Business Profile: Tiny Dog Cupcake has big ideas

Grace Johnson

From battling winter storms to taking on philanthropy, Tiny Dog Cupcake has been fighting the “bigger dogs” from the very beginning.

Owner Rob Mockard’s “cupcakery,” 616 Davis St., is capitalizing on the cupcake trend with multiple flavored delights, from dark chocolate minty to barking blueberry cupcakes in regular and “tiny” sizes.

“In life things that are very tiny or giant are always extra cute and extra exciting,” employee Rachel Birnbaum said.

Just a week after Tiny Dog opened, Mockard, an NU alum, and his staff found themselves fighting a winter storm with only a temporary banner touting the new business.

“It was plummeting temperatures and 45-mile winds down Davis Street, and it actually blew down our temporary signage,” Mockard said.

Now six weeks into its opening, Tiny Dog intends to keep fighting battles, this time to raise money for non-profits and other student ventures.

Last Friday, Tiny Dog hosted a karaoke night to raise money for the Northwestern Theatre Production “Buried Child.” Mockard agreed to host the event after Birnbaum, a Communication sophomore, approached him.

“We were able to raise awareness for the production and also raise awareness for Tiny Dog Cupcake,” Birnbaum said.

Mockard graduated from the Kellogg School of Management in 2004. He said he hopes to raise money for other charity efforts in the future, starting in the spring, when he wants to host a meeting with NU and Evanston community members. After this meeting, Tiny Dog Cupcake will choose three non-profits, each of which will receive a portion of Tiny Dog’s profit. The amount each non-profit receives will depend on customer votes.

“The Tiny Dog brand will become on a more broad level a metaphor for that which is not afraid to take on things bigger than itself,” Mockard said.

Mockard got into the cupcake business in early 2010 after seeing the viability of similar businesses in other university towns.

“There’s a novelty to eating them that makes it fun,” Birnbaum said. “It’s just sort of a small, sweet gesture that ends up meaning a lot more.”

Melinda Dworkin, an Evanston psychotherapist, popped into Tiny Dog for the first time Saturday.

“I’m actually escaping in here really quick – my office is just around the corner,” she said. “I think it’s a whimsical idea.”

Providing mini vacations for people is what Tiny Dog is all about, Mockard said.

“It’s a nice way to cheer up your day, ” he said. “Maybe you’re taking less vacations, but you can come in and treat yourself to a cupcake and coffee for less than five dollars. That’s a nice little break.”

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