You might think that running a cake business is all sugar and loveliness.
Floating round the kitchen in a frilly apron whilst piping pink buttercream is part of my daily routine, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
I often get asked – how did you get your business established? how do you get so many social followers? how do you find time to make cakes, blog and do all your own photographs?
The answer is not simple – and it involves hard work, commitment, lots of juggling, and bags under your eyes! But there are a few things you can do easily which will make your life easier, and help your business to grow.
Here’s my 5 top tips to perk up your business.
1 GET SOCIAL
2 GET RECOGNISED
3 GET TALKING
4 GET SHOOTING
5 GET WRITING
But first, let me tell you a little bit about me.
When I started my cake business in 2013, I was determined to do things in a professional way. I’ve spent 20 years working as an Executive PA/ Office Manager so I know how to organise things.
I read recently that every journey starts with shutting the front door behind you and taking steps forward, and this resonated with my work journey.
After a period of illness, I knew that a traditional office context would no longer suit me and I needed to do something completely different.
Quality of life is high on my list. I live on the slopes of the Great Orme in Llandudno with my husband, Barry, and Henry the miniature dachshund. We love the amazing lifestyle that North Wales offers – so whatever was next, needed to be home based.
Signing up for the a Business Start up Course was the obvious place to begin. I eagerly wrote a Business Plan, registered the business, gained my Food Hygiene Certificate and achieved my 5* Hygiene rating from the Local Authority. I took a number of training courses and soaked up everything that was on offer.
I quickly learned that however lovely my cakes might be, it’s all about marketing and online presence.
“Be different”, they said, “stand out”. So that is what I have tried to do every day since.
I garnered all my passion, knowledge and determination – and launched myself into the big wide world of self employment – with as much gusto as I could manage.
So here are my 5 top tips to get your business moving, and growing.
1 GET SOCIAL
If you’re not into social media, then you’re missing the biggest trick in the book.
Seth Godin, Bestselling Author and Marketing Guru, says “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell”
Social Media gives you a phenomenal platform to tell your story, build your community and engage with your customers.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are my shop window. I’ve working hard to achieve a significant following on these platforms. But remember it’s about engagement not numbers. Numbers help – they give you a certain profile, and make people want to follow, but engaging successfully with just a few – is probably more productive. So don’t worry about the numbers.
Once you have your pages set up – make sure you look professional, pay attention to every comment, be consistent in your posting, don’t be complacent – engagement is a two way process.
I suppose my best advice is to make social media part of your day, not just a bolted on hour in the evening. If you follow me on twitter you’ll see that I make almost everything I do an opportunity to tell my story. Yes people want to see gorgeous studio shots of my finished cakes – but more than that, they want to see behind the scenes, what makes me tick, what inspires me – and how I run my business every day.
2 GET RECOGNISED
I started off my business as “Judith’s Cakes” and quickly realised that this made me sound very homey and not at all “stand-out”. When you marry a Bond and your initial is J – you really have to do something with that, and so I became JUDITH BOND CAKES.
I had help to design my logo which, by the way, is not a cupcake. It’s a pinky purple flower based on the Hellebores, a winter flowering shrub which reminds me of the home where I grew up.
But branding isn’t just about a great logo.
Seth Godin says, “A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one service over another”
Be authentic, genuine and earn the trust of your customers. Your brand needs to be characterised by everything that is unique about you and your business.
Your voice – how you talk, how you write, how you behave
Your mind – no-one else thinks like you, not even Richard Branson!
Your story – how you make your product and why you do it.
Your vision – big or small, we all need a vision and goals to get there.
The quote for the week in my diary says this “If you are your authentic self, you have no competition” True? There’s nobody quite like you out there – so be yourself.
Develop a style, spend a little on professional print materials and then get out there. For me it was about getting cake into people’s mouths. I knew if they tasted it, they would talk, and then hopefully buy.
Oh, and did I mention we got a bit of press along the way. Even had a camera crew in my kitchen!
3 GET TALKING
I am not a natural networker.
Let me take you back to a June evening in 2014 when I overcame so many barriers I quite surprised myself. I had been asked to make my first batch of corporate cupcakes for a business networking evening. Not only that, but I was invited to join in with the networking evening and sit amongst a bunch of strangers to talk about my brand new business.
I arrived at a very nice country hotel a complete bag of nerves. I didn’t know what to expect, what to do, or what to say and I was praying so hard that no-one would ask me to stand up and speak in front of everyone!
Of course it turned out to be a fabulous evening. My cakes went down a treat, I met lots of lovely self employed folk, who are now friends, my confidence soared – and I even wrote my first blog post. A memorable evening indeed.
Networking takes lots of forms and guises and if you’re trying to start a business, or get your blog off the ground – you need to get involved. It might be scary at first – but if you work from home and spend large amounts of time talking to yourself and perhaps your dog, then you’ll be glad of a chance to mix with other likeminded folk. It’s a chance to share stories and business tips, get to know where people have come from and what motivates them, and hear inspiring talks from speakers and business experts.
Facebook is a good place to start – local networking groups often advertise their meetings on social media. Talk to business friends and see who they network with. Find a group that suits you, soak up everything you can – and see what ways you can help others too.
4 GET SHOOTING
When I first started my business, someone gave me a great piece of advice
“Do the things you’re good at and enjoy – and for everything else, get someone to help you”
For me photography has been a bit of an unexplored hobby. As a young girl I always had a camera round my neck and a scrap book in my rucksack. My Father was the photographer in the family and for years did all the photography at the school where he taught. I bought my first Nikon DSLR for a trip to New York in 2002 where I did a lot of snapping, but didn’t really have anything worthwhile to show for it!
My lightbulb moment was joining Welshot Imaging on a pilot scheme for Business & Bloggers. I had found a safe place to develop my skills and produce ok images for my social media and website. Little did I know, that these taster sessions would stir up the unexplored hobby that I had carried since a young age.
The truth is we all carry round a pretty hi spec camera in our pockets these days. Camera phones are ace and produce really great quality pictures. It doesn’t need to be a hobby, but you do need to think about it a little. Get your angles right, check your light sources and make sure there’s no dirty dishes in the background!
For me, my photographs are my shop window – and my cakes have to look good enough to eat. Whatever your product or service, your photographs will either draw people in to engage with you, or they’ll cause people to move on very quickly.
Like it or not, image is everything. And when you’ve sorted out your images, you’ll need to move onto video – but that’ s for another day!
5 GET WRITING
I started my blog in June 2014 on a free WordPress site. I popped my headshot and a couple of cake images onto the template and got to work on my first blog. I’ve written almost 170 posts since then – averaging 1 a week. My website went live a year ago and since then my average is more like 2 posts a week. I love to share stories with my readers and keep the website fresh and vibrant.
I write about cake style, recipes and tutorials, business tips and reviews. I use my blog to update readers on our news – local press coverage and magazine articles. I post about events where we showcase our cakes – conferences, wedding fayres, retail openings and business birthdays.
This year I am taking the blog on an intentional journey of growth. You’ll see more guest blogging, collaboration with national brands, reviews of cafes and events, and local and regional business profiles.
I love being part of the blogging world. It’s an inspiring, fulfilling, exciting, joy-filled place to hang out. I love to read what others are writing, and get ideas of what works well. I love to share my stories and hopefully bring inspiration and motivation to others along the way. You can find our brand new media kit on the website which we’re sending out to brands and potential collaborators.
If you stick around you’ll find out that I drink a lot of coffee, I’m a bit of a foodie, I love to travel, and never leave home without my diary, a bulging notebook and my camera.