Welcome to a small business update chat with cake-maker extraordinaire, Yvonne Donald of Kake and Cupkakery. Yvonne’s first interview was in September 2012, and caught up with her in October 2013 and then November 2014. At that point, when I asked where she wanted to be by now, Yvonne replied, “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.” Fighting talk there, so let’s see how Yvonne is doing!
Hello again, Yvonne! So … are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year and a bit ago?
I think looking back at my answers, I had set myself some clear goals which I wanted to achieve to establish the business, and excluding the shop front I feel like I have progressed quite a bit and come a long way.
I now have just one website (which I am proud to say I built myself) and have closed the other two sites. I’ve also had another logo redesign. The previous logo I realised didn’t properly represent me or my business, so I had a proper consultation and rebranded, and its exactly what I wanted, a simple design that does what it says on the tin.
I’ve done a couple of tutorials using Periscope [an online service where you can post tutorials and other video content]: that was interesting. I’ve yet to properly venture onto YouTube, but I’ve also focused on my blog and have produced some tutorials on there which have gone down very well and got a nice lot of hits, as I post links to my blog posts in specific cake forums and groups on social media sites.
I’ve found a kitchen for the workshops, but have been too busy to prepare any! I did do a children’s one, which was fabulous and is another market to explore.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I am still juggling the full-time job with my business, and people are always amazed how I do it all, but in reality a lot of cakers start and work this way, so I will just need to continue to be disciplined, build leverage and get on with it.
Back in the early part of the year I began supplying another coffee shop, I didn’t think I would again, but I did and soon realised that this is definitely not the route for me and the business. Being a wholesaler is challenging and time-consuming, and the commitment is huge, I decided to give notice on the agreement and go back to focusing on my core business of supplying the end-user and not supplying another business. There is a real market for this, and I know some businesses are doing it very well and that is their core business model, but it’s not for me at this time (never say never). I also felt I was neglecting my core customers, and if it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t be a Kake and Cupkakery, so they deserve my full attention.
I was recently nominated as mentee of the year for by the IOEE (the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs), is an organisation that provides mentors for small businesses, and I was invited to an event to celebrate this as well as being asked to give a talk on my experiences. Considering it was to a room full of bankers, I wanted to convey my passion for my business and think I did OK.
I entered the Flavours of the Neighbourhood competition back in February with the Hotel indigo chain, which was great for exposure. And once again, I was a National Cupcake Championship finalist. I entered at the last minute, so that’s three years in a row, always a finalist never a winner (I’m like the Leonardo diCaprio of cupcakes: he’s always nominated but has never won an Oscar).
I’ve also really focused on my blog, which is getting some big stats as I’m posting in specific cake groups so that’s been good and very enjoyable, even though I’m a few blog posts behind.
Basically I’m so busy that I spend more time working in the business than on it, but everything is ticking along nicely, my head is full of ideas and areas to explore but there aren’t enough hours in the day. I really couldn’t be more pleased how everything is going.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I’ve learnt to listen to my gut, don’t be afraid to say no, (this is a recurring lesson) and to set clear boundaries for myself and the business. Even though my business is run from my registered home kitchen, it is too easy to answer emails and calls/texts at all hours or try and take on more orders that I can manage etc. I realise this isn’t good for me, and sends the wrong message to my customers that I’m always available or that I can pluck a cake out of a hat.
One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is how productive I can be before 7am; I’m hitting the gym at 6.30am before the day job to get in some me-time, or doing a bit of admin,so that has been a revelation. The social life could be better, as I do still make sacrifices (ask my friends) but it’s all for the greater good.
Any more hints and tips for people?
I think no matter what business you are in, people will always buy from people. If they like you, they will more than likely love your business and not only buy from you but recommend you to their friends and family, so for me it’s so important to engage with my customers in whichever way I can, whether it’s face to face or through social media. I like to think I give 100%, and I want to continue to offer fab customer service as well as great cakes.
The new question: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?
I would like to ask other small business users … if you were to recruit your first employee, what do you see as being the most important role you would need to recruit to move your business forward? Would it be a finance person, marketer, operations, etc.?
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
In another years’ time I think the main goal is to take a massive step forward with Kake and Cupkakery being my full-time job. All the other times when I thought I was ready, I really wasn’t, but now I feel more established as a business and a little local brand, the winds of change are beckoning to help me sail on out to my next adventure.
Yes! I think it’s time, don’t you? The thing I admire most about Yvonne, apart from her extraordinary work ethic, is her willingness to get out there, whether that’s asking Alan Sugar for business advice (see her blog) or entering competitions. I think she’ll go from strength to strength once she branches out on her own … watch this space (and if you need any cupcakes, celebration cakes and layer cakes, you know where to go!).
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.