Time to reflect-2017

My last blog post was way back in August which has been a while simply because the biz has been busy and sadly blogging just didn’t seem a priority, but I’m in the middle of a Christmas break so it’s a perfect time to reflect on how the year has panned out as well as get back into my blogging habit.

So how has this year been for you in general?

Well for me the answer has been pretty busy. And every year I like to think their are lessons to be learnt from either mistakes I’ve made or positive choices I’ve made that have had a big impact on me and my biz.

So on a positive note I’ve…

  • scheduled in down time and stuck to it- in one of my blog post I wrote about work life balance and how I was going to make an effort to get better at it. I’m still not perfect but this year has been the best so far. So much so I even managed to fit in a holiday which was on my own and a huge thing for me as this was also something I very much wanted to do (personal goal) and was the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. Holidaying alone I would highly recommend. Granted it fell in the middle of a very busy sept for wedding cakes but I did it and it was fabulous. And one of the things I’ll be doing in Jan is planning out my downtime’s as much as I can to help maintain a better work life balance.

  • Discovered ganache- ok ok I know you might be eye rolling right now but I gave it a try at the end aug/sept and I actually muttered the words “ganache is a game changer” you see I didn’t really get the ganache thing, I didn’t see the point and stuck to buttercream and one of the reasons I stuck to BC was the cost, could I honestly justify using it, were customers actually bothered? Well with the recent 100% rise in butter the cost of making and using ganache didn’t seem such a bad idea after all and cost literally matched the current cost of using BC. I don’t flip or even use ganache plates but the finish is more refined, it encases the cake like a protective shell, and also taste delish. It freezes well and can be made in advance, I’m still getting used to it and I’m still practicing.
  • Bought an Agbay – O.M.G for years I used my trusted 12″ serrated edge knife and was quite nifty with it but I had an order for a naked wedding cake and wanted to ensure the layers were perfect so decided to invest and I must say it’s one of the best investments I’ve made, so quick and perfect layers every time. Word of warning though ALWAYS replace the blade guard because that blade is sharpppppppppp.
  • Rebranded- I had spoken about it previously and went for it again. This time i invested a bit more and the result was a lovely rebrand that represents me and the biz as well as helping me remain consistent with the design concept, colour and font. Overall this has been great for my biz( See previous blog post) I also Reworked my website (myself) http://www.kakeandcupkakery.co.uk and managed to get myself onto page one of google for my keywords so yes this has had a positive impact on my business.
  • Fell in love with Instagram- it’s over taken twitter as my fave social media channel. I need to improve my use of hashtags but I truly do love it
  • Entered Cake international-2017 was the year I entered the most intimidating competition ever, wedding cake category (royal iced wedding cake)it was on the list of things I wanted to do. I didn’t place but that hasn’t put me off, in the words of the terminator ” I’ll be back” and note to self read, read and read again the competition schedule

Things that haven’t gone so well are..

  • My admin- arghhh we are on the run up to submitting our yearly accounts and let’s just say I need to organise my s**t. I have an accountant who does the last bits for me as well as submit but the weekly admin needs to improve, Monday’s are my admin day but that is sucked up with quotes etc.. but next year I’m recruiting some help from one of my sisters to give me a hand to see if this will improve things.
  • Workload- got a bit heavy at times which effects the speed I get back to customers with quotes . It’s my downfall along with admin, so even though the work life balance has improved there are still areas I need to get a lot better at.
  • Networking- very poor this year but making a vow to get out there more in 2018, Ive even thought about a face 2 face cakey meet up group but I don’t know how I would fit it in.
  • Increased prices- Wow butter prices, omg beginning of the year 89p per 250g by December £1.60 per 250g. The price hike has been ridiculous, the price was leaping almost daily. I read recently that it spiked in December due to demand (it’s all our Crimbo orders) but hopefully will stabilise in the new year.

So 2018, what’s happening and what do I want to achieve????

Throughout the year I like to jot down ideas and things I need to do so I will take a look at what I’ve noted down and aim to put into action if not done so already.

