Ed. note: For the record, I really hate donuts. I don’t even particularly like sweets. I owe my girlish figure to (1) things that can be wrapped in bacon and (2) a zero tolerance policy when it comes to exercise.
The most important part of the visit was the excellent food. Lev brought over his three best-selling creations: cookie dough, Oreo cookies ‘n cream, and red velvet. I’d never had a cookie dough cupcake, but its gustatory greatness cannot be denied.
Lat preferred the cookies and cream flavor, while Kash opted to continue looking beautiful.
After we finished stuffing our faces, we sat down to talk with Mr. Ekster. Our notes from the interview, plus pictures of the cupcake-y goodness, after the jump.
Cupcake Stop is not the only small business Lev Ekster is running. He is also involved in Outlines.com, a site that is gaining traction among law students. You can’t eat an outline, but at least it’s law-related.
We asked Lev why cupcakes seemed like a logical business venture:
Running the Cupcake Stop is more than just running a truck. I didn’t leave the law to start a cupcake truck. I have higher aspirations for this business….
Every minute of every day for the next month is booked. I think I am working a lot harder than a summer associate or a first year. Cupcakes sound fun, but it’s a business.
Lev went on to explain that he is looking at this business from a macroeconomic perspective. He has already started taking catering orders, for weddings and other events. On a busy day, Lev said that he will field over a thousand emails from people inquiring what Cupcake Stop can do for them. The next step is to offer tea with the cupcakes.
There could even be a television show in it, about a disgruntled law student who starts his own business. Lev says there are people interested in the idea.
With all of this entrepreneurial spirit, why did he go to law school in the first place?
I graduated from Ithaca College. My mom is a doctor, and she told me not to go that route. I watched a lot of Law & Order growing up…. Along the way, I kind of went off course.
Given the current legal market, perhaps he took the right course — straight out of the profession?
I didn’t go around telling everybody from law school about this. A lot of law school people learned about it from your post on Above the Law… A lot of them still don’t have jobs.
Still, Ekster feels that New York Law School is somewhat unfairly maligned by ATL readers. He said that, just like anywhere else, there are good professors and bad professors. He credits one of his NYLS professors for mentoring him through the process of starting a small business, and throwing in a little free legal work (rent agreements, contracts) on the side.
While the recession could be hurting a lot of his classmates, Lev thinks there are a lot of benefits to starting a small business during a downturn:
You can hire people that are overqualified for less money than they would normally demand.
He said that he’s received applications from experienced chefs to work in his kitchen, Cornell hospitality graduates willing to work the counter in the truck, and even Harvard Business School applicants looking for an internship.
But of course, there is a downside to recession economics as well:
No one wants to spend any money. I had to hit up the parents for a bit of money, but we’re trying not to cut any corners. We’re doing it the right way… but I didn’t want to take out any more loans on top of my educational debt.
So, what advice does entrepreneur Ekster have for other law students looking at a depressed market for legal services?
Don’t be so close-minded. A lot of CEOs are former attorneys — just having a J.D. doesn’t mean you are limited to being an attorney.
There is money to be made, even in the middle of a recession. And yes, Lev is hiring.
Food Stuff: Cupcakes on Wheels [New York Times]
Earlier: Comfort Food for the Economy