The Cupcake Doctor
Location: 3312 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.
Contact: thecupcakedoctor.com; 719-271-0990
With flavors ranging from eggnog to hot dog, The Cupcake Doctor has the sweet and savory tooth covered.
The company, founded in 2011 by owner Desirae Leipply, has grown from a small delivery-only service to a food truck and a brick-and-mortar location on Austin Bluffs Parkway.
An Army brat and Widefield School District 3 graduate, Leipply didn’t set out to bake. After graduation, she left the state to attend Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she earned dual undergraduate degrees in physics and general science with a minor in chemistry.
“I like figuring out how things work and had always been mathematically inclined,” Leipply said. “In school I was in the Math Olympiad and founded the math club at Mesa Ridge [High School]. I’m a total numbers geek.”
Leipply said her intent was to focus on biology and become a doctor.
“That sounded so impressive as a kid,” she said. “I took first-year physics to get it out of the way and then decided it’s what I wanted to do. I changed gears after my first year and was roped into research.”
Leipply would go on to earn her Ph.D. in molecular and computational biophysics from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and was even offered a job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. But, unlike cupcakes, science was leaving a funny taste in her mouth.
“In academic-level studies there’s a growing pot of people who have degrees and want to do research and a shrinking pot of funding,” she said. “I got job offers, but you can have a job and not get paid if you aren’t getting funding. I saw what my boss had to go through while I was a student at Hopkins. He was the head of the chemistry department when I joined a lab of 16 people. When I left there were three of us.”
Leipply said funding battles fostered an unfriendliness among her peers.
“I had a chance to break out and do something different,” she said. “I took it because I’m a flexible person and I missed being away from four white walls and a computer screen.”
Leipply left the lab in 2010.
“I’ve always been creative and love baking,” she said. “I was the kid bringing cookies and cakes to study groups and seminars.
“Everybody really liked them and I always treated baking like science. I have notebooks filled with optimized recipes — like a dork.”
She moved back to Colorado Springs and, as if from the screenplay “Good Will Hunting,” began working as a night custodian at Watson Junior High in D-3. She used her days to bake, file for trademarks and deliver cupcakes around town. And her custodial position allowed her to market her cupcakes to students, teachers and parents. “I rented commercial kitchen space and baked out of there,” she said. “I advertised online with Google AdWords and it was new at the time, so it was cheap. … I picked a really fortunate time to start a business like this.”
The Cupcake Doctor began with 12 flavors (the menu has since grown to about 90) and Leipply was making about $1,000 a month before she moved into her first physical space on Omaha Boulevard, near Peterson Air Force Base. Leipply also acquired a work truck early on, which boosted her catering capabilities.
She moved to her Austin Bluffs Parkway location nearly three years ago and said the decision has significantly increased walk-in traffic. And, since tripling its physical space, The Cupcake Doctor shares its new digs with three other local makers: Radiantly Raw (organic raw chocolate), the Cheesecake Artist and Front Range Granola, which can be found in regional Whole Foods grocery stores.
The Cupcake Doctor also added the food truck to its arsenal after purchasing the kitchen-on-wheels from another local restaurateur.
“I call it our Mobile Clinic. It fits in so well with our mobile concept,” she said.
So how far has Leipply taken her cupcake concept?
“My first month in business I made about 50 or 60 cupcakes,” she said. “My busiest month this year was May, around Mother’s Day, and we made about 9,800. My goal next year is to break the five-digit mark.”
Leipply said she is hiring her brother-in-law, a chef, as lead baker and would also like to add a full-time delivery driver.
“I want to be at four [employees], but you have to be able to pay skilled people what they deserve, and with the minimum wage increase, you have to be cautious,” she said.
Once the team is in place, Leipply said she will have more time to devote to expanding her reach into breakfast offerings.
“I want to do coffee and cinnamon rolls and muffins,” she said. “If I could have started a business that was all about muffins, that’s what I would have done. The cupcakes sell, but I adore a good muffin.”