I love goal setting some new planners are on the way as I speak, but one thing I would say when setting goals don’t feel under pressure to have all your goals set out by Jan 1st, why not aim to write out by the end of Jan instead, that way you can really give yourself time to focus on what you want to achieve in 2018. I always have two dates, Jan I set biz goals, Feb I set personal goals.

So do you reflect on your year?, what have you learnt or discovered ?, are you making plans/goals for this year? If so I’d love to hear.

My blog will be back and likely in a monthly format rather than forthrightly. a blog by a caker for cakers. the focus will be everything to do with running our businesses and the cakey world so if there is a topic or area you’d like me to cover please let me know.

So time to get planning so have a Happy new year, hope your having a lovely break And here’s to another great year of baking and blogging in 2018.

What’s your reward?

It’s Sunday, what are you up to today? Are you chilling out, seeing family, doing some exercise or are you working on an order?

I know for many of us cake business owners  for one reason or another we are based at home  but this doesn’t have to mean we are available 24/7.

In the early days of my business I would take calls at all hours, answer emails at all hours,work all hours then deliver whenever and all over. 

But then sometimes life just says whoa hang on a bit what are you doing????? you can’t continue at this pace try and slow it down a little.

Thoughts like this usually happen when im working non stop  but then what tends to happen when i take a break i become ill because I’m a little run down.

This was one of the reasons I gave up a coffee shop contract a couple of years ago the constant out of hours contact such as Bank holidays and texts at 11.30pm when they had realised they had run out of cake (again) it was a lovely compliment to know my cakes were selling but at what cost could I continue to be working like this? And just to add I was working full time too.

So I decided it simply had to stop and I had to take action and yep I stopped my coffee shop contact for the good of my health, my customers and my business.

You see I’ve noticed a trend lately and it’s not just cake businesses but in general we are all so busyyyy, busy with work, busy with family, busy building business,life is just busy, it’s the busy epidemic.

Image from: https://projecthappiness.com
So due to this busyness I’ve been reflecting on myself and  about all my sacrifices and things I’ve missed out on while building my little cakey empire . Well it’s hardly an empire but to me it is lol

So thinking about this and if you read one of my earlier post you will see I was calling this year (2017) the year of me, well so far it’s been anything but because I’m so you guessed it “busy”

But it’s now time for me to own it.

Now don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with being busy this proves that the business has customers who want to buy my cakes, but it’s how I manage it is what I needed to address and never more so than recently. 

 One Saturday while out having lunch with a friend we popped into a little shop, one of those shops that sells little unique gifts as well as little buddhas, incense, crystals that kind of thing, anyway we struck up a conversation with the owner about work life balance as he faced similar work life balance challenges and told me about the book 7 habits of highly effective people. We chatted about work being so busy and then he said to me

 ” there is nothing wrong with working hard and being busy but there has to be some kind of reward” 

and it really hit home to me, of course there does otherwise what’s the point of it all, I love what I do but I’ve got to be able to reward myself once in a while.

So while chatting to him I mooched around his gorgeous little shop and I bought this magnet plaque which really resonated with me, it was truly a ah ha moment.

It’s now got a prominent place in my kitchen to act as a gentle reminder that now and again I’m allowed to take it easy.

So with all this reflection what changes have I made to get some balance back.

