Working on my business during lockdown.


It's been a while since I've updated the blog despite the fact I promised myself I would post more often. The World has changed so much in the last year, last time I updated you all the pandemic had forced a national lockdown resulting in me having to close up shop for a while. We've had further lockdowns since then although I have been able to remain open for orders throughout those. I've switched to offering delivery only so my customers don't have to make non essential trips to collect their orders and I now have a shop on my website for postal orders. This proved to be a big hit in the run up to Christmas! Especially my hot chocolate bombs, I sold over 400 of them across November and December!

Pivoting the business to offer postal treats and teaming up with other small businesses to offer treats for Valentine's and Mother's Day, (available on the website now so check it out!) gave me the kick up the backside I needed to start looking at my packaging and other things within the business. I wanted to try and make the most of the time I wasn't working on orders, especially when weddings haven't been able to go ahead. I'm usually so busy dealing with admin and inquiries, buying ingredients and supplies, creating celebration cakes and delivering wedding cakes that the less important things just pile up on my to do list. With big gatherings not allowed and my weddings all postponed, I decided to make the most of my time by focussing on my website - adding the shop was one of the results of this! A big thank you to everyone who has supported me with placing orders, sharing my posts and letting people know I am here, it is so appreciated!

Aside from adding the shop to my website, the biggest thing I have focussed on is BRANDING! I've done away with all the packaging I was using and I've started transitioning to new packaging using my business colours - orange and black! I wanted my packaging to be cohesive but also luxurious, when people receive a Bake To The Future order I want them to feel like they've been treated, especially when they have been sent as a gift to them from a loved one or friend. It was definitely a challenge sourcing boxes in the sizes I needed in black, they aren't as easy to come by as you would think! The majority of my boxes and packaging, including the bags that local orders are hand delivered in, are supplied by The Tiny Box Company. They are all fully recyclable which was important to me because I'm trying to be more eco conscious and environmentally friendly. All boxes are tied with orange ribbon supplied by a florist wholesalers and I add a logo sticker supplied by Lost Designs By Jenny. I have different size boxes for biscuits, cake hearts and cakesicles, treat boxes and chocolate smash hearts and the hot chocolate bombs are wrapped in black cupcake cases and individually bagged and tied with black or orange ribbon. All my ingredients labels are backed on to black card. I've tried to take every detail in to account, orders are secured with black and/or orange tissue paper in side each box with a logo sticker. I include a business card and leaflet with each order as well as a printed invoice which excludes the total paid just in case it is a gift.


I also looked at more luxury options for packaging orders. The first of these was my Hot Chocolate Bomb Selection Boxes which I offered at Christmas. They were a HUGE success! I wanted to offer something that felt expensive when received as a present. Each wooden crate was hand painted black and lined with black shredded tissue paper.

For postal orders there is secondary packaging to take in to account, orders are packed in a cardboard box with bubble wrap and/or air packs for added protection. But I wanted to carry my branding across to the secondary packaging too. So every box is wrapped in black postal paper, (bought from The Tiny Box Company) and secured with logo parcel tape - one of my absolute favourite finds! I was mega excited when I came across Sticker Mule! They offer a large range of logo and personalised goods and the shipping tape is fab! You cut it to size, wet the back using the sponge it comes with and then lay flat on the parcel and smooth down. It adheres super well to the parcel, secures the parcel paper thoroughly and it looks brilliant because it has my logo on!

I've received a lot of compliments about my packaging since making these changes and I really hope it makes every person who receives an order from me feel super special! I'm slowly making changes to the rest of my packaging so eventually all cupcake and cake orders will go out in black boxes too! A massive thanks to the companies who have supplied me with just the right thing for my little rebrand. Check them all out below!



Order Boxes and Bags, Postal Paper:

Tiny Box Company


Cardboard Shipping Boxes:

Box Wise Packaging


Logo Shipping Tape:

Sticker Mule


Logo Stickers:

Lost Designs By Jenny


Ribbon and Tissue Paper:

Southeast Sundries




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In the first of what will hopefully be a series of guest blogs, the amazing Lucy from Caro Events talks all about why having an on the day coordinator is the best way to ensure that your wedding day runs smoothly.

