Christina Moffatt is no stranger to the challenges small business owners face.
The founder of Crème Cupcake, Moffatt is now the new director of small business resources for The Greater Des Moines Partnership. In the role, she’ll be finding new ways to connect existing business owners across the metro with needed resources.
Since small, existing businesses are past the “are we going to make it?” phase, assisting them can result in a more immediate impact, she said.
This interview has been edited for conciseness.
C&M: Tell us a bit about your new role at the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
CM: I was previously at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and did lots of one-on-one counseling with small businesses there. The Partnership’s mission this year really focuses on building and accelerating minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses as well as high-growth businesses. My role will really be focused around those categories, but I’ll also be helping existing businesses grow.
There’s not a lot of focus on helping our existing businesses in this area. There is a lot on startup activity and what I discovered at the SBDC is that I have a passion for helping existing businesses grow. Because when we focus on them, the return to our economy is almost immediate. They launch a new product, create a new job, start a new location, outgrow their current space and allow another small business to get started there.
When we focus on existing businesses, they need very different resources than a startup. Coming to the Partnership, we had had the discussion of how can (we) help small businesses in the area and what I mentioned to Meg (Schneider, the Partnership’s senior vice president of regional business development) is that there needs to be more resources for existing businesses. They’re out there, but everyone is working in silos because they’re so busy. Nobody has time to talk about it and there’s nobody organizing all of the information.
C&M: Who will you be working with at the Partnership? What resources will be available to these companies?
CM: I’ll be working with everyone from colleges to the SBDC to local funding mechanisms, collecting all the information and getting our entrepreneurs to the resources they need as fast as we can.
C&M: How did your experience with the SBDC prepare you for this role?
CM: I hope my legacy lies in the businesses I helped and not just in the role that I held. I’m very passionate about Des Moines and know there’s potential for great businesses here if people can break away from their day-to-day to follow their passion.
C&M: What lessons did you learn from starting Crème Cupcake?
CM: I started Crème with the guidance of the SBDC … Starting there was a great resource and I became passionate about promoting them because they don’t have the marketing budget. Going through that process I learned how to test product markets, build cash flow, have a plan, and know that it’s OK to change that plan. The dessert lounge concept came out of those changing plans.
I think the biggest thing I bring is that my business wasn’t without fault. It hasn’t been without failure or difficulty. I can relate (to other small businesses) because I live and breathe it every day. I have a team of 16 that I’m still in charge of at Crème.
When I started my business, we decided to open our location on Ingersoll. Three weeks after we started working I found out I was three months pregnant, which was never part of my business plan. Finding a team to work through all of that with was essential. Then my mom, who had been working in the business with me for a month after I found out I was pregnant suffered a massive stroke. I emotionally checked out of my business, but because of good guidance and good mentors, I was able to carry on what we were doing and Crème survived. My team has been with me a long time, which is hard to do in the food industry. I’m very passionate about them so I’ve been helping other entrepreneurs figure that out and deal with hard times you can’t plan for.
C&M: What has been an unexpected source of inspiration for your work?
CM: I was kind of a micromanager until I found out I was pregnant. But I’m inspired by watching my team excel at what they’re great at. Seeing their passion come to life gives me passion going on. Seeing others accelerate their businesses gives me passion to want to go forward.
Whether it’s serving on a board or here in the businesses that I help, it’s that feeling of letting them take off. You fill with adrenaline when you see your team do well. I know that so many of them will keep going and do great things for this city.
C&M: What’s the best piece of advice you received?
CM: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was right when I was debating if I was going to leave my full-time stable job and start Crème. My mentor Davis Sanders at RDG told me something I’ve always come back to. He said, “How do you know unless you try?” Either you go for it and maybe fail or you live knowing you might always have that regret.
About Christina Moffatt
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Twitter Handle: @cmoffattdsm
Megan Bannister is a freelance writer based in Des Moines and a regular contributor to Clay & Milk.