Taking a risk and just going for it is a scary prospect, but it can also be the best way to set out on the journey to build your own business. Owners of Cake Chester did just this and now they have built a highly successful business and have even designed and created the “Most Expensive Cake in the World". Enjoy!
What inspired or motivated you to become a Cake Maker?
I was a 'stay at home' mum and my husband Tim was working away in London at the time, I decided to take up a hobby and I chose cake making. I was inspired by people like Debbie Brown and Lindy Smith - well known cake makers - and once I tried it I was hooked!
It took 6 years to build your business- how did you grow in those 6 years?
I had been making cakes for family for about a year before we decided to go public and Tim (having previous catering/management experience) decided to leave his job and take the huge step of opening a small shop with me in our home city of Chester.
We simply started spreading the word by advertising locally in newspapers and within 2 months had huge interest. We never thought celebration cakes would be so popular! The news spread through our clientele base of what we could create and because we offered a bespoke service, we think this is what made us stand out from the other bakeries. After about 18 months of trading we found our first shop was too small and we needed to expand. We moved to our new, bigger premises in 2008 and it is triple the size! Our shop is modern, friendly and relaxed and we bake everything fresh in our kitchens, which are on site - so no artificial ingredients or preservatives - the aroma of cakes is amazing! Now 6 years on we have a loyal customer base of over 8,000 and we get a lot of repeat business. We are always creating something new and exciting for our customers and it's great to see them excited when they see their cakes. Even now we are still looking at lots of different ways of promoting our product and keeping ideas up to date.
Your shop has a special design - can you tell us more about this?
Our shop is unique as we have a very modern look. We designed our own logo and colour scheme and wanted a young, trendy look. We have a great team who are excellent at customer service and also at creating the cakes. Our customers like the way they can visit our showroom and sit and chat to a designer in a relaxed way, maybe having a tea or coffee with some cake! It would be our dream to open a few shops, especially in Europe and America! Maybe one day :)
What was the turning point for your business - when you felt you were successful/had made it?
We feel the turning point was approximately 3 and a half years ago when business really started getting busy. People obviously love our flavours and quality of cake but it's more about the unique cake designs we all create as they are such a talking point at people’s events and along with the quality of product our customers always comment on how good our customer service is.
What has been your greatest challenge so far?
The greatest challenge so far was to train my design team by myself - considering I have no formal training. I am self taught - and had to encourage and nurture them to be the great cake artists they are now!
Who are your customers?
Our customers are anyone and everyone. We cater for such a broad range of people and we don't believe that we should be exclusive to any one group. We want our cakes to reach out to all customers no matter what their budget.
Tell us about the "Most Expensive Cake in the World"
Well, the most expensive cake in the world was a great challenge and it took approximately 30 hours to produce. It is a false cake - because of the sheer size - the base tier was 22 inches wide and to try and cook a real cake that size would be impossible for us as our ovens are not that big! But the icing covering was real.
Was there much security when you made the cake?
When the cake arrived at its destination there was approx 20 security staff!
Did any of the diamonds drop?
Yes! I dropped 4 tiny diamonds but retrieved them safely!!
Who will get to eat the cake?
When we attend the National Gay Wedding Show on the 3rd March at Liverpool Echo Arena, we will be taking the cake with us and because it is a false cake we will be taking freshly cooked/iced sample cakes for everyone to try. We make a lot of false cakes like this so that people cake view the cake all day and evening at their weddings.
How do you ensure work life balance?
Trying to juggle home and work life comes quite easily to myself and Tim. We work together as a team - he does all of the wonderful baking and I decorate cakes and look after the team of designers. We have to be very sensible about keeping home and work separate too otherwise it could easily take over everything!! But what we have now is a great balance, good time management and a level headed outlook on everything.
What are the advantages of working for yourself?
Advantages of being self employed are the freedom of choice and living the dream. You only get out of it what you put in and up to now we are very happy.
What are the disadvantages of working for yourself?
The main disadvantage would probably be not getting enough holidays!!!!
What advice would you give to someone starting a business?
Our main advice to someone wanting to start a business would be to do your research on your product. We did a year’s research before we started and we visited numerous cake shops and bakeries to see what they offered as a service. From that we realised that although people offered a service for cakes it wasn't personal enough for the customer, so we fine tuned some ideas about surroundings, service, products offered and above all the quality and finish of our cakes. The other thing I would say it that you have to be consistent and thorough in everything you do and aim to improve all the time - every day is a learning day!
Name one thing that you could not live without in your business.
We totally couldn't live without Cake!!! But seriously it would be our determination to succeed :)
What is your favourite or most popular product/service?
Our favourite product is our gorgeous chocolate mud cake! Made with Belgian chocolate, buttermilk, and butter, it is sooo moist and addictive!
What is your ultimate goal - and has this changed from when you started?
My personal goal would be to travel the world and teach people how to improve on their current skills. To enhance what they are doing already and learn new ways of creating cakes. Also ultimately to own a chain of stores! I think that I have changed my initial goal ideas from when I first started because never in a million years did I think we would be this successful :)
Does the internet help you in spreading the word about your business?
The internet has been invaluable to us - we have a great website and of course Facebook has been amazing allowing us to reach out all over the world and we are now being followed by people in Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Europe and the USA. Flickr has also been a great launch pad for our cake images.
To commission a special cake for that unforgettable event, to stand out in the crowd or for more information you can contact Cake Chester through their website.