So, you’re engaged and starting to plan your wedding – it’s very exciting! Maybe you’re thinking of putting a marquee up in your garden for a really personal day; or perhaps you’re considering using a dry hire venue where you need to source all the suppliers yourself; or maybe you’ve got a completely blank canvas area that you want to transform into something completely unique. Whatever you decide to do, I would highly recommend hiring an on-the-day wedding coordinator (that’s me!), and here are some reasons why:


- I can meet you at the venue prior to your wedding to run through the schedule and layout for the day.

- I can produce a timeline of events and a floor-plan for all suppliers.

- You can benefit from my knowledge and experience in the industry, as I can take care of any last-minute details and ensure that nothing has been missed.

- I can be of assistance in the weeks leading up to the wedding, confirming final details with suppliers and making any last-minute arrangements.

- I can help to set-up decor and props prior to or on the morning of the big day.

- You can spend the morning of your wedding enjoying getting ready with a glass of fizz in hand, whilst I can be meeting and liaising with the suppliers and ensuring everything is ready for your arrival.

- I can manage the running order for the day, so you relax and enjoy being with your guests without worrying about everything happening on time or in the right order.

- Your parents, Maid/Matron of Honour and friends will also be able to relax, happy in the knowledge that someone else if on-hand to deal with any last-minute problems (trust me, they will thank you for this!)

- This is a budget-friendly alternative to hiring a full wedding planner, and it still gives you complete control.

- Some venues provide an event coordinator, but they are usually the person who you liaise with at the venue to make arrangements and discuss timings for the day; they won’t necessarily be on-hand to contact the photographer if they’ve not arrived or let the band know when they need to start performing.

- If you are having a dry-hire venue, marquee or private residence wedding there will be no event coordinator provided by the venue, so I can help you bring everything together on the day.

- You will also have access to my Emergency Wedding Kit, full of goodies and essentials that you might need on your big day.


Hiring an on-the-day coordinator still gives you the full control of planning your wedding yourself, without having to deal with any of the stress on the day. After spending so much time (and money!) planning it, you should relax and enjoy your day, knowing that someone else is taking care of everything.

To get in touch with Lucy head over to www.caroevents.co.uk or find her on Facebook and Instagram @caroeventsuk.




It's taken me some time to get around to actually writing this blog post and in all honesty, I was starting to think I wouldn't ever write it.


It is 2.50 am and I've just baked some profiteroles, I'm not ready for bed yet so I started the now nightly ritual of deciding which pointless time wasting activity to absorb myself in for the next couple of hours. I was going to do some cross stitching but I decided that actually, I'm ready to start putting some of my thoughts and feelings down in to words. So, I'm here writing this blog and hoping that I can some how bring everything together in a way that people will understand. I'll try not to blabber on, and I'll try really hard not to cry because I actually haven't done that yet. Surprisingly! I'm an incredibly emotional person, I'm not scared or ashamed to admit that because whilst it has often been a curse and a bit of a character flaw, it is also one of the things that makes me good at what I do. My customers, particularly my wedding couples, often say in reviews that I am approachable, friendly and, above all else, I am passionate. I think that's part of my struggle right now, I need something to drive me and ordinarily that would come from creating orders and meeting with brides and grooms, right now I don't have that. I've sought other areas to give me that same drive and to extract something from to keep my passion ignited but it is so hard. I do a weekly Live Bake Along on my Facebook page which helps enormously. It keeps me occupied and almost feels like socialising as I have interaction with others and I know it's helpful to those who join in every week, (I love seeing all of your bakes and there will definitely be more blog posts about what we've been up to each week!) I've also been baking loads just for fun which I haven't done in years! And I haven't baked cakes, other than for my children's birthdays earlier this month. In stead I've been doing biscuits and cookies and duffins and profiteroles, I've revisited some much loved recipe books by Mary Berry and Eric Lanlard and it has definitely fully relighted the flame in me for baking! I'm also planning a wedding but that is a story for another day.


Creme Egg Brownies

April was set to be my busiest month of the year with five weddings, two big birthday cake orders plus my own children's birthdays too. All of that disappeared the week lock-down came in.


Throughout January I was overwhelmed with inquiries for wedding cakes, my first two consultation days of the year were fully booked and I some how ended up with double the number of weddings for 2020 compared to previous years. I was elated with how busy I was and excited to get creating all of the amazing cake designs I had ahead. By March the virus was dominating the press more with each passing day. One of my grooms contacted me to say there may be some issues with their Summer wedding due to the Bride working abroad. I still believed weddings would not be impacted. When social distancing came in I started to think that we were most likely heading towards a lock-down situation. I implemented strategies for coping with operating during social distancing and I had two orders collected the week before lock-down which were done without contact.


