Lisa's takes the cake

A family business built on Sun Devil pride.

While most 5-year-olds find their niches on the seven-foot tube slide at the local park, she found hers with the plastic measuring spoons and icing bags within the walls of her family’s bakery.

For the entirety of her life, Madison Power grew up listening to the same melody of mixers creating a harmonious blend of flour, premium extract, and sugar – a concoction that would one day lead her to become a vital asset in helping her family’s bakery prosper in the world of cake.

Madison’s passions for her family's bakery, marketing and advertising led her to pursue her education at ASU where she would successfully continue a long-line of Sun Devil pride, as well as carry on decades of a thriving cake business.

Where It All Began 

It was in 1975 when the family's rum cake recipe began to leave a lasting impression on the greater Phoenix area. Madison’s grandmother began the family’s baking business with their Italian rum cake recipe that would eventually transcend into the sensation it is today.

After working in the family’s business for 41 years, Madison’s mother, Lisa Power, is a cake connoisseur. Lisa says she began working for her mother in the bakery when she was in middle school and always knew she wanted to remain in the cake business.

“This is my love,” Lisa says.

Over the years, the family’s business has undergone many new changes, initiatives and challenges to get it to where it is today.

In the 1990s, customers expressed a demand to ship the family’s rum cake to various locations. Lisa’s husband bought the rights from her mother in 2001 to start shipping and producing the cakes ensuring that they could keep up with customer demand. Unlike many other cake businesses, their ability to ship cakes across the country gave the family’s bakery an edge in the industry. 

In 2009, Lisa would then carry on the family tradition of making Italian custard-filled cakes with the inception of their current storefront and factory: Lisa’s Rum Cakes. In addition to Lisa, her husband and three daughters have all played essential roles in the family’s business. 

Lisa’s work with the business influenced her daughters and allowed them the opportunity to be involved with the bakery since they were each five years old.

Four Generations of Sun Devil Pride

In the successful Gilbert storefront, a black-and-white photograph from the late 1800s stands with a sort of reminiscent pride capturing the Power family’s long-lasting connection to ASU. The photograph displays a candid shot of the first ASU football team with Madison’s great grandfather in the midst of an eleven-person line up. 

Graduating in December 2011 with a W.P. Carey bachelor's degree in Marketing, Madison has carried on the family tradition by becoming a fourth generation Sun Devil. However, Madison and her family’s association with the university does not end there.

Last fall, the family participated in a class at the W.P. Carey School where they used their first-hand experience to educate students about branding. The family collaborated with the students on new innovative ideas for marketing and advertising and they continue to be an outside resource for business students. 

The former Sun Devil says she worked extremely hard in high school as an honors student and basketball player. Her efforts eventually landed her a full ride scholarship to ASU as well as a wide range of college offers from schools all across the nation. However, Madison says she knew she belonged at the university that had captured the hearts of her family before her, without a hint of hesitation; she knew ASU was the right university for her.

Her Career in the Bakery after ASU

Since the young age of 12, Madison knew she would choose marketing as her career path. She says she had a few different internships, including one in which she successfully created a logo that was printed on 7 million cans.

Before officially deciding to work with her family’s bakery after college, she entertained the idea of working with other advertising and marketing agencies, but quickly realized how well-suited her career would be in her family’s business.

“I’ve been around family business my whole life, so I just decided I’m going to put my marketing and advertising to use here,” Madison says. “I knew I’d be involved no matter what I was doing, but I am a functioning workaholic – I live, breathe, eat this place.”

Much like her decision to continue the family tradition at ASU, Madison decided to continue her career at her family’s business. By working officially as the marketing and advertising executive at Lisa’s Rum Cake, she is able to exercise her love for advertising while also working on the production side of things.

Madison’s CUTS Creation 

In 2013, Madison’s passion for marketing and experience in production collided when she created Lisa’s Rum Cake CUTS. CUTS are not your typical slice of cake, personally packaged and portioned for the individual, they elevate the standard dessert experience for customers. She says she was inspired to create a product that was marketed with the idea to not only meet the customer’s desire for a single piece of cake, but also to further establish the Lisa's Rum Cake trademark.

CUTS has become a staple in the bakery’s business since its introduction. The Power family intends to keep a continuous flow of product expansion in the coming years with new ideas, such as developing a new design to make CUTS in the form of different shapes.

"I didn't just want to sell a piece of cake or a cupcake, I wanted to sell a trademark," Madison says. 

