Get More: Big Morning Buzz Live
Like any good budding, young Jack Donaghys, we at Viacom Inc. love us some good corporate synergy.
Especially when it involves cupcakes.
Synergy was deliciously in effect this morning on VH1 Big Morning Buzz Live, when Millie Peartree, an executive assistant in Viacom Ad Sales, appeared on the show to talk about her burgeoning business, Millie Peartree Cupcakes & More.
Just how did she get there? We sat down with Peartree before her appearance to get her story. To hear Peartree tell it, it’s quite simple, really.
“You can totally make cupcakes at home,” Peartree said. “All you need is eggs, butter, milk and flour – things everyone has at their house.”
But ingredients baked into Peartree’s personal story are a bit more complicated – both in the hardships that drive her and the help she found at Viacom to get her cupcake business off the ground.
In 2007, Peartree lost her mother to a hard fought battle with colon cancer. The loss left Peartree, now 30, responsible for her four younger siblings, two of whom are autistic.
Peartree had always enjoyed cooking with her mother and found solace in the kitchen after she passed. Her baking chops allowed her to handily win a bake-off competition among the Ad Sales team.
“I brought in cupcakes, and someone asked if I’d bought them from a store,” she said. “I was insulted – I worked hard on those!”
A colleague suggested that she start bringing her cupcakes to their meetings. People started buying them, and a small business was born.
“When people started buying them, I wanted to make it a real business, make it official,” Peartree said. “I wanted something that represented me – fun and colorful – and I wanted to be as professional about it as possible. I couldn’t bring people cupcakes in a Footlocker bag.”
As word of Peartree’s cupcake business spread beyond the office, she became connected with the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now, which awarded Peartree with its Rising Phoenix award – an unexpected good will business grant.
Back in the office, Peartree’s colleagues were inspired. After getting a taste of her cupcakes and hearing her story, Catherine Houser, now head of Nickelodeon HR, contacted Peartree to connect her with Ross Martin, EVP of Scratch, Viacom’s in-house creative SWAT team.
“[Catherine] said to me, ‘Do you know Ross Martin? He’s a good guy to know. He’s all about bouncing ideas off of,’” Peartree said. “I told him my story and how I started my company. I went to one of their weekly Scratch meetings. And they asked, ‘How can we help you? We’re good at branding.'”
The result was a series of brainstorming sessions – new for Peartree, but also new territory for Scratch, which has provided creative consulting and production services for Fortune 500 companies like Dr. Pepper Snapple and GM.
Scratch decided to create a brand book and a business plan for her, which was completed in December.
Millie Peartree Cupcakes & More has seen success in the increased volume of wholesale sales, press around her work and in her roster of high-profile clients, such as Google, Conde Nast and MetLife.
Though based in New York, Peartree’s reached Hollywood, too. She’s worked with big names like Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z and Beyonce. And she connected with Dr. Oz over her recent weight loss – 89 pounds – and created agave cupcakes for the TV doc.
“As tired as I am, I still cook,” said Peartree, who hopes to expand her baked goods empire. “I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like I’m on the road to success.”
We feel the same. And the cupcakes? They’re really, really good. Pick up some for yourself online, at the V-Stop in the lobby of Viacom’s 1515 Broadway headquarters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and 65 Cafe at Lincoln Center.