A Sprinkle of Good Fortune for Tech Alumna

For the last four years, Shanda Jimeson was known for fielding ground balls from her position at second base for the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns softball team.
Now, she is fielding orders from customers and building a career from her position as manager with one of America’s best-known and fastest-growing cupcake boutiques.
Jimeson (photographed) earned an internship with Sprinkles Cupcakes shortly after completing her Bachelor of Science degree in hospitality administration from Arkansas Tech University this spring. Just three months later, she was installed as a manager for the Dallas, Texas, location.
No less than Oprah Winfrey has anointed Sprinkles as her favorite cupcake. The treats have also been shown on “Today” on NBC, “Good Morning America” on ABC, Food Network and “Live with Regis and Kelly.” Publications ranging from USA Today to People to Time have all featured Sprinkles Cupcakes. 
The business has grown from a single location opened in Beverly Hills in 2005 to include 11 shops around America. The company’s Web site indicates as many as 17 new Sprinkles locations are on the way soon, including overseas shops in Tokyo, Paris and London.
“Every kid can’t wait to visit us for a cupcake and every adult becomes a kid when they walk through the door,” said Jimeson. “I’ve never seen so many grown men melt into their childhood after stepping up and choosing their very own nostalgic flavors. It’s overwhelming for first timers to see the variety of cupcakes we have every day and even harder to choose just a few from so many. You rarely see anyone just get one cupcake.”
Candace Nelson, who founded the company along with her husband Charles six years ago, has described her world as a “cupcake bubble” free from the troubles around it. After a short time with the company, Jimeson agrees with that assessment.
“We want (our guests) to feel like one of a kind,” said Jimeson. “We address each guest by their first name, start conversation when available, never rush a decision but offer assistance in selecting that perfect flavor for each individual and offer top of the line service with a genuine smile. Candace and Charles make customer service our number one priority and that’s what wins hearts.”
A product of Mansfield, Texas, Jimeson enrolled at Arkansas Tech in fall 2007. She joined a Golden Suns softball program that had experienced three losing seasons in its first five years of existence. The Suns had never been to postseason play, and they were coming off a 12-35 season the year before her arrival.
All of that quickly changed. Jimeson helped Arkansas Tech win a school-record 41 games during her freshman season in 2008. The Golden Suns came from nowhere to win the Gulf South Conference West Division championship and they advanced all the way to the championship game of the 2008 GSC Softball Tournament.
By the time Jimeson’s Arkansas Tech softball career ended in spring 2011, she had been a part of 139 victories and three GSC West Division championship teams. Jimeson ranks second in school history in career runs batted in (77), second in games played (220), third in doubles (30), fourth in career base hits (187) and sixth in runs scored (76).
But Jimeson’s selflessness and commitment to team — and perhaps evidence of why she was so quickly promoted with Sprinkles Cupcakes — is best demonstrated by the fact that she recorded the most career sacrifice bunts (55) in Arkansas Tech softball history.  
“I’d have to say one of the best qualities I learned as a student-athlete is how to mentally push through the stressful and long days of being on your feet,” said Jimeson, who was selected as the most outstanding female senior student-athlete at Arkansas Tech in 2010-11. “The anxiety that the store is on your shoulders can either wear you down or make you stand up to the challenge. I hate to lose, so every day at work I make a goal for myself to get through the day a little quicker.”
But it wasn’t just the lessons on the softball diamond that prepared Jimeson to take on her new challenge. She believes that her classroom experiences at Arkansas Tech made her a leader, too.
“The skills and knowledge I learned in the hospitality program at Arkansas Tech are the only reason I got a great job right out of college,” said Jimeson. “All the components and classes that I took in my hospitality degree gave me a great base to stand on when I entered the hospitality work field for the first time. You can’t teach someone how to deal with the unexpected; you can only advise them on the many ways to resolve it, and that’s the best knowledge because it sticks with you forever.”
There are, of course, certain fringe benefits to working in a gourmet cupcake bakery. Jimeson says that lemon blueberry, strawberry and vegan red velvet (because it’s the only refrigerated cupcake at Sprinkles and a great way to beat the Texas heat, she says) are her favorite flavors so far.
“When people feel special and have an unforgettable experience, that’s when they become loyal to the product,” said Jimeson. “I’ve always been told you only get one first impression. We strive to always make sure our first impression is a lasting one.”