  • Well one of the  things I’ve done recently was to reward myself  so I booked myself a Spa day at the gorgeous Hoar cross hall https://www.hoarcross.co.uk just me a book, and my fluffy bath robe,it was absolute heaven.
  • I automate my fb messages to give clear times of contact, I don’t reply to messages after 7pm (I’m usually working on orders anyway) on weekdays and Saturday’s and any Sunday queries are answered on a Monday.
  • I’ve scheduled in down time right upto September such as the bank holiday weekends and also blocked out fully booked months and listed this on my Facebook page to inform my customers. This was interesting as I immediately had customers book in orders around these dates.
  • I now have a different phone number for the business away from my personal number(something I’ve wanted to do for ages) My contact number isn’t on my business cards as for first contact I prefer email or for s potential customer to contact me via my website.
  • I’m trying to get back to other hobbies like salsa dancing, making time for regular exercise and trying to start meditating again.
  • I use scheduling apps such as hootsuite and use the scheduler on Facebook to schedule in social media post on days when I know I won’t be around to do them or for busier times.
  • I use the word NO and I don’t force things if I know it’s going to be difficult to achieve within a specific timescale, I don’t want quality to suffer and unduly stress myself out.
  • Trying to keep sundays a no bake day (for the business) I’ve seen some businesses such as Rachel’s Kitchen don’t deliver cupcakes on mondays so this means no baking on a Sunday, which I’ve decided is now my official day off.
  • I decided to no longer deliver cakes on a Monday, and deliver Tuesday- Saturdays if I’m honest I hardly deliver celebration cakes on mondays as for me my deliveries are usually later in the week.
  •  I have turned Mondays into my official admin day to work on quotes, ideas and update my website. So now on a monday it’s dedicated to working on the business instead of  in it.
  • I’ve been looking at https://www.17hats.com/ which has been recommended to me by another cake business to help me manage all the administration of the business which will save me some much needed time. 

So how do I feel about these changes?

I feel more organised,focused and assured that I’m clearly defining time to work and time to chill/play

So I know you are likely to be like me so what do you do that helps manage your time and worklife balance?,

And what do you like to do when your not baking up a storm?

We create Memories

I came to the  realisation that we are memory makers recently while working on a business planner called Dream|Plan|Do by the design trust http://www.thedesigntrust.co.uk/ and this fab planner was recommended by my jewllery making friend http://www.kathrynpartington.com/ (check out her work it’s stunning)

So within the March segment of the planner it ask us to define 

“What do you do” ?? 

For example if your a jeweler who makes wedding and engagement rings you sell love, if your a photographer you capture memories and how someone wants to be seen,you get the idea.

So for me and when I asked myself the question “what do I do” my first thought was “I make and decorate cakes”

But when I really thought about what I do like thousands of Cake makers/ cake designers/ cake decorators I realised we not only create great cakes we also create lovely memories.

Who doesn’t remember their birthday cake or there babies christening cake.

Many clients order cakes to make an impact for a special event or occasion and along with this they want to create a memory that the recipient won’t forget.

I have made Birthday cakes for children and when I go to deliver there  cake they always recall the last cake they had or the cake before that. 

Wedding cakes are immortalised and play a pivotal part of a wedding day and the memory is captured forever with the cutting of the cake, we as cake professionals have helped create this memory.

Mother’s Day and mums across the land will be receiving cards, flowers, jewelry and of course cakes of which they will love and remember.

With this is in Mind for this Mother’s Day I created a selection of cupcakes and macarons which instead of presenting in my lovely kraft brown boxes I decided to go with something a bit more special and present in a keepsake box to help create a Mother’s Day memory, maybe a box to store Mother’s Day cards in.

I love packaging and thought these boxes were perfect for a special day like Mother’s Day.

So next time your asked “what do you do” just say you help create memories.

So you want to supply a coffee shop?

Its funny how you start off making celebration cakes and it suddenly opens doors to new and exciting possibilities such as generating additional income through supplying another business.

 Supplying a coffee shop especially when you have quiet times with celebration cakes can give your business a much welcomed boost as well as a regular income so it’s definitely an option worth considering, but in my opinion it’s easier to be one thing or another.

There are businesses that concentrate on just being a wholesale supplier, making homemade cakes for other businesses and then supplying the general public direct plays a much smaller part.

When I was doing both I found it a little tricky, there is nothing more challenging than working on 3 birthday cakes and suddenly switching to making brownies, layer cakes etc….. (The washing up was off the scale)

When starting up a business a lot of us consider supplying coffee shops and I was the same and thought it was a good way to go so I have been fortunate that I have supplied a total of 3 coffee/cafe business over the years but after a couple of similar experiences I decided that at the moment supplying other businesses  wasn’t the direction I wanted the business to go in, so I made the decision to solely concentrate on my celebration and cupcake business http://www.kakeandcupkakery.co.uk, and give my customers 100% of my attention as I felt I was getting distracted,this isn’t to say I wouldn’t revisit this option again in the future but at this current time  it’s not for me.