A Family Affair

Co-owner and husband,  ASU alumnus Kelly Power, has also worked as a crucial component to the bakery’s success over the years. Initially working as an engineer, Kelly brought many measured and inventive initiatives to the bakery.

From the bakery’s humble beginnings to its current position as a prominent bakery in Gilbert, Kelly has always aspired to make sure the business is constantly working towards new developments to be the best in the industry.

“My goal in all of this is to make something that we can take further,” he says. “We are shipping to all 50 states and we are constantly on the lookout for what the market wants.”

Madison’s sisters, Megan and Lauren, also play important roles that have made the business what it is today. Megan primarily works as the resident designer, while Lauren’s expertise is with sales. 

Work Hard, Play Hard 

While working together as a family may be a recipe for disaster in some businesses, it proves to be the key ingredient for Lisa’s Rum Cake.

“We have fun together, we cry together and we work hard together,” Lisa says. “That’s what makes all the long hours possible. We love what we do and we love working with each other.”

Lisa adds they have had quite a few instances where they have been in the bakery long past the posted business hours, usually around the holiday season. She reminisced about one occasion in particular where they spent more than a full day together to get all the cake orders done in time for Mother’s Day.

"We worked straight through 27 hours without a break," Lisa says. "I've never been so tired in my life." 

Despite the long hours and tiresome work, the family makes sure to still have fun and enjoy their time in the bakery.

"We are tight-knit. We have fun and sometimes we are here until three or four in the morning on the holidays. Laughing, dancing, crying because our feet hurt," Madison says.  

Customer Service 

From serving the sweet tooth of many local cake lovers to well-known political figures and celebrities, the bakery has a wide-range of customers.

One of the most exciting sales Madison remembers making while growing up in the bakery was to famed singer Cher. Only 7 at the time, Madison had answered the phone ready to take a typical cake order when she learned that it was for one of her favorite singers at the time.

Though the bakery has had the exciting opportunity to serve many famous faces, it’s the regulars, the local bride, the soon to be seven-year-old boy – the loyal recurring patron – that truly makes their business feel as though they are not just serving a customer, but a family member too.

Some may even to refer to Lisa as the “cake doctor.” Madison says that her mother soothes much more than just the sweet tooth – she will truly connect with customers on a level that goes further than just asking what kind of icing they want. At Lisa’s Rum Cake they do what they can to have real relationships with their patrons.

One of their many devoted regulars, Leslie Gronneberg, has been buying cakes from the bakery for about five years.

“I have never had a cake like theirs before,” she says.

Gronneberg adds that her husband is not a fan of cake, but refers to Lisa’s carrot cake as the best he’s ever had.

Though her husband has a favorite flavor, Gronneberg says that she cannot choose just one. With over 70 different flavors to choose from, she says she likes to always change it up and try something new.

Aside from having a wide variety of flavors to try, the business is also “everybody friendly” with their alcohol-free rum extract.

“You can’t buy a cake like that just anywhere,” Gronneberg says. “You just think of cake as normal cake, but this is just so totally different – it’s just so good.”

Gronneberg says she is always content with every cake order she makes, but hopes the business will someday soon open more store locations. As an East Mesa resident, she says that although the store is not too far from her, it would be great to have more store locations available. 

Partnering With Other Businesses

In addition to creating strong relationships with their customers, the bakery has also formed relationships with another small local business, Fluff It Gourmet Marshmallows. The business, about three miles from theirs, works closely with the bakery in a partnership.

One of the cake flavors, the Italian S’mores CUTS, features Fluff It’s marshmallow in the filling.

Hazel Arce, co-owner of Fluff It Gourmet Marshmallows, says that the two businesses have collaborated in a partnership for about six months.

“It’s been wonderful,” Arce says. “They are a wonderful company and family. We see them every week now and because of working together we have gotten customers from our shop go to there and vice versa and that’s been really, really nice.” 

Arce also goes on to say that being able to work with the bakery has been great because they both share issues and challenges that are similar to each other in the world of small businesses.

READ MORE: Fluff It Gourmet Marshmallows bring new life to dessertNot Only Giving Back with Cake, but with Community Service Too. 

Lisa says that aside from serving a great-tasting cake to the community, they also try to give back by participating in events such as local food banks and canned food drives.

Kelly further elaborates that the core success of a business is not merely based upon a successful flow of revenue, but rather the ability to see the bigger picture and benefits of giving back to their surrounding community.

“It’s all about giving back when it’s all said and done,” Kelly says. “It works better when you have bigger aspirations than just trying to make a buck.”  


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