Whoops! gets its very own video to the tune of Two Door Cinema Club from reporter/video producer Lauren Drell (@drelly).
In Job Switch, Former Staffer Makes Whoopie
July 21, 2010
By Emily Heil
Roll Call Staff
Many a would-be culinary entrepreneur can wax eloquent about the
subtleties of her product: the ingredients, the recipes, the
hard-to-capture craft of it all.
But McKee Floyd is also versed in the more practical side of the
business that she’s entered with the launch of Whoops!, a whoopie-pie
bakery. In fact, she talks of branding, product development and real
estate searches with the same zeal as she does her sweets.
The 23-year-old, formerly a legislative assistant to Rep. John Tierney
(D-Mass.), left her job of two years in March for the wilds of
Floyd, who until hatching the plan for Whoops! had never worked in
food service, has big dreams for her concept. For now, she caters
parties and fills large custom orders out of her Logan Circle
apartment kitchen. In the next few weeks, she plans to finalize
agreements with one or two retailers who will distribute her pies and
nail down a temporary commercial baking space to rent. Her one-year
business plan calls for opening a storefront location where customers
can customize their own whoopie pies at a bar, choosing from a variety
of cakes, icings and toppings.
Why whoopie pies? In a town glutted with cupcakes, whoopie pies —
essentially two small cakes sandwiching a filling of frosting — are a
novelty. Then there’s the frosting-to-cake ratio (“Way better than
cupcakes,” Floyd insists). And, Floyd says, the interactivity that
whoopie pies offer makes for a good business model.
Floyd is hardly the stars-in-her-eyes dreamer one might expect from
someone who’s chucking a prestigious career for an unknown field.
“This was more of a business decision than a love of the craft,” she
says. “Although I do love it — I’d have to, to get up at 5 in the
morning to bake.”
For one, the path she took after leaving Capitol Hill to pursue her
vision was a highly practical one. Convinced she wanted to open a
whoopie-pie bakery, the food-service newbie took a job at Sweetgreen,
the fast-growing mini-chain owned by a group of Georgetown grads in
their early 20s. The owners, she said, supported her idea and shared
their own travails in the restaurant scene while putting her to work.
She made salads, did dishes, rang up customers — generally learning
all the un-glamorous aspects of the food industry while absorbing an
MBA’s worth of lessons about building a business. At times, she says,
the enormity of what she’d given up would hit her.
“I was mopping the floor, and I suddenly realized that three months
ago, I was writing questions for my boss to ask [Treasury Secretary]
Timothy Geithner,” she says.
She also took an unpaid internship at cupcake pioneer CakeLove, where
she learned about commercial baking in a professional kitchen. When
the eatery’s baker left in May, Floyd took the job, which she now
balances with developing her own brand.
She approaches running a culinary business the same way that many Hill
staffers do their jobs. “You have to know when to be in the weeds and
when to call in the experts,” she says of both her time on the Hill
and her current challenges. “I know just enough about small-business
law, but I also know when to call a lawyer.”
The same maxim applies to her kitchen tinkering (ever-evolving, she
notes) that led to the recipes that she uses. “I channel my inner LA
in deciding when to pick up my Baking Bible and when to call a friend
who has years of experience baking and can tell me, ‘Oh, you need to
use another half-cup of baking soda.’”
Many colleagues and friends were taken aback by her decision to leave
the Hill. “They were surprised because I wasn’t dissatisfied with my
job — I loved it. It wasn’t like fin reg drove me away,” she says,
adding that she considered moonlighting. “I just decided I couldn’t
give the Congressman my all and focus on my business.”
Floyd’s business model is of a piece with other entrepreneurs, many
also in their 20s and 30s, opening artisanal food businesses in
Washington: food trucks, farmers market stalls and online businesses
often provide a launching pad to more traditional brick-and-mortar
establishments. Those innovators, she says, have welcomed her. Like
the Sweetgreen owners, they have shared lessons and tips for starting
“The food community in D.C. is so cool right now,” she says. “Nine out
of 10 times, if I reach out to someone, they’ll tell me, ‘This is what
I did,” and ‘This is what I wish I had done differently.’”
As with “Marathon” by Tennis (below) this is a song that’s been burning up the WHOOPS! kitchen this week. Warning: it’s super catchy. Like 90s catchy.
Look for the new album by Best Coast out in the next few weeks…
Tomorrow, I will take a field trip downtown for the ServSafe food safety exam. This exam is a prerequisite for receiving my license to be alone with food in the District of Columbia (I like to think of it as being…licensed to cook).
As a former policy wonk for food safety, I’m actually pretty excited about the certification, although I have a feeling we will be discussing elements of food prep that are a bit more technical than the broader sweeping reforms I researched on the Hill.
I’ll be sure to share any surprising insights from the experience and look forward to taking the important information to heart. The license takes me one step closer to bringing WHOOPS! to D.C.
In the meantime, be Food Safe.
Tennis - Marathon
Part of baking a good batch of whoops is listening to stellar music while you work. Actually, I think listening to good music is important to most activities, but I really think the flavors in my buttercream sing when they’re made to good tunes.
My kitchen has a string of solid new bands through its airwaves this summer, but today I found a real jem. Tennis is a husband and wife duo from Denver, CO with crunching percussion and dreamy nostalgic vocals. They have an EP due out later this summer, and I can’t wait to bake away to the rest of their tracks. Until then, this track - “Marathon” is exactly what the baker ordered for a rainy D.C. day like today.
Welcome to WHOOPS!
WHOOPS! is a Washington D.C. based bakery focusing on whoopie pies. Our desserts are whimsical, nostalgic, but first and foremost, delicious.
We hope this website will become a forum where we can share flavor ideas and news about where you can find WHOOPS in the coming months, but we also hope to share some of the inspiration behind our dessert and our unique ethos by posting the music, art, and goings-on in D.C. we love.