Ten years ago, Rocky and Theresa Rebert made the career move of their life together because they liked cake.
But the reason the Rebert’s bought a struggling Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise in Ahwatukee on Oct. 1, 2009, and turned it into a thriving business was because Rocky knew a whole lot of other people like it too.
And he worked that knowledge as adroitly as a successful politician works a crowd.
To understand how the Reberts made the Nothing Bundt Cakes at 4722 E. Ray Road, so successful upon taking over the losing business on Oct. 1, 2009, you have to understand Rocky already knew they had a winner - if they just handled it the right way.
Rocky, a Pennsylvania native, worked for QuikPrint for 27 years, first in Denver and then as a franchise owner in San Diego.
In the time Bundt Cakes was a printing business client, he realized quickly it was his ace-in-the-hole on sales calls to other businesses.
“I had been using Nothing Bundt Cakes products as marketing for my print clients for several years,” recalled Rocky, who met Theresa when she too worked for QuikPrint as a bookkeeper.
“I experienced first-hand the reactions on clients’ faces when I gave them a delicious decorated cake as a “thank you” for their business,” he continued.
“I thought to myself, ‘Gee, this is such an easy way to express my thanks and to spread joy to other people,” he said. “Plus, I was solidifying my relationships with my clients.
“As a salesperson out there beating the streets, I’ve had many doors closed in my face trying to get an appointment with the owner or the print buyer, however, people suddenly stopped slamming that door so quickly when I started showing up with cake, forks and plates. Nothing Bundt Cakes was a game changer for me.”
Flash forward to 2009, and the cakes became not just a game changer but a life changer for the parents of three sons – Jason, Jonathan, and Connor.
Rocky managed Nothing Bundt Cakes’ promotional material and learned its business model.
“I was tired of the print game and wanted out,” he said.
Indeed, he added, “We were both hoping to find a way to change the course of our financial lives.”
“This Ahwatukee location was still struggling after being open five years and the founders were considering selling it or closing it,” he continued. “Theresa and I talked about it. We loved the product and after much discussion and soul-searching, we decided to buy the franchise.”
Starting out was, well, no piece of cake.
“The business was swimming in the red and its growth had stymied due to lack of attention and marketing,” Rocky said.
“We immediately threw ourselves into rebuilding the business,” he added. “It was hard work with seemingly unending hours. However, we really had no other choice. We had to make this work.”
Admitting fear of failure was a big motivator, the Reberts also were convinced they had the secret to success right in the ovens of their business.
And Rocky already knew how to use it.
“When we purchased the business, one of the obstacles we had to navigate was the perception of ‘being in Ahwatukee,’” Rocky explained.
“As I was out marketing with cakes, people east of the I-10 seemed to consider Ahwatukee ‘on the west side of town.’ I would walk into an office with a beautiful, decorated cake to give to them. Everyone would be so excited about getting a free cake to enjoy.
“They would say, ‘Thank you! This looks amazing! Where are you located?’ I would say, ‘We’re just across the freeway in beautiful Ahwatukee.’ I was amazed at how many people would say something like, ‘Oh, you’re way over there?’ or ‘Oh, I don’t go to the west side very often.’”
He kept reminding those people that “Peoria is west side, not Ahwatukee” and telling them “You probably commute farther to work than it would be to drive to our bakery.”
And he persisted because he let them eat cake.
“We kept getting cake into people’s mouths, and we began to grow very steadily after that first year,” he said.
Over time, Nothing Bundt Cakes in Ahwatukee also has become a true family enterprise.
Sons Jonathan and Connor have worked in the bakery over the years.
“Connor has been our baker for the last two years and he makes all the delicious cakes,” Theresa said. “He is very skilled and prides himself on making each cake perfect.”
The couple split their responsibilities.
Not surprisingly, Rocky is the marketing-sales guy who also oversees the kitchen staff. With her expertise in finance, Theresa handles the books and the retail side of the business.
It’s a demanding business and the couple estimate they put in as much as 100 hours a week over six days every week.
They’re preparing for their busiest time of the year and they and the two sons who worked with them are ready for the challenge.
“With holiday parties and corporate gift-giving starting to kick in, our volume will more than double in November and December,” Rocky explained.
It’s also a time “where our individual talents come most into play,” he added.
“Theresa is an organizational guru, and I am the ultimate worker bee. Without Theresa’s exceptional planning and organizational skills, we would be sunk during the holidays,” Rocky said.
“For me, the holidays mean seven days a week in the bakery helping Connor bake, procuring supplies, managing deliveries and keeping plenty of inventory of product on hand. Our supporting staff here is amazing. Collectively, they have helped so many guests with birthday surprises, anniversary celebrations and school graduations.”
Their cakes, by the way, are all handmade in their commercial ovens and decorated by their staff.
The Reberts said they’ve avoided any major setbacks over their decade of “by constantly being proactive with our marketing tactics, in controlling our costs, and, most importantly, by hiring and training the right people,” Rocky said.
As for competition for all those sweet teeth out there, Rocky boasts, “We welcome competition.”
“Not only does it keep us on our toes to ensure we are exceeding every guest’s expectations,” he said. “We’ve discovered that it also strengthens our guests’ loyalty to our product.
“Over the past 10, years we have seen several local bakeries come and go. Ironically, each time something new opened up close by, we’ve experienced a jump in the volume and foot traffic in our bakery.”
It helps, too, that they’re located next door to the Target store on the northwest corner of Ray and 48th Street, though Rocky noted that their brand “has become nationally recognized as a deliciously unique, high-quality product, perfect for any occasion.”
“Many tell us that our cakes taste so good, and they just keep coming back,” Rocky added. “That story never gets old.”
And they have good news for their customers, old and new: They just re-upped their lease for another 10 years and “continue our wonderful relationship with the Ahwatukee community, as well as with the surrounding East Valley cities.”
It’s in their nature by now, after all, Rocky explained, because “our commitment is to make this world a sweeter place.”