January 21, 2014
I’m just back from the Fancy Food Show and I’ll share with you some of the highlights and insights in tomorrow’s article, but today I wanted to introduce you to our first Entrepreneur Spotlight of the year. Not only is this specialty baker the first of the year, but Kerry Wilson is also our first international spotlight. Coming to us from the UK, she’s sharing with us what’s different and what’s the same when it comes to starting, running, and growing a food business ‘across the pond’.
For our first ever international Entrepreneur Spotlight, can you tell us a little bit about the health code requirements you have to meet over in the UK? Are you baking out of your home or a commercial kitchen?
I am delighted to be your first international spotlight guest, thank you for inviting me!
The regulations (legislation) include compulsory Food Hygiene & Safety Certification, plus an unannounced premises inspection by the Environmental Health Service to ensure compliance, understanding and application of all hygiene and safety procedures.
I bake from my little home kitchen.
When did you first start baking and at what point did you decide you’d like to try to turn your passion into a business? How long have you been operating?
I had always loved baking as child, or at least helping out anyway, but it’s has only really been in recent years that it’s been a hobby, making cakes & cookies for friends & family. I didn’t expect much interest to be honest but I started receiving specific requests and it just grew from there, so about 18 months ago after lots of hesitation and frayed nerves, I set up Kerry-Ann’s Cake Boutique with the support and help of my husband.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background. You’re still currently employed elsewhere in Human Resources and work 4-days a week there, right? To some, the idea of Human Resources and baking might seem like two totally different worlds, but have you found similarities or areas where your background has prepared you well in your entrepreneurial ventures?
Yes indeed, I have worked in Human Resources for many years. The two disciplines are very different but do definitely have some parallels. Communication for example; it’s essential to be approachable and a good listener. Whether it’s an employment matter in the corporate arena or a conversation about a brides’ wedding plans, I need to create a good rapor quickly to build trust and confidence. If you are enthusiastic and passionate about what you do, it really shows in your work and that gives people that confidence. It’s a huge responsibility, creating a wedding cake for someone and I need to ensure that a design is a collaborative effort in terms of the client’s likes and dislikes…I can only do this if I really understand them as individuals and as a couple, so communication is key.
The big question is, as a part-time entrepreneur, how do you balance both working for another employer and working for yourself? How do you manage to respond quickly to client requests and questions when working for someone else?
It can be challenging but I have a ‘whatever it takes’ approach. I manage enquires mainly over email in the evenings and consultations at weekends and the same applies to baking and decorating the cakes. It makes for a long day, every day, but is well worth it.
Are there other challenges you’re finding as you try to balance both?
If I am in the middle of a project, such as creating lots of beautiful sugar flowers for a wedding order, it’s hard to walk away from it in the evening and not return to it until the following evening, rather than carry on the next morning.
One thing that is immediately noticeable is how beautiful your website is. How did you determine the look and feel of the site?
Thank you so much, I am very proud of it. I had a clear idea of how I wanted the viewer to feel when they were browsing through the pages. My inspiration came from beautiful patisseries I had the pleasure of visiting during a break to Paris with my husband & friends. The competition in the UK for cake designers is huge and I wanted to try & stand out and make an impact which was reflective of my own style of design.
In addition to your website, what else do you do to attract new clients? What forms of marketing have you found to be most beneficial as a special events baker?
Wedding Fayres are great for increasing market awareness and give potential clients the opportunity to see your work in person and to taste the cakes before making a commitment to book a consultation. This has been hugely successful for me this year and I have met a lot of great contacts as well which have turned into mutually beneficial business collaborations, generating orders as a result. Social media is also great for maintaining awareness. It’s important to remind people that you are here. Popping a quick post on facebook is a great way of doing this.
Have you found exhibiting at wedding shows to be beneficial to your business? Any words of advice for other bakers who are thinking of going this route? What can they do to be best prepared to make the most of a wedding show?
Oh yes they are definitely well worth it but I would advise people to do their research first because each show can vary. They can be an expensive outlay so it’s well worth taking the time to check out how successful others have found each one so that you can make an informed choice before parting with any hard-earned money. Always have something to offer your audience (in my case it’s small cake samples) and make sure you are relaxed and approachable. The more you do, the more you get to know which people actually want to be approached and which ones do not really want you to strike up a dialogue with them (many people are simply gathering ideas as they walk around).
Aside from the challenges of working full-time (or mostly full-time) and building your business on the side, what has been the biggest lesson learned since you started your company? Anything you wish you’d known before you started?
Definitely pricing! Not only have I found it hard to actually charge people for my work, knowing what to charge can be confusing. No one really has an answer for this and for good reason…..you have to work it out for yourself. I have tried to market myself competitively, but sensibly, but it’s quite hard to put a value on your own work. I have made mistakes along the way; pricing myself too low; adjusting prices on some orders because I didn’t feel they were 100% perfect; and taking way too long to perfect something that I thought wasn’t quite right when no one else could actually see what I was talking about. As the saying goes you live & learn, and I certainly have!
More importantly though, do you still find yourself as excited and passionate about your business and about making special event cakes and cookies as you were before you turned this into a business?
Oh absolutely…I just love it. Creating designs and seeing them emerge in cake…always guarantees a feeling of real accomplishment! Best of all is having a super happy client who has loved what you have made for them and will hopefully return for other orders in the future.
What are your plans for your business this year? Where do you hope to grow your business to?
I have been working on a new wedding collection for 2014 and am also exploring some additional avenues such as online ordering and approaching major retailers to introduce my work and hopefully create some more collaborative partnerships.
For more information about Kerry-Ann’s Cake Boutique you can check out the company’s website here.