Woops! We Created a Business
How lifelong friends accidentally created a booming bakeshop
It’s 2012 in New York City and four close friends decide to debut a macaron pop-up at the wildly popular Winter Village in Bryant Park. The colors are bright, the sugar levels are high, and the line is around the corner. In only nine weeks time [of the Holiday Shops operating,] the new-to-the-scene bakeshop sold 100,000 macarons, earning about $100,000, and developed a cult-like following. Next, pop-up shops turned into kiosks and bakeshops across the U.S. in places like Williamsburg and Garden State Plaza Mall in New Jersey. The name behind this success? Woops!
Woops! now has over 20 macaron flavors and over 20 artisanal pastries with bakeshops selling sandwiches, coffee and tea. Each macaron is 100% handmade and features a variety of flavors like Honey Lavender and Espresso Macchiato.
I sat down with Tal Avivi, Co-Founder of Woops!, who gave me a rundown of how Woops! came to be and what advice she’d give other budding entrepreneurs.
Most would wonder, why would someone name a business after a phrase known as a mistake? Well, Woops! wasn’t created necessarily by mistake, but by four friends with extensive culinary/fast casual backgrounds, three of which came from the executive team at Aroma Espresso Bar. After macaron-hungry customers kept lining back up for a box of the colorful treats, Tal and her team knew they had a business.
Tal said the business model was simple — serve customers in a more streamlined way. Open small places with low rent, and avoid hiring a huge army of staff. This explains their beginning with a kiosk model — one shop, one person, and a freezer.
Moving on from kiosk to bakeshop was a no brainer. The kiosks were booming, and a storefront was consistently requested by customers. Tal and her team wanted a shop that was simple, European-style, calming and inviting. It was all about easy items — items that are delicious and easily heated up in store. All of Woops! baked goods sold in stores comes from their main hub in Bronx, New York. When discussing the Williamsburg concept…
Coffee shops are our comfort zone, so when we walked to the subway in Williamsburg where we were living at the time, we looked at each other and thought ‘that’s ours [referring to an empty storefront], we need this.’
Day to day cost is minimal because the entire shop could be run by one person. Woops! had their return on investment in less than a year, earning more than competitive shops make in a full year’s time. In a bustling city like New York, you either get a really good coffee and a few pastries thrown in a display case, or you get an amazing bakery and terrible coffee. Woops! set out to do both.
Following the success of Williamsburg, the team got additional investments and built three other stores in New York City — Tribeca, Midtown East and Park Slope. At the same time, they started franchising to other parts of the country, with 10–15 locations signed for 2018 alone.
We do a lot more than just sell product. We created a lifestyle. People come to our shops and use it as a space for creativity or a source of inspiration. For example, macarons are a delicious color palette. At Thanksgiving dinner, you can bring pumpkin pie but you can also choose certain colored macarons and create an amazing centerpiece.
Photos of baked goods and desserts has swept Instagram feeds and customers weren’t shy of this when visiting the bakeshop. When Tal described the design of Woops!, she said…
If I had a $1 for every time someone came in and took a photo of some part of our business whether it be the shop or a macaron, we would have doubled our earnings during those nine weeks at the Holiday Shops! I conceptualized the design of the shop based on beautiful things I was seeing on Pinterest and other websites. I teamed up with a friend who’s a carpenter and we built the first kiosk together. I knew it needed to be white, clean, and colorful, but with a Parisian style.
Woops! is not shy to the Instagram game, creating rainbows of colors in macaron form, and know their audience when designing shop locations. The Williamsburg bakeshop has a European-style feel, with black and white tiles lining the shop’s floors, while black iron chairs and tiled tables are spread throughout.
The company also recently launched a brand new workshop space on the Upper East Side where weekly classes are held for interested bakers. Interested foodies can learn how to bake delicious treats like Woops!’ famous macarons or bobka, with more classes in the works for the future. I had the opportunity to take one of Woops!’s macaron making workshops, normally $150 per person, and a head pastry chef walked me through step-by-step how to create the ultimate macaron. I got to choose my colors, fillings and toppings — not to mention the amount of macarons I was able to take home with me.
We want our workshops to serve as a creative space, a place to encourage people to be creative and playful with baking. The plan for the future is to not only host macaron baking classes but [also] how to bake cookies, alfajores and select international pastries.
We also have plans for the space to be more than just a baking class, but an opportunity to celebrate birthdays, bridal events, and even where companies can host employee bonding workshops.
When asked for ways up and coming entrepreneurs can stay open-minded, Tal noted…
Don’t try to do everything on your own. Know your limitations, strengths, weakness and get help as needed — from your friends, family, and also professionals. However, be careful of all the “experts,” and don’t assume someone will come from outside and save you. Stay true to who you are and don’t let people undermine your confidence in yourself. Be authentic instead of trying to please everyone around you. Be open-minded, but trust your instincts.
When you get a box of macarons, you can’t keep it to yourself. You inevitably want to share with friends and family. Woops! wants to constantly change and be playful, without taking things too seriously. Customers should know every time they come to Woops! they’ll see something new.