It's crept up on me, but next Monday (November 5th) will mark 3 years since I first registered Three Little Birds Bakery as a business with HMRC and Bradford Council, created my Facebook page, bought my domain name and my public liability insurance. Easy to remember, as it's Bonfire Night, but also easily forgotten if you don't stop and think about it. So to mark 3 years, and many cake orders in the meantime, I'm telling you today about 3 milestones that have stood out over these years, and 3 challenges and how I overcame them.
Milestone 1 - The First Cake
This sounds obvious, but it's amazing that I got a cake order almost as soon as I set up my business. It could easily have been weeks before anyone bought a bake off me, but my friend Anna straight away ordered a Lightning McQueen themed cake for her son from me. I think getting an order so quickly really gave me a boost and let me know that it was possible to do this! Of course, I didn't sleep for about a week before making it, ordered 3 different toppers in case they didn't arrive on time, and worried for hours about how I was going to make everything, whether the customer would be happy, and everything in between. Then, would you believe it, I came down with a vomiting bug in between baking it and decorating it. A cake maker's worst nightmare! Thankfully, having adhered to the food hygiene rules strictly, made all the decorations in advance, communicated with the client, and having enlisted the help of a very kind fellow caker and friend who was also trained in Food Hygiene, the cake was completed with no problem and all was well. Here's the cake in all its glory, and thanks again to Natalie at The Dragonfly Bakery for your help! (Clearly my food photography skills have come on a bit since then too... )
Milestone 2 - The First Class
It took me quite a while to get up the courage to run my first class, but after several people asked me if I would do one, I took the plunge. I don't think I've ever been so nervous! But I couldn't have had a group of more lovely people. On a snowy morning a year ago in November, I had the pleasure of teaching Tracey, Alison, Elaine and Sandra how to make a Christmas cake topper and some simple but effective buttercream piping techniques. I'm running nearly the exact same class this year on Saturday December 15th at Gather, so it must have gone ok! I still get really nervous before my classes, but I enjoy them hugely too, and it seems like most of the students do as well. This was a really big hurdle to leap over so it's definitely a milestone I'm proud of.
Milestone 3 - The First Wedding
When I first set up the business, I was adamant I'd never do weddings! Hilarious, as now I absolutely love doing them! I was so scared of the pressure and the importance of them. But again, another friend, Helen, approached me about making her wedding cupcake tower. I don't know if it's because it was her, or because it was cupcakes which seemed less scary, but I said yes. I loved planning the cakes with her, sitting down and chatting about her wedding and designing everything, and was so pleased with the final effect of the tower and most of all how much the bride & groom loved it. Today, those elements are still my favourites. I really enjoy meeting my wedding couples and hearing about their plans, designing every little element of their cake together, and then having the honour of providing the centrepiece to their wedding breakfast. Thank you, Helen & Dave, for nudging me in the right direction!
Challenge 1 - Macarons
When I set the business up, I was incapable of making consistent macarons. They turned out ok sometimes but usually I'd have to make about 3 batches to get enough to fill a box! My family may have loved this situation, but I did not. So I set out to make myself learn, through trial and error, how to make them right every time. Through meticulous and painstaking and sometimes very boring batch after batch, I tweaked one variable at a time to get to a place where I could knock out a batch and know it would turn out right. It took a few months but I finally got it. And this meant that not only could I provide macaron towers for weddings, I can also now teach macaron classes, one of my favourite and most popular products.
Challenge 2 - Business-ing
When you become self-employed, it's usually because you are able to make something, to offer a product or service, and you want to do this for yourself rather than work for anyone else. You don't necessarily start a business because you want to be a businessperson. Now thankfully I have always had a bit of an entrepreneurial streak, and attended a course on starting a business at university. I'm fairly good with managing money, and have a lot of experience of admin and managing processes and budgets in previous jobs. Nevertheless, it's a hugely different undertaking to suddenly be the one person with whom the buck stops for absolutely everything. There is admin to do, quotes to produce, money to manage, social media to be present on, supplies to order, food hygiene to oversee, and that's before you even get to the cakes! It's been a very challenging, but enormously satisfying and rewarding, journey for me to experience this learning curve. It's something you will never feel you have ever completed, but it's really fun being on the ride, if a little overwhelming at times!
Challenge 3 - Balancing Act
I've written about this before, but it's certainly been a challenge to figure out how my business and my personal life relate to each other. You can read more in this previous blog post. Again, it's not something I'll ever feel I'm nailing, but I certainly feel like together, Aidan & I have figured a lot more things out than we did at first, to enable everything to work with, rather than against, each other.
Having written this post, I can see that behind every milestone lies a road of challenges overcome to get to that point, and each challenge I take on usually yields a milestone at some point too. There's no pain without gain, as they say! I wouldn't have it any other way... the only reason all this is so fun is because you have to work for it and the rewards are so, well, rewarding.
The long and short of it is that none of this would have been possible without my clients, my readers, my subscribers, my Facebook followers, and my friends and family. So here's to 3 years of ups, downs, successes and failures, but most of all to all the people who've been part of it... and of course, here's to the wonder that is CAKE!
I'd love to know what your milestones and challenges are... feel free to leave me a comment and get the conversation started!