Meg Lewis: The MML Interview

By on 21 November, 2011 in City Living, Food, Interviews, Kate and Stephen with 1 Comment

Megalicious' Meg Lewis

Occasionally, Midtown Montgomery Living interviews people who are out there making our community interesting. Last month we talked to special effects auteur Jonathan Thornton; this month, we chatted with Meg Lewis, the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Most people know Meg as the face of the Shakespeare Festival. But it turns out she also bakes a wicked cupcake. Or several hundred, in any flavor you desire. Megalicious Cupcakes, her eponymous joy-purveying business, has been open for a year now. We wanted to check in on the life of a creative Midtown Montgomery small business owner.

Why cupcakes? What’s the appeal for you? How about your clients?

There’s something so appealing about getting your own special, personal, portable dessert. Cupcakes are the personal pan pizzas of the baking world. I also love the idea of taking flavor inspirations from other desserts and making a cupcake version of them. For example, one of my favorites is a the chocolate covered cherry cupcake, inspired by the candy my father always brought home for the girls in our family on Valentine’s Day. I think the appeal is the same for me as well as my clients. They are such happy little treats!

How long has Megalicious been in business? Where can people taste your wares?

I officially opened a year ago. I take orders by phone or web/email and arrange pick up or delivery on a per order basis. I sometimes supply caterers with large orders when their clients request cupcakes and often work with Jennie Weller Catering in this way. I would very much like to partner with a local restaurant or storefront to supply cupcakes. You can find me on facebook at, on twitter at!/megaliciouscake or browse some of the flavors on

What’s the process like for setting up a new small business? Is Montgomery a good place to do business?

The first thing is research. I strongly recommend the Small Business Resource Center, part of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, for the resources available online and classes they offer. You really need to look around and ask if there is a demand for the product you want to provide. Decide if you really have the ability and expertise to do it well enough to survive. You also need to find out what it’s going to cost to operate. That includes not just the expenses of producing your product, but also the business licenses and fees, a lawyer’s fee to incorporate your business, the annual state privilege tax, etc. You’re going to have to estimate how much money you can make in the first year and decide how to price things so that you can afford to pay your expenses, monthly and annual taxes and still make a profit. You can’t do this all in one afternoon. You also need to do some soul searching. Do you really want to commit to this? By the time you’ve done all of this you may have talked yourself out of it. If not, the most important step is to jump out and do it. Even if you know you are still missing some info or not completely prepared. Some of this stuff cannot be figured out until you begin. You’ve got to have the guts to give it a try.

Montgomery is a great place to do business. Taxes are not terribly high at the moment, but it can be difficult to figure out what you have to pay, when and to whom. There is no official resource that will tell you. While the SBRC has great resources that will tell you what you have to pay, it can be challenging to track down the correct office and person who will help you set up your system for paying those taxes. And the penalties can be high if you are behind. But everyone I’ve worked with seems to sincerely want people to succeed in their ventures. I recommend finding a friend who is successful and asking them who you need to talk to.

Another great benefit of Montgomery for entrepreneurs is the character of the city. There are strong networks for word of mouth. Make someone happy and you can gain new clients immediately. There are also a number of great opportunities to donate to worthy causes and to get your name out. In general, some creative marketing and publicity can generate a lot of attention because the city is hungry for creative business owners and new and interesting products and services.

What’s your favorite flavor of cupcake?

As much as I absolutely love to experiment with new flavor combinations and create seasonal offerings, I’m a sucker for a chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream icing with a nice glass of milk. So indulgent, moist and delicious!

What’s a flavor you tried to make that just didn’t work out?

This sounds silly, but vanilla can be the most difficult. Many, many recipes turn out dry, too dense or lacking flavor. It took several tries to find a recipe that became my go-to vanilla.

What’s the weirdest flavor you’ve ever made?

Maybe the pomegranate buttercream for a baby shower. Pink was the theme, and I knew she was interested in unusual flavors. Pomegranate is very tart and gives a beautiful color. The combination of sweet and sour was so interesting and unique. I think they really enjoyed them. The second runner up might be a vegan chai cupcake that was created for the opening of Much Ado about Nothing at ASF last year. The show was set in India, and I wanted to reflect the flavor as well as offering a vegan option. It was surprisingly delicious and unique.

What are some examples of businesses Montgomery doesn’t have now that you’d like to see evolve in the next few years?

Wow! That’s wide open. I’m very happy to see some actual cupcake storefronts coming along. The more cupcakes the better! I’d love to see food carts, especially ethnic and more healthy foods in the downtown area, as well as food trucks that could travel all over the city. I also heard about something called Drybar recently, which is a salon that does walk-in blow outs for your hair. What a fabulous idea! On a more practical note, we could use some consultants to guide people through the process of starting a business as well as learning to manage profit and loss sheets, pricing, and the other business minded tasks that creative minds often do not have any experience dealing with.

Is it hard to make hundreds of cupcakes at the same time? What special challenges do you face in this business?

It’s actually easier sometimes, and always more profitable to do very large orders. You have to do some calculations in order to get your purchasing and baking plan together, but it’s very rewarding to look out at 300 plus cupcakes or more and know you powered that out and they are going to please so many people. Some of the special challenges are that your product is consumable, and loses value quickly after being produced. I try never to sell a cupcake that is more than 24 hours old. They really can last nearly a week, but it’s very important to me that the customer gets the very best experience. That means that if I make a small order and the recipe produces extras, those are a loss unless I can sell them to someone quickly. Without a store front that can be difficult.

My product is also subject to someone else’s taste. I can think something is absolutely delicious, but if the customer doesn’t care for it, I might not get a great review and there’s not much I can do about that. That’s not something I experience often though. My kitchen has to be inspected by the state, too, so there’s a whole code that I have to keep to in order to remain in business. This is made somewhat easier because I do share space with a professional caterer who maintains their kitchen exceptionally well.

Another huge challenge is my schedule. I have a full-time job in marketing and PR, so I’m really on-call for that at all times, and it often calls me out at unusual hours for events and photo calls. Finding time to bake can be a challenge. I’ve made many a cupcake in the middle of the night.

I suck at baking. Even my cupcakes end up flat and rubbery. What advice can you give to home bakers?

Read and follow directions. Don’t make substitutions until you become very experienced. Start simple. Practice – you learn something new EVERY time to you bake. And most importantly, relax. Don’t let it get to you if things don’t turn out like you expected. If it’s too dry soak it in your favorite liquor or liqueur or Eagle Brand milk! If it crumbles, call it rustic! Cake lacking flavor? Add a flavorful filling and a great icing. Like all art, sometimes you find something brilliant in a mistake.

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  1. DOROTHY says:

    Great interview! I’m proud to know you. : )

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