The Start of My Business #3: A year in the life of a caker baker

Well I looked at my blog and couldn’t believe it had been over a year since my last confession ( I mean post!) and wondered where on earth the time has gone, which got me thinking how much I have actually achieved this past 14 months.

Back in October 2015 I had literally just finished my first wedding season I was super proud of myself after completing my meagre four wedding orders was feeling more confident to grow my business.

That confidence was boosted when I was nominated by one of my brides to enter the Essex Wedding Awards 2015 which I did and was blown away to make it to the finals – The Finals!!!! Never in a million years would I have thought I would have made it that far to even get through to the first stage of the taste test let alone be asked to provide samples. So with this fabulous accolade under my belt in the November I decided to really push the wedding side of the business forward. Having an award from a reputable and recognised establishment really did help to give my company some good standing and in light of that I entered The Wedding Industry Awards which is a national wedding recognition awards by those in the industry themselves. Go big or go home has always been my motto, I was punching way above my belt, my god I had only been trading 5 months and here was I about to enter a national countrywide award for the best cake designer ??? Delusional lol ! I thought it would interesting to see how far I could go. From dozens of entries I managed to again get awarded regional finalist for the East of England, I was on cloud nine and started to realise that actually I need to start believing in myself, when someone tells me that they love the way my cakes taste and that your work is lovely, actually they are not just saying it to be nice, they mean it. Hearing it from someone completely impartial not a friend or client but from someone who sees your work amongst hundreds of other cake designers and picks out your company is, excuse the language but, bloody marvellous ! Forgot to mention I also made it to the finals of the Newcomer Category too !

Christmas came and went whilst most Mum’s are busy with the Xmas Cheer I was busy looking ahead to what promotions I could do for Valentines, Mothers Day, Easter – nothing like wishing my life away ! I started studying different techniques and cake designers from overseas, researching the big guns, the winners of Gold in Cake International, the best in shows, I was becoming obsessed, I have a very addictive personality and once I have a passion of something I can’t get enough. Life, Love, Cakes I’m the same in everything.

Something I learned very early on is that you cannot be brilliant in all fields, you can be good/passable at most aspects but to be the don in all veins of cake mastery is impossible. So now was my time to become passable in most aspects. Any honest person knows their strengths and weaknesses, I know my strength is customer service and client liaison now being a people person is all well and good but you need to follow up that service with skills. A lot of my work is novelty and celebration cakes and to put me ahead of the game in my area I knew I needed to up my modelling skills . I had been following a wonderful artist called Lyndsey her modelling skills to me were sublime so in February as luck would have it she was holding classes in St Helens, I travelled up on the Virgin Train to Liverpool Lime Street from Essex to the hotel the night before had a fabulous day with Sugarwhizz stayed overnight again and travelled back the next day – exhausted but totally buzzed from learning new skills from an award winning name in the industry – I had the bug that was it, I started looking for courses a little closer to home. Which is when I found Chokolate Nadia is from Belgium and is also an award winning artist – I figured if I am going to learn I need to learn from the best so chose teachers who could show me how they work with different mediums Lynsey works with modelling paste, a mix of fondant and Tylose whereas Chokolate funny enough works with modelling chocolate ! ( who’d have thunked it !)🙂 So I booked for her course in London in May 2015 .

So while I waited to learn new skills I decided to work on the marketing side of the business. So thought there is no better time than Valentines and Mothers Day to hit hard with promotions and as my signature is my cupcake bouquets why not lead with those, so armed with a shiny new website designed by yours truly so it was exactly how I wanted the branding to look, I decided to contact Groupon and worked with a fabulous accounts manager called Angus who steered me in the right direction and started the promotion. I was not under any illusions of how busy and full on February was going to be and was organised from the off. There were some horror stories of businesses going bankrupt because of the supply and demand, or lack of it in their case, where some companies didn’t realise the enormity of Groupons database, who in my eyes were simply unprepared and uneducated into the who whys and wherefores. I on the other hand took complete control and was not dictated to by them – I had a capped amount that I was prepared to sell, I also had a very clear set of delivery boundaries and a set design in a choice of colours – there was no deviation from what was on offer – if they did it was classed as a separate order and booked privately away from the Groupon site. February came and in my head I was thinking that I will take the orders and do the delivery on 14th direct to the clients doors but when the orders started coming in they were for birthdays or anniversaries, thank you’s, baby showers, end of term presents… I was a bit thrown as I was not expecting the additional “occasion” orders but took them on as normal orders and from there my client base started to blossom. On the back of the advertising I took on two wedding orders one of whom had ordered a bouquet for valentines, I remember him so well he (the future groom) came to my door to collect and stood there for what seemed like a good 10 seconds staring at the bouquet saying “wow” “these are amazing” “she is going to love them” a few months later the future bride called me to see if I had availability to do make her wedding cake. Another had seen my offer and looked at my website and decided I was the one she wanted to do her cake the following July. I can honestly say it was the best bit of advertising and marketing I could have done. The cap was not reached during Valentines so this carried over to Mothers day and Easter and is still running and I am currently doing bouquets through the Christmas period too. Whilst doing my end of year accounts a few weeks back I worked out I had 146 new clients since the start of 2016 a lot of those through Groupon – so if you are in the industry and can handle a bit ( ok a lot) of pressure I would highly recommend it .

