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For Margo Engberg, pictured here at the flagship Pinkabella store in Redmond, Washington, cupcakes provide an opportunity to advocate for kids on the margins of society.
Some come for the Root Beer Floats, some for the Bacon Blasts, still others for the Almond Vanilla Beans. There are 60 flavors under the Pinkabella brand, and every one of them is a delicious frosted cupcake.
Unbelievably, Margo Jarvies Engberg's Pinkabella Cupcakes is just 3 years old. Unbelievable, because in that short time, her baking business has expanded to five stores and more than 40 employees. Unbelievable, because entrepreneurs clamor for franchises and other companies offer to buy her out.
Often, the Pinkabella ovens bake round the clock. Margo, who is Seattle Pacific University's 2013 Alumna of the Year, and her team supply 7,000 cupcakes at a time for famed chef Tom Douglas' annual Food Lifeline fundraiser. Besides being the exclusive provider of cakes for all American Girl Doll birthday parties in Seattle, Pinkabella creates thousands of logo-embossed cupcakes for Microsoft software launch parties and, this summer, inked with Amazon corporate the largest cupcake deal they've ever negotiated.
Margo has flown to Los Angeles and entertained offers from a handful of television networks for a reality show. A pilot has been shot. She waits patiently for the right creative team to tell her story the way this mom of four thinks it should be told.
"I share my passion every chance I get," says Margo, who is the heart and face of Pinkabella Cupcakes.
Yet Margo and her family are so much more than a successful gourmet “cupcakery.” Pinkabella's corporate mission is emblazoned on the wall:
“Our goal is to change the world one cupcake at a time.”
Pinkabella will soon surpass 40,000 cupcakes donated to nonprofit organizations. That's about $120,000 worth of the confections, in addition to funds donated to a number of charities including Youth for Christ, where her “right arm,” husband Doug, is director of development for Snohomish and King counties. One hundred percent of all tips received at Pinkabella stores goes to care for abandoned children helped through Children of the Nations International. The list of groups the company has supported with donations is up to 84 names.
“The way Margo lives her faith and runs her business is fascinating to watch,” says Brian Muchmore, executive director of Seattle Area Youth for Christ. “I'd call it an almost perfect ‘businesstry,' business plus ministry. She has a huge heart and calling to care for kids in this world.” Margo has been an ambassador for YFC's work with kids in the community and has financially supported YFC's programs for juvenile justice, teen parents, and foster care.
“Giving is essential to success,” says the high-energy Margo, who lived on four hours of sleep when starting the business. “I'm a firm believer that you get what you give.” To her, rising profits create more opportunity to give rather than more to spend. For that reason, she is in the process of establishing an endowment to support SPU student scholarships.
Before Pinkabella, baking was a hobby for Margo, while she ran a house-cleaning service for 20 years. She and Doug have also kept busy raising four adopted kids, ages 5 through 16. Gabe, Jazzmyn, Mia, and Tycie Engberg form the nucleus of Margo's cheering squad. They don't mind that family vacations are few, focusing instead on family traditions such as eating dinner together every night, even if that means take-out eaten at tables in the window of the local Pinkabella.
“I could not do what I have done without my husband and kids,” says Margo. “They and my employees helped me build this business. They are my inspiration.”
As were her days at Seattle Pacific, which she says molded her faith. “I've been back to campus a hundred times since graduation,” adds the 1989 graduate, “and I can't do it without tearing up. The University is why I am here today. It gave me the tools to change the world.” The product of an unhappy childhood, Margo thrived in the warm and accepting environment of SPU. Among her favorite memories are the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at the home of Professor of Theology Les Steele.
In the years since earning her diploma, Margo has served on SPU's Young Alumni Council and urged donors to direct their gifts to student scholarships as a member of the annual Phonathon fundraising team.
Admittedly never having met a Pinkabella cupcake she didn't like, Margo works out regularly to stay trim. She continues to oversee the company's day-to-day operations. Sometimes new cupcake flavors come to her in the night, and she'll hit the kitchen and go to work perfecting the little cake. Top sellers are Red Velvet and Salted Caramel.
“I share my passion every chance I get,” says Margo, who is the heart and face of Pinkabella Cupcakes. She frequently speaks to corporate groups about her success and mission. “I tell them these cupcakes are the best you're going to eat.”
Her avid followers agree. For the last two years, Pinkabella was voted Best Cupcake in the Best of Western Washington competition conducted by KING 5 TV.
And to think that what was once a hobby began with “Once upon a cupcake …”
Alumni: Meet Margo Engberg — and reconnect with your classmates — at Homecoming, January 24–26, 2013. Learn more at spu.edu/homecoming.