Sweet life: Q&A with cupcake connoisseur, Benny Lina
It’s evident Hip Hop continues to remain ever-present in the current state of pop culture. It permeates music, fashion, slang and now...cupcakes. Thanks to Eat Good NYC, fans can indulge in sweet treats impressively adorned by colorful images of Drake and Prince while sneakerheads can revel in baked goods topped by three-dimensional Jordans.
Founded by Benny Lina and Carolina Wang after meeting on Tinder, the couple’s mutual love of baking and streetwear inspired them to create their home delivery service that also offers cookies, gum and lollipops. Due to their creativity and growing list of celebrity clients, their work has become a hot commodity for notable brands like MTV, and they’ve earned coverage by major outlets including Complex and Vogue magazine.
Read on as co-founder Benny speaks on Eat Good NYC’s upcoming edible art gallery, baking for Beyonce (!) and his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
At what point did you realize cupcake art was your calling?
My mom used to bake when I was younger, so I would look at her baking, and I knew I had the talent, but at the time, I wasn't like, "Oh, I want to be a baker when I grow up." I kind of just fell into it. When I first started, I wanted to do something like fashion for entertainment, but I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. It was kind of like one of those lightbulb moments where I want to do this, but I also have this talent of baking, so I just put it together. About three years ago, I was just, like, “Screw it. Let me do some kind of fashion entertainment baking type of situation and just put all the things I like to do in one,” and this kinda came out of it.
I read that you met the co-founder on Tinder?
That's actually my girlfriend. We met about 3 or 4 years ago. The first conversation we had was, “What are you into?” It was like fashion, baking. I was like,”What? You like the same things that I do!” so that was kind of cool.
What challenges did you face starting up your own business and how did you overcome them?
Selling food basically over social media. I mean, we don't have a store or anything, so it was like, “How do we reach a certain clientele? How do we make people trust us?” Buying food over social media isn't really, like, a thing. People like to go to and taste food, so we had to find a way to build up our reputation, and with that, we kind of just stuck to the things we love and target it to people that are like-minded. Then from there, they supported us.
How did you build your following?
For the most part, it was just hitting up people that were into the same things we were into. I would go downtown and connect with people that were into art and let them know, “Hey, I do food art.” They'd be like, “What's food art?" I'd talk to them and show them, “This is what I'm into." [They’d say], “That's kinda dope. I'd like to put in an order for my company or my cousins, girlfriend,” or whatever. It was hitting the street and talking to people.
What project have you been most excited to work on?
I think the biggest thing I was super excited about were cupcakes for Beyonce about 2 years ago. I came home and my girlfriend was like, “I have a surprise for you...We're doing cupcakes for Beyonce!" I was like, “What the f***?” I mean that's f***in’ Beyonce! I was so excited. I think she has a video of her giving me the news and me [fanboying] out, so that was definitely a special thing. Working for the NBA and doing projects for MTV and getting into Vogue was pretty dope as well. That was really special.
I read about your food art gallery show. Did that already take place?
Well, for the most part, the first first one is going to take place in the fall. We've been doing little events like pop-ups here and there in the city, but the first art show that's totally focused on us, that's going to be in the fall time. I can't wait. Very exciting. Like, we're just trying to do something different with food. I kind of don't want to just be boxed in like we’re a bakery. I feel that we are art as well, and I have to present that as such. I definitely feel that doing the first food art show...I mean, I've never heard of one, and I feel like we're doing the first food art show, and we're going to be presenting it to the world soon. I can't wait.
You guys also have a book.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, so we just dropped photo books in the last month or so. It's based on things that Inspire New Yorkers basically, so where Biggie was born...I went over to where he was born in Brooklyn and took a picture of a selfie [cupcake] in front of it. We had a Basquiat cookie and took that to where he used to live in the 80s and where he actually passed away from a drug overdose. We took a picture there and told a story, so it's basically certain parts of New York that makes New York what it is today.
That sounds like something I would like. I’m a Hip hop nerd. Where can we get it?
You can get it at eatgood.nyc
Last question: What advice would you give an up and coming entrepreneur?
Definitely just study the game. Study it inside out. Study people that you look up to. Just be really studious. Just focus on anything that's important to you, and actually love it, you know what I mean? You can't fake it, and people are going to know when you're faking it. Actually be in love with whatever you're doing. I think that's what I would tell them if an entrepreneur was to come and ask me a question.