So I often read in various cake groups other bakers and cake decorators who have been approached to supply another business with various homemade cakes, and it gave me the idea to share my experience as well as sharing tips for anyone who is considering this route of being a wholesaler and supplying a coffee shop or cafe, so below is what I’ve learnt.

  • Supplying a coffee shop can help boost your profile and can bring celebration cake orders as customers will have tried your cake so ask if you can display business cards to help promote the other side of your business
  • Get together with the owners/managers so you know what kind of products they would like and what suits their clientele. 
  • Baking a layer cake is a much quicker process than creating a celebration cake,(especially if you bake in sandwich tins) you can churn out numerous layers of cake in 4 hours which is about the same length of time you could decorate one cake. But you would more likely earn a lot more off the one celebration cake than your coffee shop order (so bear that in mind)
  • Are you prepared- supplying another business is relentless as you will be baking and delivering between 1-3 times per week, think about who will bake/deliver orders when your on holiday, are you able to deliver the cakes for when the business requires them? so be honest with yourself especially if baking from home as you might just need extra support.
  • Have a price list- if you already make celebration cakes it’s easier with layer cakes, no need for constant quoting, Orders are more about frequency and volume so issue a price list to avoid confusion and keep cost consistent.
  • Carrying on with pricing the coffee shop will want to keep cost low so they can achieve a good gross profit per slice so be careful and make sure you make money.
  • Have a contract- you want to specify cut off ordering times/ ordering days, delivery days and contingency for sickness and holidays. If things are not working be sure to discuss your concerns.
  • Order boxes in bulk- I found rye pack http://www.ryepac.co.uk  excellent value and have fabulous packaging for the wholesale market as the regular celebration cake boxes are far to expensive for regular deliveries where the box is just thrown straight in the bin so do your research on your non food cost such as boxes and boards to keep cost down.
  • Make sure your fully insured and have a good understanding of allergens- as your now selling to a third party as sometimes things can go wrong so make sure you are covered and either have a specification sheet regarding allergens for the cakes you supply or suitable allergen labels.
  • Invoice regularly-give delivery notes with every order to keep track of what you deliver as you want to ensure cash flow keeps your business moving so ensure you invoice on a regular basis with using the delivery notes as reference (weekly is best)
  • Keep payments seperate just like your main cake business, I have a separate business account and it just makes everything easier.
  • Use social media- tweet and mention the deliveries you make to the coffee shop so you can get some increased exposure for your business.
  • Be specific about contact times because you have a life too. Ive lost count of the amount of odd times I was receiving calls and messages for emergency orders etc…. This can be stressful so be sure to clearly communicate when you are able to accept orders. If you respond to out of hours contact then the expectation will be that your available 24/7 of which you are not.
  • Weekends can be busy with celebration/ wedding cake orders and a few times i received late coffee shop orders resulting in weekend deliveries which can cause havoc with schedules so Friday afternoon/ evening deliveries might work for both businesses so give this an option regarding deliveries. 

So there you are I’ve probably missed bits but I hope you find this blog post helpful and it may persuade or dissuade you in following this route

.There is a definate market out there and if you get the balance right it can work really well.

And If you already supply a coffee shop please feel free to share your experiences or if you need any advice feel free to ask a question.

Also I’m still looking for cake makers and bakers to take part in the #MeetTheBaker feature so check out the previous #MeetTheBaker blog post, and if you would like to take part get in touch.

Getting it Just right

Happy new year, it’s 2016 and another year beckons of more Adventures in Kakeland.

So what are your goals for you and your business/hobby this year? 

I personally like to set myself goals to keep me focused and I find there are 2 times in a year which I give the most focus. The obvious one is the 1st January where I like to focus on business goals, I don’t have them all set out by the 1st but I like to give myself time to think about them. The second is on my birthday in February which is usually for more personal goals (another year older and all that) so inbetween writing this blog post I’m in the process of putting pen to paper and thinking about what I would like to acheive this year both personally and in my business.

