By Madeleine Lee
Kat Gordon (‘00), creator and owner of the world-renowned Muddy’s Bake Shop and famed St. Mary’s alum, offered her insight and perspective in her recent chapel talk. Read more about the advice she shared, her presence in the community, and how she became the “Cupcake Queen.”
Photo by Michael Tedesco
On Monday, Sept. 18, the Middle and Upper School had the opportunity to hear Kat Gordon (‘00), founder and owner of the world-renowned Muddy’s Bake Shop, speak in chapel. After chapel, 15 seniors participated in a visioning workshop where Gordon led them through the process of creating a personal vision to design an enjoyable life.
Speaking to the girls of St. Mary’s, Gordon demonstrated both grace and humility as she played “Q&A” with herself by both asking and answering some of the most popular questions she is asked.
A popular question for Gordon is how exactly she ventured into the cupcake business. To which Gordon replies, it was not necessarily intentional. She started her career as a realtor, but jokingly says “I was not a good realtor.”
Upon hearing this in chapel, Madeline O’Toole (12), says, “I really took note of how honest Ms. Gordon was. She admitted she did not always have the work-life balance down and that, at a lot of points, she was ready to throw in the towel.”
But, as Gordon goes on to explain, she didn’t throw it in -- she kept looking for her purpose. Eventually, she began baking as a hobby, and soon people began to persistently ask her to bake for them. This hobby turned passion and Gordon explains, “I found that I was more engaged in this side business. It took a leap of faith, willingness to take risks, and trust in God [to actually start a cupcake shop].”
But, to Gordon, Muddy’s was always so much more than merely cupcakes; Muddy’s was a way to make her mark and have an impact.
On the daily, Gordon seeks to leave her mark on both the relationships she has fostered with her employees and the appreciation she holds for her city. Gordon explains “it is hard to give better service than what we are receiving, so [I think] of it more like a service ecosystem in which I need to give great service to my coworkers, they need to give great service to each other, and we need to together give great service to the customers.”
As for her dedication to the city of Memphis, Gordon shows her 901 love through the monthly service jars held at both Muddy’s cash registers. Instead of accepting tips in a traditional tip jar, Muddy’s holds a donation jar featuring a monthly rotating local organization to which customers can donate their spare change, a practice Gordon says was initially inspired by the St. Mary’s Community Fund. Additionally, Muddy’s also offers an in-house volunteer program, which encourages employees to earn paid hours by volunteering with organizations across the community.
Caroline Ciaramitaro (12) says, “Previously, I had thought that only big companies could make a difference, but Ms. Gordon and the impact she has made with Muddy’s showed me the influential role that a small business can have in a city like Memphis.”
Madeleine O’Toole (12) describes the Muddy’s experience, saying “Whether I walk into the Midtown or East Memphis shop, I can immediately tell that the workers are supportive of each other and extremely customer service oriented. I will never forget one Thanksgiving when a mixup happened to our pie orders and the employees stayed several hours after closing the night before Thanksgiving in order to make it right for us.”
It is this very atmosphere that draws Caroline to study at Muddy’s often. She says “the exciting yet simultaneously relaxing feeling of Muddy’s added an element of enjoyment to the work that I had never had before, and so I kept coming back.”
Madeleine, also a frequent visitor of Muddy’s Midtown location, says, “I am always greeted by smiles and recommendations. The space itself is ideal for a leisurely study sesh or a relaxing afternoon coffee date. I love looking around while I'm there to see people conducting business meetings, people chatting with family from out of town, and students chipping away at their work.”
Despite the success Muddy’s has achieved, Gordon says, “there is no recipe for success, but taking time to see what success feels like is very important.” She goes on to say that “taking time to think about the destination first is beneficial” -- a notion she has termed “visioning.”
She believes in teaching people to shape their futures in the present to create a life that they will enjoy in the long run, and she teaches these skills in her visioning workshops. The workshops were initially for Muddy’s employees, but are increasingly offered to outside groups, such as Fedex and St. Mary’s.
Rainey Segars, Director of Alumnae, says, “Kat’s workshop focuses on this idea of visioning: how to think past what you want now and keep your long term goal in mind.” Mrs. Segars admits, “I didn’t learn that in high school.”
But, Gordon says, in fact, she was taught a lot of these ideals beginning in high school. Gordon says, “I might not have appreciated it at the time, but St. Mary’s taught me much more than just [history and science.]” For example, she says, “Muddy’s has an honor code, and we took that from St. Mary’s.” Muddy’s dress code is also suspiciously similar to that of the St. Mary’s dress code.
Erin Katz, who attended the visioning class, says “Going into the class, I honestly did not even know what “visioning” was, but I left much less anxious about the whole cliche idea of the “unknown-real-world” I am about to embark on.”
Hattie Fogarty (12), adds “The workshop and its intended lesson were made 100 times more meaningful because Ms. Gordon is a St. Mary's graduate. We hear speakers come to speak everyday saying that failing is a part of life, but knowing that Ms. Gordon came from the exact same place we are made her candid advice so meaningful.” She adds, “Her lesson on visioning highlighted the reality that we don't get to stay at St. Mary’s forever, but her words of wisdom helped me focus on taking control of that seemingly uncontrollable future by simply acknowledging that it's going to happen.”
Madeline, an aspiring entrepreneur herself, notes that she particularly appreciated Gordon’s advice: “Even if you love your job, each day is still work . . . it may bring you more joy, but it's still not easy.”