Well, I've been thinking about the easiest way to get information to you all, and have decided that a newsletter-style email would probably be the easiest, so for all future blog articles, special offers and customer loyalty discounts, simply sign up below! The subscription form will have it's permanent home over on the right hand sidebar. The first newsletter will be live on 30th November 2015.
Having had a conversation with a lovely lady this morning asking for advice on setting up from home, I went though some of the practical advice of starting out with a cakey business, but what about the stuff no-one tells you when you start working from home?
The nights of no sleep, when your oven decides it doesn't like carrot cake - the night before a wedding cake with a carrot cake tier is due out of the door? (yes, truly, it happened!!!)
When 5.30am becomes a lie in, and one day off a fortnight is a regular occurrence?
The aching feet and sore back, the days spent on your feet and then when you think you've finished you realise no one else is going to clean up the mess and do endless amounts of paperwork?
The ever-pervading mountain of cakey bits and pieces that slowly but surely swallows the entire house?
The thin layer of icing sugar and lustre dust that covers everything and will never ever go away?
The number of times your family asks you to do something and you have to tell them you're busy with an order?
The number of takeaways consumed because you either don't want to break off the flow of work or you physically can't get to the fridge, cooker or worktop to make tea?
The weeks that go by when you've first set up your website, printed your leaflets and worked really hard on your Facebook page and you get no orders, no enquiries, no customers?
No-one told me all this when I started out working from home (and I still work three days a week at the day job!) but yet.....somehow
....I love it all! I've found my confidence has grown, I feel like I finally know what I want to do when I grow up (I'm 37, it's about time really!!) and I really love that people value my opinion about what I do. I'm no expert, but everything I've learned has been self-taught and is invaluable, and I mustn't forget to add that without the help and advice from other cake-makers, I would not be where I am today :) The anniversary of the day I made my hobby into a business is fast approaching, I will have been slogging my little heart out for three years on the 13th of May, and I wouldn't change a thing :)
So for anyone just starting out and who is struggling with any, all or more of the above....get your head down and keep plodding on! You CAN do it, and it WILL be worth it! Don't moan and grumble, because it'll show, for sure! You chose this path and it's up to you to turn it into a busy highway!
Finally, when you learn something from someone else, be it advice, how to tackle something, how to make something new....pay it forward by helping someone else, it's the biggest compliment there is :) Love to you all :)
Tunnock's Teacakes. A classic treat when you visited elderly relatives as a child, a little dome of marshmallow covered in chocolate with a biscuit base, wrapped in it's own silver and red foil wrapper. Yum! Want to make your own? Here's how!
Firstly, melt 100g plain and 100g milk chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave, use thirty-second bursts until fully melted.
You can use any chocolate you wish, I used half plain and half milk to cut own on the sweetness of the milk chocolate.
I'm making teeny tiny mini teacakes, so I'm using a silicone cake pop mould for the chocolate shells. Drop half a teaspoon of melted chocolate into each half-sphere and use the back of the teaspoon to swoosh the chocolate right up the sides of the mould. Pop straight into the fridge to set, check after a few minutes, if there are any thin bits, just patch it over with a little more chocolate and put it back in the fridge while you make the biscuit bases.
Preheat your oven to Gas 3/325F/170C.
In a bowl place 200g plain flour, 2tbsp wheatgerm, 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt and 50g Demerara sugar, stir to mix. Add 50g butter and rub in using your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add 3-4 tbsp. milk and 1 tsp vanilla paste and mix to a stiff dough.
Roll out the dough to approx. 4mm and cut out small rounds, place on a baking tray. Your rounds need to be big enough to fit neatly over the top of your chocolate shells. If you don't have a cutter the right size, hunt around your kitchen for something which would do the trick, a shot glass, or the lid from a tin of edible silver spray in my case!
Place the tray in the fridge for ten minutes, the chilling will help stop the biscuits from spreading out in the oven. Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
When baked, remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.
Now, this is the most dangerous part. I say dangerous because if you're anything like me, most of this 1lb tub of Marshmallow Fluff will end up in your mouth rather than the chocolate shells!
