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4 Small-Business Lessons Learned in Reality TV Limelight

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By Caroline McMillan

Before “Restaurant Impossible,” Sweet Tea’s struggled with identity, Cohen said. Now, she said, “consistency is so important to us.”

2. Creativity begets value — and validation. As Google and Facebook have demonstrated by spending millions on perks to generate spontaneous inspiration among employees, creativity is critical to success in the increasingly crowded 21st-century global economy. But that’s important whether your business is a Silicon Valley tech giant or a family-run business in small-town USA.

Sisters-in-law Madeline Baucom and Enza Friedman, who opened Maddy’s Fatty’s Bakery in Cornelius, N.C., will attest to that.

The duo, who started their business out of Baucom’s kitchen with no formal culinary training three years ago, applied to be on “Cupcake Wars” before they’d even opened their brick-and-mortar spot on U.S. 21.

Their “Mission: Impossible”-themed video, complete with one-piece leather cat suits and Tom Cruise-esque moves, caught the attention of the producers. And just five weeks after they opened their new facility (a tough one to explain to new customers, thanks to the confidentiality agreement) they were flown to Los Angeles for filming.

Unbeknownst to the contestants, their episode had a soap-opera theme. That posed a problem for Baucom and Friedman: Neither had ever seen a show.

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