Catchy title, yes?! You may have noticed that I've been living in a building site for the last 3 weeks as my kitchen and dining room is ripped out, a wall knocked down and the kitchen moved into what was previously the dining room. This has caused copious amounts of dust, dirt disruption and problems as well as 5 grumpy humans trying to get along amidst the chaos. Yet during this time I've still produced cakes.
A couple of my clients have wondered, "How are you going to make my cake without a kitchen?" I've put their minds at rest that their creations won't be covered in plaster dust or what remains of my wall. I've been able to carry on working despite all the upheaval, thanks to my friend and fellow business owner, Natalie Currie at The Dragonfly Bakery.
Our building work was initially scheduled for February, but a combination of incompetent solicitors (meaning our mortgage didn't complete for a month after our offer came through) as well as our builder being tied up with jobs running late meant that it actually started in March. Had I not had any other means of making cakes, this would have meant the loss of 2 months' income and the momentum that any small business owner knows is so important.
A few months ago when I was chatting over our building project plans with Nat she straight away offered me the use of her kitchen for the duration of the work. And her generous attitude has continued since then, with her being extremely accommodating and letting me use her home even when she's not there in order to fulfill my orders, borrow baking tools and also feed me delicious food on more than one occasion.
Despite our nearly 10-year friendship and the deep values and life experiences that connect us, we are business rivals. We only live 15 minutes away from each other, often have clients that contact us both for quotes for the same cake, and aim for a similar market in terms of our products. And at times in the past this has caused us to have to have really up front, honest and difficult conversations about how we keep our friendship strong and yet still build our businesses up how we want to.
So in some ways people may find it surprising that one business owner would deliberately allow, no welcome another, into her home so that she can continue to make money and build her business while her own kitchen is out of action because of her own choices. But I think it's evidence that we can buck the tradition of business rivalry and embrace collaboration entirely.
We've both really enjoyed working together this month. We've been more efficient for a start. Some weeks we've had the same flavour cake to make so one of us had doubled up and baked extra. We've learnt new techniques from each other and little tips and tricks that you don't think of when you have your one set way of doing things. I wouldn't have bought my Profroster if I hadn't tried Nat's and watched her using it, and she's stopped lining her tins with greaseproof because she noticed I didn't have to with the same recipe and and same brand of tins.
Most of all, in a profession that can get lonely at many times, it's been amazing to have some company. Not just for the craic (although as usual we have set the world to rights a fair few times and giggled a lot), but from a professional point of view. Sometimes you're looking at a cake and wondering if this colour or that colour ribbon would work best, or doubting a creative choice. You might be panicking about how to tackle your list of jobs or how to reply to a client. And usually it's a choice of either going it alone or turning to an online support group who can't actually see the cake in real life and may take hours to respond. It's been great to be able to reassure each other, give each other ideas and hone our skills together.
So I want to publicly thank Nat and celebrate our business relationship as evidence that collaboration rather than conflict is a far more healthy and productive model to us all. There are more than enough people to buy cake from both of us and the last 3 weeks have made us better cake makers for all of our clients. It's not always easy or straightforward to navigate the waters of business and friendship, but I'm grateful that we both care enough about each other that we always want to choose kindness as well as success.
So here's to friendship, working together and building a better business world. And I am so excited to return the favour when Nat gets her extension done eventually because I'll be honest, I'm not looking forward to working on my own again in a couple of weeks' time!