For me last year was super busy with cake orders and a coffee shop contract which was good as it helped increase my sales which for any business is fab as it shows growth and is a tangible measure of how I’m doing so it seems I must be getting something right.

One of the goals I set myself for 2015 was a spot of rebranding and to redo my website when I had rebranded . I know the rebranding bit sounds very corporate but with cake making/decorating we rely more on reputation than a brand presence but I suppose I’m thinking a bit more long term. 

The market is flooded with fellow cake makers and I believe their is room for all but at the same time we have to think about how we can make ourselves stand out, find our niche and be instantly recognisable.

So with this in mind I began to think about a logo redesign. 

You see in the beginning I didn’t have one, (logo that is) and here is a pic of my first ever business card to prove it, a generic printed card when I was known as just Kake focusing on Celebration cakes and not much else.

And If you have been following my business you will have seen a few logos since this and most recently seen 2 different logos  that represent my burgeoning little brand that is Kake and Cupkakery.

So after a while I gave Kake a little update with a basic logo, it was ok and did the job

But then cupcakes went huge and i decided that cupcakes had to be part of my business so I got a separate logo done for that side of the business and called it Cupkakery


I loved my Cupkakery logo and the simplicity of it and with this I decided to keep them (the businesses)separate to see which part performed the best. 

The thinking behind it was that if one failed I would get rid and focus on the more sucsessful part,but luckily they both did well so I decided to combine both sides of the businessess together and formed Kake and Cupkakery. So with that yet another logo was needed which I loved (at the time) a bit swirly but I liked it  until I saw the little cupcake image been used on another businesses logo which then made me take an instant dislike to mine.

it no longer felt like it represented me or the business anymore as I like to think my cakes are unique with unusual flavours, (Cupcakes) I appeal to both men and women of ages from about 29-45 as well as busy mums so I always like to think I create something a little special for my customers with cakes that look and taste great.so I needed a logo that showed that I was serious about my business but still individual and current. 

So It was while I was at a business expo and sat in on a seminar by a Birmingham based company called Orb http://www.thisisorb.com about branding, that got me really thinking it is definatley time for another change?

So while there I approached a stand from a company called Nettl http://www.nettl.com/uk/ and briefly discussed  my ideas as this time I wanted to take the time to properly explore what me and the business is all about. 

I had a consultation with the lovely Paula from Nettl who also took charge of this project, I think I must have got on her nerves by the end but I really enjoyed the process and after many redesigns and tweaks I now have a logo that I feel represents Kake and cupkakery, not overly fussy, simple, individual and unique to me.

I love the simplicity of it and really like black and white logos (if you didn’t guess that already)

 I’m still working on the branding side and thinking about colour matching and colour palettes that best represents Kake and Cupkakery so very much still a work in progress.

Paula even managed to duplicate a cupcake I made as part of the logo so adds even more uniqueness .

I also redesigned my website http://www.kakeandcupkakery.co.uk which is still getting a few tweaks but overall I’m pleased with the look of it and glad I was able to tick these off my list.

So I hope you like it, I certainly do as l feel it is a look that will grow with me and the business for when I get a little bakery and hopefully no more changes but you can never say never. So now it’s back to the goal setting and business planning so here is too a fabulous 2016.  

It’s no Secret

This particular blog post is for my fellow cake makers and our valued Cakey customers.

We all know what goes into making a cake, flour, eggs, margarine, sugar,butter etc etc ….. And for some people when they decide they want a cake baked and decorated to order that’s still what they see, but there is just so much more that goes on, it’s no secret, so here is a snapshot of what actually goes into the bespoke cakes and cupcakes baked by me Yvonne aka Kake and Cupkakery

You see firstly I get a message

“Could I get a price on a cake”?

“Sure,what do you have in mind”?

The customer might have already undertaken some research and provided pictures of cakes they have found on google or another cake page but there is an unwritten Cakey rule that cakes are never copied to be identical so we always tweak, it is now the process can begin.

Day 1

So unless I’ve made the cake before I will not instantly know how much to charge, so i undertake some research on the design (unless I have a picture already) I get the spreadsheet up on the laptop and get costing. 

