Making it in Germany: a purveyor of delightful Yankee desserts

Making it in Germany: a purveyor of delightful Yankee desserts
Photo: Dawn Nelson and her partner Daniel Bader
The Local's series "Making it in Germany" presents Dawn Nelson, an American entrepreneur bringing quality cupcakes to Berlin.

Behold the cupcake: tiny, sweet, and impeccably decorated. This adorably yummy dessert classic has recently become a full-fledged foodie craze in the United States, presenting Dawn Nelson with the perfect opportunity to get Berliners hooked on them too. The Local spoke to her about opening up the German capital’s first cupcake shop.


Dawn Nelson



Where do you live?


Where are you from originally?

I was born in Florida and lived there most of my life. I moved to Philly when I was in my mid-twenties and lived there for five years before moving to Berlin.

What did you do before coming to Germany?

I was a makeup artist with MAC Cosmetics and also a bartender for a variety of different concert venues.

What brought you to Germany and when did you come?

I originally backpacked through Berlin back in 2004 for the first time. I always said that one day I wanted to move here! In April of 2006 I finally made the move to Berlin following a divorce. I really needed a change in scenery and lifestyle, so I figured what better time to go.

What was your first job in Germany?

My first job in Berlin was opening the Cupcake shop! I took a year off of work to research and plan out the steps on what I needed to do to make the idea a reality.

How did you go about setting up your shop?

The idea for the concept of Cupcake started out when my best friend and I were vacationing in Prague. We were having lunch at a café and I was pondering what I wanted to do for work in Berlin, since good-paying jobs were hard to come by. She said “You love to bake and cook for other people, so why don’t you open a cupcake shop!” Then the light bulb went off. When we got back to Berlin I started researching the idea and realised that there wasn’t a cupcake shop in Berlin (or even Germany at the time!). Finally, a year later, we officially opened Berlin’s first cupcake shop!

Could you describe your current job?

Oh, where to start? I basically do everything and anything I need to do to make my business run smoothly… baking the cupcakes, doing dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning the shop, organizing menus, advertising, creating merchandise, shopping, ordering supplies, taxes, paperwork, and just about any other little thing that pops up in between!

What were the biggest challenges you faced? How did you deal with them?

Every day we experience new and difficult challenges. I think the hardest thing about opening and running a business in Germany are all the offices that you need to deal with. We take each problem step-by-step and figure it out.

What’s your best advice for ‘making it’ here?

I think that Berlin is one of those cities where you can really invent yourself. It’s important to be original and not follow others. Do what you love and find something you’re good at, then pursue it!

What’s the biggest difference about working in Germany?

For me, I guess it’s the bureaucracy here and all the offices, rules and regulations that go along with it.

What’s the best thing about your line of work?

Meeting new and interesting people from all over the world. Our shop is a magnet for tourists and travelers from abroad. It’s really cool that we get people from Spain or Brazil who have heard about our cupcakes and searched us out specifically!

What’s the hardest part about living in Germany?

I can’t complain really about Germany specifically. I think for me the worst thing is that I work too much. There isn’t much that I miss except certain foods, which I try to make myself.

How’s your German? Do you speak it at work?

I definitely need to learn more! I am so busy in the kitchen that I don’t have a lot of free time to learn now. I do speak German at work to the customers, but mainly I find myself speaking English at home with my boyfriend, who is also my business partner.

Do you have a ‘making it’ story? Let us know: [email protected]

Jobs in Germany

Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.