Susan Walley runs an online cupcake delivery business from her home in Glasgow. She creates bespoke, celebratory cupcakes with diverse designs for weddings, parties, small gatherings and corporate events. We talked to her about her experience as the owner of a cake baking business.
Q. What inspired you to make this career move?
I think my story is one shared by many. I was making a very satisfactory wage in a stressful job that I found unfulfilling. Baking has always been my passion and I was keen to make it the source of my income too. I promised myself three years to have a shot at crafting a successful cake business. Less than two years down the line, I’m turning over a healthy profit and my company is going from strength to strength. I’m currently selling an average of 120 cakes a day.
Q. Can you tell us a little about your working day?
I get up early to bake and am usually in the kitchen for approximately five hours. I have a huge oven and professional, large-scale equipment which speeds up the process miraculously. I bake in batches, cooling one batch whilst I decorate another. I have an assistant, Grace, who bakes and decorates with me in the mornings. When I’m not baking, you’ll find me responding to queries from customers, managing my website and placing orders for ingredients. I make sure to read through newspapers, blogs and magazines to keep informed of trends, events and innovations that might affect my business. I also regularly work on new cake designs, making example cakes and photographing them carefully. I’m skilled with a camera and lighting which comes in very handy and saves on the cost of a photographer. My customers usually order cakes I have already designed but it isn’t rare for me to work on special requests. Consumers seem to be really keen on personalised cakes.
Q. How do you deliver your cakes?
As I need to be able to guarantee a delivery date to my customers, I work with a courier service. Since I regularly send large volumes this way, it doesn’t work out that much more expensive than using the Royal Mail. The couriers are also accustomed to working with fragile packages and it works out smoothly in terms of insurance. I think it creates a more professional impression, too.
Q. Can you describe your website for us?
I come from a marketing background and was keen to implement all that I learnt from my past career. I conducted careful market research, looking at other cake delivery websites and assessing their strengths and weaknesses. I took time to design a brand identity for my company, with a uniform font, colour scheme and logo. My homepage is very simple and eye-catching with just my company name, my logo and a picture of one of my best selling cupcake designs. Visitors then click through to browse available designs, pricing structures and other information. A section of my site is dedicated to customer reviews. I get a lot of rewarding feedback and I think it gives new customers confidence to see that others have been pleased with my work.
Q. What difficulties have you encountered along the way?
It was very tough to fulfil order numbers when I was still using my regular, domestic oven. Investing in new equipment sorted that immediately but the cost was high. Aside from that, I do find baking a great deal lonelier than working in a bustling office. I have to make an extra effort to be sociable and keep up friendships. Also, whilst my business is doing well, I’m not making as much money as I was previously. I’ve had to adjust my lifestyle and cut down on unnecessary spending. At the end of the day, though, I love what I do.
For those keen to focus on baking, an online cake delivery website may prove a more attractive career option than opening a café or tea room. Working from home in this way can also prove more cost effective. Without the added cost of new premises, the financial risks are lower. Take a look at a selection of cake delivery sites to see what you can add to the mix.