Tipsy Cupcakes RVA’s alcohol-infused treats bring tastiness with a kick.
Three and a half years ago, sisters Shay and Mesha Cousins quit their corporate jobs to create Tipsy Cupcakes RVA, a cupcake shop that specializes in booze infused confections. Located in Carytown, Tipsy Cupcakes RVA is a shop unlike any other.
While not the only shop in town serving alcohol-infused treats, Tipsy Cupcakes RVA sets itself apart by being a representation of the owners’ bubbly personalities and pride in their black culture.
“We wanted to be different from your average cupcake shop,” said Shay. “From the bright bubbliness of the decor to the R&B music, we wanted to give customers a glimpse of us.”
When it came to the concept, the Cousins stuck to their guns despite blowback from business consultants who claimed it was too “urban” for the neighborhood. But the Cousins didn’t want the “black” to be erased from their black-owned business.
“We are proud to be a black-owned business. We are aware of our blackness. We got here with our blackness,” said Mesha. “We were able to make it to this point being who we are without compromising on who we are.”
Twice a month, they’ll host “Paint and Sip” nights that allow customers to paint pictures by black artists while they enjoy a drink from the in-house bar. Occasionally, they’ll use Mesha’s background in bedroom consultation to host “Naughty Paint and Sips,” which features paintings of “naughty” parts of the body. Incorporating more of a nightlife twist to the classic cupcake shop formula was Shay and Mesha’s main priority.
“It’s nice to be at a point where you don’t have to apologize for who you are. Because I’m my own boss,” said Shay. “I don’t have to answer to anyone.”
In 2015, Mesha and Shay were working for Capital One, dissatisfied with the monotony and lack of fulfillment that these corporate environments fostered.
“I felt like we were just a number. That the business wasn’t valuing us or the amount of work that we did,” said Shay. “And the end of the day, I’m still making someone else successful.”
So the sisters sat together in their car one day after work, tossing around ideas for a business. And within three hours, Tipsy Cupcakes RVA was born.
They did their first test run by taking a few prototype cupcake samples to a Chuck E. Cheese during Shay’s son’s birthday. Their mother went up to a group of women at a separate party and asked them if they wanted an alcoholic cupcake. The women said yes, tried them, and fell in love. The entire group wanted to know if they could buy them.
“That’s when the lightbulb went off. We knew we could actually sell these,” said Mesha. “This is our way out. This is how we can become entrepreneurs.”
The sisters learned quickly that starting a business is no easy task. Dealing with problems from marketing to liquor licensing, every day provides the women with a new challenge. But just like the cupcakes they sell, though the Cousins may be beautiful on the outside, they also pack a hidden, powerful punch.
“We face challenges all the time. It still doesn’t feel real to us. It’s certainly a humbling experience,” said Shay.
One of their biggest hurdles was their main selling point — their cupcakes. Since alcohol-infused baked goods are a relatively new concept, Virginia’s ABC liquor laws were not sure how to approach the concept. Strict limits were set on how much alcohol the cupcakes could contain.
Thankfully, though, due to a legislative change in 2018, Tipsy Cupcakes was finally allowed to introduce their “Jumbo”-sized cupcakes alongside their classic “Tipsy” variety. However, all their cupcakes, from Drunken Sweet Potato to Twisted Strawberry Shortcake, come in alcohol-free varieties. So whether you are looking for a sweet, delicious kick or just a regular tasty treat, Tipsy Cupcakes RVA has you covered.
Photos via Tipsy Cupcakes RVA/Facebook