I now cost three different prices for cakes so that you the customer have choices from a simple design, midrange and then a higher end priced cake which is either a larger /tiered or a more intricate decorated cake.

The majority of customers choose the second option where cakes start from around £55 (8″)  this usually has a small amount of Modelling and detailed work.

I took some time out a while ago to do a costing exercise and now have a lot of the basic cost of making a cake already done so basically it’s add on the decoration time, delivery cost and supplies, I.e extra sugarpaste, ribbon, board and Box.

Then I need to determine how long it will take? this is always dependent on  what decorative work is involved in your cake,the more detail on a cake the higher the price will be.

 I have to calculate how much I will be paying myself to work on this cake as I run this as a business and pay tax on the income earned to HMRC,pay insurance (public liability) pay for a website etc… I have to make sure everything is covered because even though the business is based at home (and registered with the local council) there are still overheads to cover, less than a shop but regardless these cost must be included.

So my labour cost also includes getting the tin out and lining it,weighing out ingredients and mixing the cake. I pay myself just like I would expect to pay an employee the minute they start work as nobody works for free.

Day 2

Then it’s shopping,most of my suppliers are online but I have to go shopping for the more perishable ingredients such as fresh eggs ( only use free range) and butter (I always use unsalted) 

I like to buy in bulk when I can but it’s mainly the flour, sugar and chocolate ( usually Callebaut belgian chocolate) that I purchase in bulk, this reduces the time spent picking up supplies plus I always have a rolling stock.

Day 3

Cake is mixed and In the oven it goes in for 1.5 hours, (depending on the size of the cake) gas goes on, electric on (lights) and while that’s baking i will cover the cake board, begin making any models etc…. and then allow to dry

Day 4

Make buttercream,fill the cake,cover the cake, make more models if needed or add finishing touches to the ones already made,allow the covered cake to set overnight.

Day 5

Finish cake, add all the made pieces, photograph, box it up, add labels and business card/sticker which are purchased through the business.

Day 6

Delivery day, drive to deliver to customers home or venue.

Inbetween this is the cleaning,oh how I hate washing up any volunteers to do it for me?? (I’ll pay you in cake )

Now I’ve listed this in sequence but in fact dependng on orders this process could be 2 weeks or more in advance or only 2 days (for last minute orders) .  

So as you can see the whole process can be days and weeks in the making.

I’m lucky in that it’s rare a customer will tell me a cake is too costly but I can understand that some may think a quote they receive is too expensive because it’s just a cake,but in that cake is years of experience from starting as a hobbyist to launching a small business. And remember you are having a product specifically made for you,not mass produced but baked to order with care and attention to your own specific brief. And I always like to think of a celebration cake as memory making so to me they are even more special.

I know many cake decorators  feel insecure about what to charge and thousands constantly undercharge (I’ve been one of them). when you deliver a cake and realise it took 8 hours to decorate rather than the 3 hours you calculated,yes I’ve definitely been there and even now we can sometimes lose money on a order.

To my fellow decorators especially if your just starting out my advice is to get to grips with your pricing early on, understand what it cost you and what you would like to be paid for the skilled work you produce. I would allocate a few days to working it out,you’ll be happy you did as It is much harder to suddenly increase prices when you realise that the two tier cake you charged your customer £40 for actually cost you £20 to make. 

We have to make some money/ profit (it’s not a dirty word) or else your business is losing money and no matter what business your in losing money is very dishearting. 

You may lose 5% of customers if you suddenly need to increase pricing  but it’s better to get paid properly for two cakes than lose money working on 6

Now cake decorators across the land I know I may have left out some details because if we had to account for every single second a cake would cost £100 every time but I know you understand.

And to all my lovely customers who return and recommend me i just wanted to share my process with you as it’s because of you that 3.5 years later Kake and cupkakery is still baking.

And for those that are considering ordering a cake I hope this gives you a clearer idea what it entails.

Running a cake business is hard work and it’s not nearly as glamorous as people may think but I am absolutely loving it,so saying a Hugeeee Thank You to my customers and those that support there own local cake business.

So I hope you enjoyed this post because as I said in the beginning It’s no secret.