a fortune cookie.
Daniel Poku realized the one major fault of the clairvoyant little dessert: It's tasteless. So, he and a large ensemble of creatives — Paul Curry, Tyler Scott, Tyler Hayes, Marc Feldman, Lauren Packer and Kyle Spencer — turned a half-baked idea into something ambitious and beautiful.
It's called CauseCakes.
Like a fortune cookie, a CauseCake is a cupcake with a message inside on the wrapper. That message? A random act of kindness call-to-action. You, the customer, are asked to pay things forward to a stranger who may never know the selfless act you did for them — just that someone in this world did something generous for another soul.
Once we heard about this, we had to get the scoop on the company and its plans moving forward after its hard launch, which is today.
So we gave Poku a ring. Here's what he had to say.
When and where did the idea of CauseCakes come about?
I thought of the idea my freshman year [of college]. Four years ago, man. The evolution kind of started with the fact that I love fortune cookies. The thing I don't like about fortune cookies is the taste. It's like, “Why do I always grab a fortune cookie?” I sat with that and investigated it: It's because of the mystery inside — that's why we grab a fortune cookie. I don't like fortune cookies. I don't like the taste. So I was thinking, and this is the first step, “What if we could put a fortune cookie on a medium that's better-tasting than what a fortune cookie offers?” That's how I got to the cupcake. After that, I thought, “What if it didn't tell you something about yourself? What if it told you to go do something and interact with someone in a really cool way?” Then we got to, “What if it told you to do something nice for someone? A social act of random kindness.” So that’s kind of the evolution of CauseCakes four years ago.
Taste aside, what’s another reason behind picking cupcakes over other sweet tooth offerings?
Ultimately, we think a cupcake is extremely relational. You get a cupcake for someone's birthday, for a treat or anniversary. It's something sweet, something to celebrate. It's relational; you usually never eat a cupcake alone. You're usually eating it with multiple people. We think it's strategic in the sense that, if we're going to start a social movement, we're going to do it with a medium that's extremely relational, y'know what I'm saying? More than anything, I think it's the fact that nobody eats a cupcake alone. Usually, it's with a group of people to celebrate an occasion. We thought it was very strategic to use because it has a narrative, and it's a universal symbol — not just in this country — for a gift. All of a sudden, you can gift what might be an act of random kindness to a friendly, family member or stranger. We thought, “This is great.”
So, for a customer, how does CauseCakes work?
How it works is this: You go into the bakery, get your cupcake. You won't know [the message that's] on it until you buy and open it. What is on the inside of the wrapper is a unique message — we've come up with about 62, so far — that tells you to go do something. A random act of kindness. Also on that message is what we call a “CauseCode.” One of the vague messages we have is this: Help someone in a community you don't live in. The CauseCode will be associated with that. That CauseCode might say, “Country Run” or something funny that you are supposed to type into our site to hear a personal message from us regarding your CauseCode. That's how that works. Our three-step motto is: 1.) Come and get it. 2.) Go and do. 3.) Tell the world and share it on social media. We hope we've done a good job communicating that our site will be a place where we share everybody's hashtags and what they're actually doing with their CauseCake. We want our site to be the visible place where, if you're thinking about participating in CauseCakes or if you just want to watch that a social movement is happening with cupcakes, you'll be able to see [someone] from Dallas who did this act and shared it on our social media page. Whether you are sharing it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, we are going to pull that to one central place on our site where you can see the movement taking place throughout Dallas.
What are some of the CauseCakes success stories you've seen so far in your soft launch?
The success story so far has been our own. This is such a crazy idea that we want to lead by example. Me and the leadership have come up with 62 messages for this first run, and we're asking people to come and get them and do it and then tell the world. The “go and do it” part, we hope people actually do. Our branding is, “Make it more than a cupcake.” This is all about actions. Do something with it. Ninety-nine percent of our message is all about you getting up and doing something meaningful for someone else. Because of the fact that we are asking someone to get up and do something, whether it's opening a door for someone or buying someone who's hungry food, we want to lead by example. We've decided that we're going to do all the actions that we've put down on a monthly basis. If we ask you to help someone in a community you don't live in, you better believe that we're going to do that exact same thing one of the months throughout the year, and we'll share that on our site. So the success stories [so far] have come from us believing that acts of random kindness are incredible. The success stories don't necessarily premise around CauseCakes, but that acts of random kindness are incredible. There's nothing that CauseCakes has pushed forward yet — no one has been able to receive a cupcake yet. The first thing we did was go out and try it ourselves. We went and fed a homeless person — his name is Jerry and he's great — and we bought him some groceries at CVS from the corner of SMU [Boulevard]. It was phenomenal., one of those things where we wanted to lead by example and see what it felt like, and share it with the world.
What bakeries will CauseCakes be available at? What's the process of getting one?
Cupcakes will be available at the Original Cupcakery, right across the street from the Crescent Hotel. You'll come into the bakery and say, “I want a CauseCake.” Because of the bakery's structure and our partnership, they won't be able to offer a CauseCake in every flavor they offer — we are hoping to do that at some point — but, as of right now, we offer three different flavors and try to change those flavors on a monthly basis. Hopefully, that'll be something that brings more people in.
How did you get the funding for CauseCakes? What steps did you take to make sure you'll be spending the funds fruitfully?
We fundraised through Kickstarter. Once we figured out what we needed — all of the different costs, marketing and supplies — we kept goals. We want to have a good cushion. Demand is going be the biggest for us. A good problem to have is needing to make more cupcake wrappers. But it's still scary because we never want to the bakery [to be] out of CauseCakes — and neither do they. We're really a team that's trying to be dynamic and lean. In terms of money and how we use our funds, we're trying to make sure we can be very lean, and the biggest priority is making sure the CauseCakes are in the bakery at all times. And making sure that, when funds come to us, we are conservative with them, while at the same time pursuing these actions in big ways. One of our CauseCakes is, “Email us a way you like to help somebody that definitely deserves it. We want to partner with you.” We want to be able to use any proceeds that we get for something like that. From a financial standpoint, we 'dlike to say we have nothing to lose. We want to be bold and risky. By definition, we think [CauseCakes] is exactly that. We have something to offer. You — the customer — has something to offer and nothing to lose. Just make sure you're pursuing what you have to offer in a responsible way. We feel blessed that we got this from the good community, friends, family and SMU. We do not want to dishonor that.
I can tell just by listening to your answers that you guys have a great spirit about it. I'm really looking forward today's launch. Speaking of the launch, what do you want our readers to know about it?
We want them to know that they can come in to The Original Cupcakery tomorrow — we'd love for them to be there at 5 p.m. — and meet us. And for anyone doing promotion of this, to share that this is a social movement with cupcakes. The definition of success for us is if one person does one of these acts. For us, it's about these acts. Our success will not be looked at in terms of the number of cupcakes sold, but in terms of the number of the people who actually do make this a tool to do something incredible for someone else.
CauseCakes launches today at 5 p.m. at the Original Cupcakery. Bring your friends, try a cupcake and spread the word with the #unwrapthemovement and #becausecakes hashtags.