From Chef to Account to Cake Designer and Baker - WOW! Now living a childhood dream owner of Putnoe Cakes has built a highly successful cake business that has sent orders all over the world.
What inspired or motivated you to become an Cake Maker/Baker?
I started to bake before I could reach the worktop in my Mum's kitchen. As a child of the 60's we didn't have a freezer in our house, I've three brothers so my Mum used to do a lot of baking. Friday was the day the baking was done for the week. My dream to be a cake maker for a living came to me when I was about 13, I remember that cake making was all I wanted to do. I left school at 16 and then went to catering college in Brighton where I qualified as a chef. I worked as a chef for a few years, then got married, had a family and then ended up in office work and finally worked as a company accountant for an international company. One day I arrived home from work and told my husband that I just couldn't bear to be stuck in an office looking at a computer any more. Well by this time our son's were both through University and making their own way in life. My husband agreed that I should leave my job and do something else instead. This is when the idea returned about making a business of making cakes. This was just over two years ago, today Putnoe Cakes celebrates it's second anniversary! Business is steadily increasing, wedding cake orders have quadrupled in year 2. Much of the business comes via 'word of mouth' or through our website.
Tell us about a day in the life of a Cake Maker/Baker.
I normally check emails before anything else in the day. I then look at my planner to see what I need to do during the day. This can vary greatly as it depends solely on the orders. Often at the beginning of the week the day is taken up with modelling figures or flowers etc ready for cakes later on in the week. Usually on a Wednesday I am baking for the weekend orders, Thursday sees me base icing and then Friday the finishing touches. Most days I also go out for a run, which is something I enjoy immensely.
What are the advantages of working for yourself?
Being able to plan my own workload, if the sun is shining and I have the time I can get outside for a break.
What are the disadvantages of working for yourself?
It can sometimes be very lonely
What has been your greatest challenge so far?
My greatest challenge so far has been obtaining enough orders to make the business viable. This is starting to become a reality.
What are your greatest achievements?
Gaining orders from total strangers who believe that I am able to produce the cake of their dreams.
How do you ensure work life balance?
I have a dedicated work-room, when the work is done I shut the door! I also switch my iPad and mobile phone off in the early evening so that I'm not constantly looking at emails and messages.
Who are your customers?
My customers come from all walks of life and are aged from about 18 right into their 70's and 80's. My wedding customers are usually in their 20's and 30's I've had customers from Quebec as well as New York as well as from the local area.
What new skill have you learnt recently?
Over the winter I have been learning how to make personalised bride and groom toppers from Polymer Clay and also Artista Soft. These are great fun to make and are a lasting reminder for the couple of their wedding day. I am now offering these as a separate item.
What advice would you give to someone starting a business?
Research your customer base, do your costings, have a robust accounting procedure, make sure you're good enough at the service you wish to provide, network with other local businesses, publicise yourself. Too many people think it is easy to start a business an just sit back waiting for it all to happen, you have to get out there and make yourself known.
Name one thing that you could not live without in your business.
What is your favourite or most popular product/service?
I use many tools for cake decorating, so this is pretty impossible to state. My most popular type of cake is a rich chocolate fudge cake.
What is your ultimate goal - and has this changed from when you started?
My ultimate goal is to become a business generating enough cash for my husband to retire in comfort in four years time. This has not changed, however I would dearly love to be able to open a shop eventually, maybe go into partnership with another cake maker.
Does the internet help you in spreading the word about your business?
The internet definitely helps, much of my business comes from customers who have found me through Google.
How big a role does Social Media play in your business?
This plays a large role. I regularly use twitter, Facebook and Pin it.