Welcome to a new business chat update, this time with Yvonne Donald who makes, oddly enough, cakes and cupcakes under her Kakes and Cupkakery brand. We first met Yvonne back in September 2012, and caught up with her in October 2013, when she said, “In a year’s time, I will be writing my update sipping on a coffee at a table at that cute little Bakery/cake shop called Kake and Cupkakery“. Is this what happened next? Well, regular readers will know that very often plans change, slip, slide sideways and do all sorts of things, so we never really know what the interviewees are going to answer to that first question. Yvonne’s used this opportunity to have a good think about things and plans, and shares loads of useful tips, as ever. So let’s find out how she’s doing!
Hello again, Yvonne! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
The answer to that is yes and no, Yes in that the business is still here and busy as ever, if not more so. and No as I am not in a shop front yet. Was I being overly optimistic? Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. What I do know is that getting a shop front isn’t easy, but I feel so strongly that is where I am destined to be. But boy, is it hard getting there.
I also know what my business is, and I know that must sound strange, but in the early stages you try lots of things so see what works and what doesn’t and what you want to offer, and in my last update I was still trying to decide what my shop front business would look like. Now I know, because when you run your business it will dictate to you what it is, and this is dependent on what people want/order most of, i.e. in my case, dessert cupcakes and celebration cakes.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I’m still in the full-time job, but have a little more flexibility with my days, as they vary with different start and finish times. It takes even more planning, but it’s working.
Also at the beginning of this year, the business went in a slightly different direction when I was approached via Twitter to supply a coffee shop (yes, social media does work). So I unexpectedly became a wholesaler. This was a for a local business that just happened to be in a location i had previously viewed, in fact it was the same row of shops, but the coffee shop was a bigger premises. So, my cakes would be in my dream location, just not with me.
I had actually supplied a smaller business previously so i sort of knew what to expect. Well, dismiss that last statement: what you think you know what to expect in reality is so much more! A lot of work is required when you supply a business as well as running your own; a lot of organisation is required, baking, invoicing, delivery, food safety. There is loads to consider, but after some tweaking I got a system in place and it was going well. However, unfortunately the shop has now closed after 5 months due to lack of footfall, the death knell for any business.
As this wasn’t necessarily the direction I was looking at going in, this didn’t have too much of a detrimental effect, but did make me think about this being a possible opportunity, so much so that in the same week the coffee shop closed, I got approached to supply another. So there seems to be a need and indeed an opportunity, but its hard work on top of my main business and customers, so I will see how that pans out.
What have you learned?
I’ve learnt that i have to maintain a good work-life balance. I recognise that I have a tendency to just work,work, work, as I like to work first and play later, so I tend to sacrifice my own free time in the pursuit of my business. But as well as being a small business owner who wants to do everything really well, I don’t necessarily want to be a rubbish friend or not give myself enough time and energy for life/ family etc. … so I have been trying to be better at that, and I think it’s working.
What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
Be selective, but not to the detriment of your business, don’t be too quick to say yes to everything, and don’t worry about saying no if it’s not right. Oh, and even though I bake and love making treats, I don’t try to do everything. i.e. products etc. … I officially dislike cake pops (that is all)
Any more hints and tips for people?
My tips are:
- You are your business, the marketing never stops. More people know me as “the cake lady” than I think actually know my name, and I actually love that.
- Look for any opportunity to market your business. I recently got national coverage in the Guardian newspaper online about how i use PR and marketing in my business; coverage that money couldn’t buy (or rather i couldn’t afford).
- Enter competitions and industry-specific awards, which will also give you exposure, Once again I am in the finals of the National Cupcake Championships in November in Birmingham (fingers crossed).
- Network and co-work: it can be so beneficial to get away from your distractions (especially if you work from home) and work on your business with a friend. Birmingham library is great for this
- Schedule in free time and family time (Sunday is my non-negotiable family time).
- For all the cakey people running a cake business reading this, don’t undercut another cake decorator for the sake of a cake and be true to what a cake actually costs. I’ve lost track of the amount of cake decorators who constantly undervalue their work and time because they perceive a customer wouldn’t want to pay. If you understand your market and offer quality, you will actually be quite surprised.
- Do not worry if your mojo goes from time to time with your business, it’s natural. You’re probably working too hard. Take your foot off the accelerator a bit and distract yourself with something else until it comes back.
- Overall, have fun: you’re working on your passion, what’s not to love?
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Kake and Cupkakery, one website instead of two: I’m very excited about that. I want to focus on doing some online tutorials and face to face workshops for home bakers and those more experienced. I still want a shop front that will be a bakery and that is still a work in progress. Basically, I want to continue to take the business forward. It’s here to stay, and no going back.
Strong words there at the end, and I certainly think she’s here to stay! I do hope that this is the year where Yvonne will move into working for her business full time – it’s certainly better for the work-life balance when you do that (as I know only too well). I can’t wait to see what she does next (although I can see that there won’t be any cake pops in the mix!).
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.