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School of Tourism and Hospitality Management alumna shows entrepreneurial flair with cake-pop business

By: Courtney Kubitza
First Published: March 4, 2015
Topics: Alumni Stories, STHM School

STHM alumna Kim Celano has made a side business out of the cake-pop craze.

STHM alumna Kim Celano has made a side business out of the cake-pop craze.

At 4 a.m., Kim Celano’s day begins.

The School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) alumna checks emails for her cake-pop stand business, KC Bakes, and coordinates her next international cake-pop convention. Then she’s off to work as Operations Coordinator for Temple University’s Campus Recreation at the Temple Administrative Services Building (TASB).

Celano, CLA ’05, STHM ‘08, has worked long hours ever since 2007, when she earned her Master’s of Education in Sport and Recreation Administration from STHM. Celano reserves the late hours for meeting increasing demand for her cake-pop stands, mobile freestanding huts and launched into an online business in 2011.

“All of this was an accident. I never had ambitions of owning my own business,” the 32-year-old Celano said. “But now I don’t even remember what I did with my free time before cake pops.”

In 2009, Celano wanted to celebrate the birthday of her now-husband, Mike, with a terrific cake, but was dismayed at bakery prices. Instead of paying $200, Celano created her own. Half-art piece, half-dessert, the WWE-themed treat caught the attention of her Facebook followers and soon Celano was filling orders for elaborate three-tier cakes.

Cake pops provided Celano with a smaller version of her intricate work. Celano used Styrofoam stands to dry her pops. Six months in, the Styrofoam became expensive, messy and environmentally harmful. Celano turned to her father, a craftsmen and wood worker, to design a wooden stand, which she later decorated. Celano’s work went viral and the father-daughter pair opened an Etsy store to sell their handcrafted stands.

“If you’re going to do something, do it right,” Celano said of her business philosophy.

The stands are now an international success, selling more than 1,200 units last year, with customers hailing from Oman to Brazil. Celano attributes sales to social media marketing.

Celano credits her “varied and vast” education in helping her formulate a business plan. The Lancaster, Pa., native came to Temple University for her criminal justice undergraduate degree and a big-city experience. In graduate school, working with STHM professor Dr. Michael Jackson in his Sports Administration course, she said she learned how to approach an event in myriad ways.

The cake-pop stand STHM alumna Kim Celano designed has gone viral.

The cake-pop stand STHM alumna Kim Celano designed has gone viral.

“We got exposure from a lot of different areas, from legal issues to facilities. It didn’t feel one-tracked,” Celano said.

Celano says this “holistic” training helped when planning Cake Pop Con, an international convention for cake-pop enthusiasts. The inaugural event was held in Center City Philadelphia in November 2014 and attracted more than 180 guests from eight countries and 26 states for a three-day lecture, practicum and social event.

“I just wanted to have everyone in one room,” Celano said. “These are my people. They know that stress of having a cracked cake pop at midnight.”

Extending the ladder of success, Celano worked with a small group of Fox School of Business undergraduates when planning the 2014 convention.

“To be in the position to provide an internship opportunity, that was a little ‘Oprah’ moment. Everything came full-circle,” Celano said.

Celano is planning another conference for November 2015 and hopes to expand Cake Pop Con, possibly to the west coast, in 2016.

“This idea came from a pure place within me. I can’t wait to see what comes next on this journey,” Celano said.