In May I went to London and as a treat for my birthday I booked the course with Nadia Flecha from Chokolate – wow this woman is an incredible talent and her work with modelling chocolate is ridiculously good, I am so proud that I managed to work hard enough to afford her course, it was worth every penny. It was amazing to be shown how to work with a different medium and to achieve what you can only imagine is the impossible with sugarcraft.

So then the wedding season started I decided to spread my delivery further afield and extended it to Suffolk and Hertfordshire as well as my already large client base in Essex and London. The weddings kicked off at Hintlesham Country Club in Suffolk, over to Colchester, down to Westcliff, Kingston on Thames, Windsor, Greenwich, Ingatestone, Stansted, Rochford, Ipswich, Southend, Chelmsford, Saffron Walden. It seemed in such a short space of time from only 4 weddings the previous year suddenly I was counting wedding orders into double figures for 2016 . But with more orders comes more stress and as well as keeping my regular clients happy with fulfilling their orders, plus the bouquets coming in between orders and new recommendations coming in as well, I can’t lie it was getting a little bit hectic and I was started to feel a bit overwhelmed. I managed of course and fulfilled every order perfectly, as if it was the only order I had that week, but like the swan I am, I found myself calm and serene above the water and paddling like mad underneath. I have a bad habit of when things are going a little skew-whiff in my home life in that I tend to throw myself into work – at Easter, my dad love him, had a heart attack not such a Good Friday for all of us, fortunately he made a strong recovery, but me being me instead of taking a step back, decided to go push forward and taking orders to try and move all the nastiness to some grey part of my head and fill it instead with prettiness and sugary things ! I should have been born an ostrich they stick their heads in the sand a lot too !

Back in January I decided to start a private facebook group for Registered Professional Cake Designers, where like minded business woman who bake, can come together, moan, laugh, share their stories, designs and selves with each other, we have now grown and are a lovely little sisterhood of loony and extremely talented cake makers and one of whom is a lady called Samantha who runs Cake Innovation in Kent, she knew through the group that I was trying to perfect my modelling skills and told me that the wonderful Barbara Luraschi was holding a course in September so that was one I could not miss – another award winning sugar artist to be tutored by I was even going to brave the QEII bridge for her ! She must be good ! Barabara using a medium called Saracino which is a mix of modelling paste and cocoa butter fabulous to work with and is now my preferred choice.

The Essex Wedding Awards for 2016 was entered again and again I made it straight to the finals and was invited to attend the Gala evening at Orsett Hall – so hubby and I got on our glad rags and had a fabulous evening watching the best of the industry earn their place at the top of their game. So proud to see a very good cakey friend take the Best Cake Designer Award for the second year running, and even though I warned her I would rugby tackle her to the stage if her name was called, I graciously sat with my feet entwined in the legs of my chair so I couldn’t😉 She knows I am only joking ! ( honestly ! )

The Wedding Industry Awards for 2017 was another highlight after entering for the second year running I did it again ! Regional Finalist for the East of England ! Whoop Whoop !

What else did I achieve this year? errrmmm oh the Essex Mums Finalist for 2016 oh and a retweet from Cake Masters for a Cinderella Castle Wedding Cake a few days ago ! Oh and because I like to humiliate myself ! LOL I entered the UK Wedding Awards in association with Hitched (announcements to be made in 2017 ) Lets see how that pans out !!!!

So what is in store for me for 2017? Well I know that I want to perfect my sugar craft flowers I love Ornella de Simone who I saw demonstrate in Alexandra Palace at Cake International in London she made it look sooooo easy ! Also Christine Craig from La Lavanda is just amazingly good ! So I will be looking at some flower courses this year.

I am also part of two collaborations one due to reveal in February and the other in the Summer which I was asked to join ( that was a nice compliment )

And still debating if I should/could/would break my Cake International Virginity and enter my first competition in London this year ????

So with just the Christmas Orders to go, three more celebration cakes and one more wedding for New Years Eve for a gorgeous bride, all that is left to say is I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a very Prosperous & Healthy New Year to you all.

Thank you for your continued support as clients and friends as many of you have grown from one into the other.

Tags: cake wedding business related cake international london essex uk

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