with Laura Chapman

INTERVIEW BY STEPHANIE SCARCLIFF

In a city heavily frosted with cupcakes — there’s Momma Johnna’s, 2 Kids and a Cupcake, Sweet Cakes, and of course Gillette’s original cupcake mainstay, Alla Lala Cupcakes & Sweet Things, to name a few — the search for the perfect tiny cake with just the right cake-to-frosting ratio was beginning to feel a bit tired. But recently, we stopped by Alla Lala’s newish 3rd Street location — a hip downtown shop with a tree built inside it — and were reminded why we fell for owner Laura Chapman’s delectably sweet, ready-to-go treats in the first place.

While she sells her own variations of all the predictable flavor staples such as Very Vanilla, Birthday (vanilla cake, chocolate frosting) and Un-Birthday (chocolate cake, vanilla frosting), we chose a few of her more inspired offerings: Rhubarb Basil, Mr. Pineapple, Butter Beer, Caramel Macchiato, S’mores and Boston Cream.

Mmmm!

Known for her sweet things, she also has a pretty cool backstory. At age 31, with a successful 11-year career in marketing and business development at an Arizona-based advanced technology architectural and engineering firm, Laura was overcome by severe post-partum after the birth of her second child, Torin. Far removed from her family in Wyoming, and with her husband Trevers working on location in North Dakota, she packed up their home and children on a whim and moved back to Gillette to live with her mother.

She telecommuted for three months in 2013, before realizing that she could continue down that path and have a successful career in marketing or pave a new one that would bring her happiness and fulfillment. She spent hours at her mom’s kitchen table that year, buried in books. She knew that she wanted to start her own business but didn’t know what she wanted to do.

She remembers telling Trevers, “I just want to bake cupcakes and make people happy.” Do that, he told her. From there, she researched how to write a business plan and secure funding. When she presented her plan to First National Bank Loan Manager Tom Hammerquist, she recalled, he was blown away.

She would have to bake five dozen cupcakes a day to break even, she said. Today, she’s cranking out 30 dozen, plus cakes, fresh macarons, lunch and coffee.

And although her shop has incredible lunchtime bites like paninis, soups and salads, it’s the gobs of crave-worthy every day, weekday and seasonal cupcake flavors baked from scratch with fresh, natural ingredients, gluten-free and vegetarian options that keep us coming back for more. And more. Our go-to is the Coal Seam Overload: a chocolate cake topped with chocolate frosting and — wait for it — more chocolate in the form of cookie crumbles.

During our visit, Laura spoke candidly about the vision, planning and people behind her tactful business model and shared how countless hours of tireless research at her mother’s kitchen table sparked the bold moves and novel flavors that have made her shop a success. She also talked about prioritizing family, dodging politics altogether and pursuing her dreams as a working mom, before touching on the stigmas surrounding needed conversations about mental health.

82717: Laura, you were pretty vocal on social media following the Sage Valley Jr. High School incident last year, taking the conversation away from gun control and instead asking parents to “HUG YOUR (expletive) KIDS” and then appealing to the community at large to “Just be kind to one another for (expletive)’s sake. It’s not that hard.” Can you speak on that?

We’re the first examples our children will emulate, so perhaps we should show them first and foremost how to be kind. It’s the “practice what you preach” concept. If my monsters see me treating the people around myself with respect and kindness, they will emulate that. My husband often tells people “I appreciate you,” be it our server at a restaurant, the checker at the grocery store, or the fifth cell phone company representative he’s been transferred to. I love that about him, that he tries to recognize the efforts of the people around him. It’s a small gesture, but meaningful. I think our days should be filled with small gestures, because they can add up to big things. As for hugging your kids, our society is built around judgement and fitting in. Atypical persons are often ostracized, and that’s something many people do unconsciously. So, we need to make a conscious effort to be inclusive and kind. I think that everyone, especially children, need to be uplifted, encouraged, loved, and accepted. Hugs are a great way to convey all of those things in one simple gesture.

82717: What’s the biggest problem you see kids facing today?

I want my children to just be themselves – quirky and awkward and truly marvelous. Take my daughter Naiya, for example. She is 14 and absolutely wonderfully bizarre. I love that she is unlike anybody else, and I don’t want to see her become another robot in our social machine. I want to see her become more fully herself, the best version of Naiya she can be. That’s why I encourage my kids to embrace what sets them apart from others, what makes them them…that’s the good stuff. My Naiya is thoughtful and introspective, emotional but very private. She’s also a band geek, a book worm, a gamer nerd, a hockey player, and has the goofiest sense of humor (I never get her jokes). I use these labels as terms of endearment, because I want her to accept and embrace being exactly who she already is, and once you have accepted yourself, it’s a lot harder for others to tear you down. Self-love is some powerful armor.

82717: Your kids are your “monsters,” and it sounds like you encourage them to be true to themselves. What are your philosophies on parenting? What works? What doesn’t?

I don’t know that I have a true parenting style, more a philosophy for personal accountability. I am responsible for me and only me: how I feel, how I react to situations, how I treat people. I want my kiddos to be responsible for themselves. I want them to be responsible for how they view the world, and how they treat themselves and others. My son, Torin, is a whirlwind. We call him the Torin-ado. He’s impulsive and chaotic, and I am constantly, and firmly, setting boundaries. But I want him to flourish, to learn how to be himself in a society with rules. So, I try to teach them both that; ultimately, only they are responsible for their successes and failures. Torin had a really hard time when he entered kindergarten. He cried almost every day when he had to go to school. I started talking to him about choosing to have a positive attitude towards school, to focus on the things that he enjoyed about it, rather than what he didn’t like. We would talk about how he gets to choose if he has a good day or a bad day. It felt like victory the day I picked him up, asked how his day was, and was told that it was great, that he didn’t enjoy some of the things they did that day, but he said he chose to be happy anyway.

82717: You’ve been open with us about the struggles you’ve faced as a wife and mother, including depression. Your story, from reinventing yourself at your mom’s kitchen table to following your passion and creating a successful business from scratch in your thirties, is an inspiration. What advice would you give other moms or future entrepreneurs?

Parenting is HARD. Hell, just adulting is hard. Make sure to give yourself a ton of grace along the way, because we all screw things up. Own that, take it and be better because of it. I am not a perfect parent or a perfect person by any stretch of the imagination. I have to remind myself that every day is a challenge I’ve never faced before, so it’s ok if I don’t get it right the first time. Parenting and starting a business are even harder. I had a lot of support when I decided to quit my job and start Alla Lala, from my mom, my mother-in-law, my sisters, but most importantly, my husband. He didn’t even blink, just helped me plan and execute it. Not everyone has that same built-in system, so the best advice I can give is to seek out people already living their dreams. Most of those I’ve found are more than happy to talk and encourage you. Surround yourself with people that believe in themselves, and watch, ask questions, soak it up. Be open, curious and brave.

82717: Let’s talk politics. What issues or causes do you believe in and why? 

I try pretty hard not to get political – that always feels a lot like heartburn. I’m very secure in my own views, and I don’t feel a need to try to sway people to my viewpoints. I can respect that others have different opinions. That said, I am a very staunch feminist. I think this world needs more strong, vocal women. We need to feel empowered, accepted and embraced, no matter the place we choose to make in this world. We need to support each other, lift each other up, be encouraging and above all be genuine and kind.

By: Stephanie L. Scarcliff

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