This week on my Mums in Business series I’m excited to be featuring Paula who created Mums Bake Cakes, who sadly developed the business idea after tragedy hit her family. This gave her the motivation and determination to set up the business which allows you to order a cake online and for it to be sent to a recipient in the UK (a bit like a flower delivery service).
Here Paula tells her story including how she has made the business a success by putting a huge focus into her target audience, and making sure they people know about the business, which is so important for business success and growth. Read on for more…..
Tell me a little bit about you, your background and Mums Bake Cakes?
Hi, I’m Paula Wilkinson aged 50 mum of two teenagers, married to Ian for 20 years, born in North Wales and moved to London aged 18 to search for the ‘bright lights and streets paved with Gold!’ I settled in London forging a career in sales and sales management, with the ‘odd’ gap year to travel the world and experience life as a backpacker, always returning to the relative cut throat business of sales and sales targets. Working within the Yellow Pages management team for 10 years, developing sales teams, setting targets and motivating team members to collective goals and ultimate financial rewards. The body clock ticked and rather later in life I became a mum and changed my course of life deciding to stay at home only arranging to work around the children at a time that suited them.
What were your drivers and motivations for setting up Mums Bake Cakes?
When the children were coming to the end of their primary school years, devastation hit my family. My elderly father died, my father-in-Law died soon after and all whilst my niece (only 4 years younger than me-more like a sister), was diagnosed with breast cancer that eventually progressed to an incurable stage and within 2 years saw her lose her battle with cancer. Prior to her death, but knowing her birthday would be her final one – I wanted to arrange a gift ( trinkets and flowers didn’t seem appropriate for her final days), however she had spent many, many months visiting cafes and coffee shops (visiting the Ritz in London) with friends, I wanted to arrange a cake to be delivered to her. Unable to arrange this, I embarked on a 600 mile round trip collecting a cake from a bakery in North Wales and delivering this personally to Davina. That ‘light bulb’ moment arrived- if I had wanted to send flowers that would have been easy- so why NOT cakes! Chatting to Davina and explaining the concept she gave it her full support prior to her death in December 2015.
Mums Bake Cakes was launched to independent bakers across the UK first, establishing their skills and how they work and looking at ways where we could enhance their businesses, whilst supplying a different service not available in the UK. Bakers are checked by us to ensure they hold the UK environmental registrations and insurance and they upload their cakes. We create orders that are directed to the bakers and the bakers deliver in their 5-10 mile radius. So cakes/cupcakes/cookies etc. are delivered by hand from the baker that made them!
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
Balancing work and home life is a daily struggle. The realisation that teenagers actually do need parents as much as toddlers – just in a different way, support, conversations, questioning. Alongside my own understanding that time goes by so quickly that I know they will soon be making their own way in life, and the worries of everyday life keeping them on the straight and narrow, instilling a work ethic, helping them deal with pressures from school, peer group pressure whilst allowing them to ‘be teenagers’ and have fun.
Since setting up the business what’s been your biggest success to date?
Having set up a business that hasn’t existed before, therefore people can’t search for it- because they don’t know its available had caused an issue to start with whilst we truly identified our markets.
Identifying our markets and really starting to understand the ‘real’ people behind the purchasing has been quite a large and complex step for us. Arranging cakes and cupcakes could be suited to anyone, and can be a daily occurrence, cakes cross the cultural, class and geographic divides in all communities- so we really could say it would suit everyone. However, marketing to everyone would be impossible, so we started to attack key smaller markets where we could truly show our differences.
We identified that Expats and Military often had family back in the UK where they needed to arrange gifts and our targeting of these markets proved successful whilst they were able to gain us access to private schools, universities and colleges where children were boarding also. Our next market we targeted was the businesses who had clients, customers and sales teams across the UK where we could help them to purchase from local bakers, whilst arranging from a central source.
Ensuring we didn’t compete with local bakers, but opened up new markets for them has ensured a favourable working relationship both ways. Perhaps this way of working has slowed the growth of the business, but our own principles has ensured we have delivered a great product to customers and a great working relationship with our bakers.
Since setting up Mums Bake Cakes, I have been amazed at how I can have incredible highs followed by enormous lows that can happen within hours of each other! Recognising actually what we have achieved and not always focussing on what needs to be done is an area which I need to take time to remember to do. Our highlight the first year was winning the Great British Entrepreneur of The year award – Food and Drink, up against some very established brands we were recognised for the creativity of the brand and the unusual concept whilst supporting the local economies.
What’s your top tip for Mums who are thinking about setting up their own business?
My advice for anyone starting a business, is to really, really look at your potential market and keep reducing the market to approach the most realistic and engaging to start with giving you the best chance of survival. Search the best social channels for you – don’t try to action all channels it will take too long – different messages need to be on different channels and 2 or 3 channels constantly updated are more worthwhile than all the channels with nothing on them!
Apply for awards whether national or local awards, as someone else will be looking at your proposition and you will always gain honest feedback often meeting key industry professionals for the future.
Thank you so much Paula for taking part in my series, it was lovely to interview you, and I wish you the best of luck in the future.
If you would like to be part of my Mums in Business then just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in my series: We Mean Business, Chinskitchen, and Kids to Career