When I did a trial run, I used melted marshmallows, but they set far too hard, more like marshmallow flavoured chewing gum rather than the light fluffy filling of a Tunnock's Teacake. So I started again using proper Marshmallow Fluff, and it worked absolutely perfectly.
Keeping a tight grip on your desire to stuff the whole lot in your mouth, place about half a teaspoon of marshmallow fluff in each of the shells. It'll take some working as it tends to stick to everything, but you can clean up as you go.
Try not to over-fill with floof as it will squish out when you press your biscuits on top (or what will be the bottom when you've finished).
When your biscuit bases are totally cold, gently melt your chocolate again until really runny and drop a few biscuits at a time into the bowl. Stir to coat, then lift out using a fork and let set a little on a wire rack over a baking tray. When they've set enough to handle (you can speed it up a bit by putting it in the fridge for a few minutes), gently press into the top of the fluff-filled chocolate shells. You can fill any gaps with chocolate if the biscuit isn't a perfect fit. Again leave to set completely in the fridge, then gently pop the finished teacakes out of the silicone mould.
And there you have it, little chocolate teacakes! They won't all be perfectly shaped, some will be oozy, some will be lumpy, but they will all go down a treat at teatime!!
For those of you who follow my Facebook page, I apologise for the repetition, but I felt this was a good bit of information to post :) I see a lot of lovely pages run by people who are so tired of Facebook messing around with reach, or who aren't getting the results they want and their statuses reflect how they are feeling, which could be very off-putting to potential clients. I started my page, not expecting anything much, so I wasn't disappointed, on the contrary, when it started to do well, I was over the moon and excited! If you expect too much, and think you're page is going to shoot you to fame and fortune overnight, I promise you, unless you are literally a genius, you will fail almost immediately.
My best bit of advice to anyone with a Facebook page is to treat it like you would your own actual shop window. Have a read through the following, this is what I've learned during my time on my Facebook page:
*Keep it light, fresh and interesting - update it every day! Even if you haven't got anything new to share, share something old! If your potential likers/customers look through your "shop window" and see nothing but dust bunnies and tumbleweed, they won't open the door and come in! You have to keep your page up-to-date! If the last post was three months ago, don't be surprised if you don't get any new visitors. Try posting "leading questions" that invite your likers to like, comment or share your posts, this will increase your reach. If you can spare 5 minutes to pop up two or three statuses or photos via the schedule button, it will look after itself for the day, even the week or the month! Then all you have to do is pop back in your own time and answer any queries or comments.
* Don't get into arguments about trivialities on your own "shop" doorstep - it isn't professional! Never, ever get caught up in a slanging match with competition pages/customers/anyone on your business page. If you get something disturbing/annoying/downright rude posted on your page, please try to be polite, or block, ignore, and move on. The last thing your customers want to see is you acting unprofessionally.
* Don't ever be negative if you can help it - it isn't a personal page only seen by your friends and relatives, this is YOUR SHOP WINDOW to be seen by YOUR potential customers!
* Be seen! Try participating on pages with high traffic, such as "hike those likes", "send in the troops" or "networking angels", it's all about being seen and noticed!
* Observe Facebook business etiquette! Don't advertise yourself by posting on someone else's business page! Unless invited to share your page/photo's, it's of no use to put something inflammatory along the lines of "I can do better and cheaper than this over on my page!", it's just rude and uncaring, and doesn't deserve any attention whatsoever. It's fine to sign yourself off as your business page if necessary and if it's relevant, so that people know who/where you are.
* Equally, don't rant and rave on your page! If something is bugging you, don't post it all over your business page! I could be sat here in tears feeling like it's the end of the world, but all my customers will see is a bright happy status, because that's what I want them to see. If my potentials look through my "shop window" and see a happy atmosphere (even if it is a carefully cultivated front!) that will be much more enticing to them than a miserable, sullen atmosphere.
* Participate! If potential customers comment on a photo or status, comment back, make them feel welcome, start a conversation, have a chat! Encourage your likers to stop by and say hello!
