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A Sweet Solution

Letty Alvarez, founder and owner of LA Sweetz, opened her first cupcake shop in Miami in 2008 as a small family business. But the popularity of her baked treats grew quickly, and her work was featured on shows such as Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, as well as TLC’s Next Great Baker and Cake Boss.

Now with three locations in Miami as well as plans to franchise, the importance of protecting those assets has become more critical. “Being on those nationally televised shows is what brought us the brand exposure nationally and internationally,” she tells Security Management. In turn, Alvarez is concerned about securing her brand and her business. “We really have to make sure to protect our assets because we’ve worked so hard to build them.” 

When it came to security technology at her stores, Alvarez says she only had the basics, including some cameras purchased at a retail store and an inexpensive DVR to record footage. “It was just there basically to ensure that if the place got robbed we would have a DVR we could look at and try to make out who the thief was,” she notes. The stores also had alarms, but they could not be controlled remotely, meaning Alvarez would have to drive to the locations to physically arm the store if employees forgot. “A lot of the people that work at our company are young,” she notes. Even in those c​ases, she would only know the alarm wasn’t set if a worker called to inform her. 

As the mother of five children, Alvarez says those midnight trips to her locations to set the alarm were extremely inconvenient. “I have other responsibilities, and I’m having to jump out of bed to go drive 30 minutes to our location to go set the alarm,” she recalls.  

In late 2014, a representative from Tyco Integrated Security introduced her to a few of its security solutions targeted to small businesses. In February 2015, Alvarez decided to purchase an alarm system for all three locations. 

From the Tyco mobile app, she is able to view when alarms are set, turned off, and tripped, as well as receive alerts when people enter and leave the properties. “Everybody can forget to set the alarm at times, but since I’ve had Tyco I’ve never had a problem with it again. It’s just a button click away from solving the problem.” The app is available across all mobile devices in addition to a desktop application, all which are password-protected. 

A month later, she decided to install cameras from Tyco as well, which are connected to a local DVR from American Dynamics where she can review the footage. Alvarez says the remote access was the most attractive feature about the video, which she can view live as well as archived from her smart devices. With the old cameras, she said she rarely, if ever, accessed them. “I never looked at them unless there was an incident of some kind–which I never really had.”

The cameras also come in handy to investigate when employees are not doing their job as well as they could be, or not following procedure. “It’s not my intention to spy on my employees,” Alvarez notes, “but had I not had the technology to see what they were doing, I couldn’t correct the process and I couldn’t correct the situation.” The local DVRs store the footage for 30 days, after which it is sent to a cloud server for archiving. 

There was an instance where the camera showed her that anemployee was fraudulently reporting her hours. A concerned customer had told Alvarez that the store location she was visiting was locked up before closing hours. After reviewing the security footage, Alvarez realized her employee was locking the doors, turning out the lights, and hiding in the backroom for 20 or 30 minutes before clocking out on time and leaving the store. “I immediately had to terminate her,” she says, “but had it not been for the cameras where I could go back and check, I would never have known.” 

Alvarez says she wasn’t as concerned about security from a small business perspective as, say, a large bank. But she emphasizes that when you have one product that your livelihood depends on, securing that asset is invaluable.

LA Sweetz has plans to expand through franchising and has already sold five stores in the Orlando area. Alvarez says she will recommend that those stores consider using the same security system from Tyco. 

“If all you sell is cupcakes, it’s important for you to make sure that every cupcake is accounted for, because that’s your money,” Alvarez notes. “It’s walking out the door when someone is giving away your product for free or not charging them correctly.”