* Be happy to help! If someone is "just" asking for your advice, take it as a compliment that people think you are good enough to advise them! I get a vast amount of pleasure when I can help someone, and they come back a couple of weeks later to say "thank you for your help, look what I achieved with it!" Within boundaries of course...if someone is just touting for your ideas to pass off as their own, you are within your rights to politely but firmly turn them down. Consider your reaction, before you post it for all to see.
* Don't give two hoots about FB's horrendous reach at the moment! Carry on regardless, if likers enjoy what you do, they'll come and look for you anyway Moaning that you haven't got many likers, or people aren't finding your page is probably quite off-putting to potential customers! Instead look at other ways of boosting your reach.
* Don't post personal stuff on your page. It's NOT your personal page! Your potential customers don't need to know that you've just had beans on toast and now have terrible wind, dog has fleas and the baby has just been sick on your shoulder
* Look at the advertising options on FB, they're not at all that bad, and you can tailor your requirements to just reach local people if that's what you want. You can reach thousands of people in your area for as little as a couple of ££ a day, and start it and stop it when you like, so long as you're sensible, it need only cost you what you can afford
* ENJOY your page!! It's like a record of what you can do and what you have achieved. Be happy, treat it as an adventure, not the be-all-and-end-all, it will shine through that you are enjoying what you are doing, and this will be really appealing!
Starting or running a business via an FB page can be arduous and painfully slow, but with the right attitude YOU CAN DO ANYTHING! I've proved that :)
Well. Here we are! I've had this little "blog" tab on the side of my website for ages now, and it's finally guilt-tripped me into making use of it! Can't be that hard can it?!
And the best place to start? Well, I may as well start at the beginning!
Back in 2011 I re-discovered my love of making and decorating cakes, starting out with these little beauties(!) in the picture below. I'm sure my family appreciated it and all the many numerous failures and experiments that have followed in my quest for the perfect cake!
Following on from re-igniting my passion for all things cakey, I was asked to make a surprise birthday cake for my friend's 40th birthday, then someone who saw the cake at the party asked me to do a cake for her mum, and from here on in, it just grew! It was only a matter of time before my hobby turned into something much, much bigger, and on the 4th September 2012 my Cakes at Rachel's Facebook page was born :)
Rapidly, my little hobby increased to the size of a part time job, and in 2013 I started to think, maybe it's time to make the leap from hobby to business, but I was so nervous!! I couldn't get the funding to start my own shop and was really worried about trying to start a business with a massive debt to pay off. I wondered if I could work from home, but talked myself out of it because I had a dog, a cat and a budgie at the time, and I thought that Council Inspection Teams were big scary people who loomed over you and laughed "You can't do THAT from home, what on earth are you playing at?! Go back to your proper job, silly girl!!" I was, as it turned out, quite wrong.
With a bit of encouragement from a lovely contact from the world of Facebook, I updated my Food Safety Certificate, got in touch with the council and everything was set up for my inspection. The Inspector I had couldn't have been any nicer, and my dreams were realised on the 13th of May 2013, I got a 5* hygiene rating and a lovely shiny sticker to proudly display in my window. I got permission from my landlords to trade from home, fixed myself up with insurance, registered myself as self-employed, and Cakes at Rachel's finally became a reality! I was so incredibly proud, and still am, of my lovely little retro kitchen.
So quickly did the orders flood in, before I knew it, it was Cakes at Rachel's first birthday! I had a gorgeous shiny website and a new-found sense of self-worth and faith in myself. I am incredibly proud of what I've achieved. I have many regular customers who now just block-book for all their family birthday cakes for the whole year, wedding cakes booked in for 2015 and lots of lovely new customers who love my style of baking. At 18 months old, my Facebook page has grown to almost 5 and a half thousand followers and the bookings are rolling in.
Thank you if you've been reading my history lesson today, I thought it would be nice to share my experience with you all, and prove that you CAN make your dreams a reality, if you just have the belief in yourself. I count myself to be so lucky that I can do what I love and get paid for it.
Keep watching Cakes at Rachel's, I have a few new chapters up my sleeve, might not be just yet, but I have plans, and oh, the places I'm going to go! I can't wait...