Then Boris Johnson announced lock-down.


Chocolate chip cookies

There was a grey area, as a food business I could continue to operate offering collection or delivery with no contact but the non essential travel part of the restrictions posed more than a few questions. What it eventually boiled down to was quite simple; cake is not essential for life. By continuing to sell cakes and baked goods, I would either have to make a non essential journey to deliver orders or I would be encouraging and condoning non essential journeys by my customers for them to collect their order. I didn't feel comfortable with that. My decision was helped by the fact that my insurance company does not cover me during lock-down as they say we should not be operating. Some cake companies have made a different choice and continued to sell, some have adapted and switched to online orders. That was an option I was looking in to before lock-down came in and I'm working on it ready for when I open again. But, for now I am closed for orders. I have had a few inquiries and I've taken bookings beyond the lock-down in the hope that it is lifted by then. I'm missing that creative outlet, I'm missing meeting with brides and grooms and designing cakes for my customers, I'm missing my business. And I sincerely hope I still have one when this is over. I believe I have made the right decision in closing, I feel guilty every time I leave the house to drive to Tesco for our essential shop, I'm also helping to care for my Mum who is disabled and vulnerable and I seriously worry every time I drive to her home in case I'm stopped by the police. There is no way I could handle doing multiple deliveries even once a week, my nerves just couldn't handle it. There is also the issue of sourcing ingredients. This week I have struggled to buy eggs ready for my bake along on Friday, I eventually got some (during my daily exercise!) but if I hadn't been able to then I would have changed what we were baking on Friday or cancelled this weeks Bake Along. It isn't that easy when you have orders to fulfil.


Obviously the main problem with closing any business is that you lose your income. My situation is made harder by the fact that my husband is also full time self employed and as what he does is event based, he has no work right now and therefore no income. We also have two children who are now home 24/7 and they both had birthdays this month. It is an incredibly difficult situation and for the first two weeks I felt this immense weight on my chest. I was constantly on the verge of having an anxiety attack. I suffered with panic attacks when I was younger, they plagued me for about three years but I haven't had one since I was a teenager despite the fact that I have faced many very difficult periods over the last 16 years. That alone drove home to me how serious this situation was. Not once in my adult life have I really, properly worried about being able to feed my family or pay the bills. In March life in our household changed in a rather severe way, we found ourselves having to carefully budget every penny we had. Suddenly, paying the rent became something that would have to wait rather than an absolute above-all-else priority to be paid before any other bills. Our essentials came down to ensuring we had enough food, keeping the gas and electric going and having fuel in the car to get to Tesco and take supplies to my Mum and my vulnerable in-laws who are all having to self isolate for 12 weeks. Everything else would have to wait. We have adjusted quite quickly, we managed to buy birthday presents for our son Jenson, who turned 9 on the 5th of April and for our daughter Kallie, who turned 7 on the 11th (what awesome timing huh!) and the kids haven't really noticed anything different within our household. In fact, I actually think that for the most part they might be happier! They suddenly have us both home every day, we're going on walks together, watching films a few times a week, playing board games and sitting with them to do school work. Don't get me wrong, there's been shouting and tears from them both because they miss school and their teachers and friends and they were meant to have parties which they missed out on, (first year they haven't had one) and they do grow tired of each others company every now and again and start to long for some space but overall, I am so proud of how they're handling everything. They miss their grand parents and cousins, video calls help but they really want to be able to hug them. And I understand that, I might be 34 but I want to hug my Mum so badly that some times I think I could cry thinking about how long it could be before I get a hug from her again. And I haven't seen my Dad and his wife since November as they moved to Manchester and were due to visit in March but had to cancel because of all of this. By the time I do see them it will be the best part of a year since I last got a hug from my Dad and there were tears over missing him before all of this happened.


Biscuits

So, we have adjusted to making do with video calls to loved ones, I've even managed to Facetime friends and take part in a quiz and a Sugarcraft Guild committee meeting using Zoom. The kids celebrated their birthdays and actually had really great days, they still had a birthday cake they loved and we spent the whole of their special days together as a family which we don't normally get to do. I'm doing a Live Bake Along each week and baking for fun as and when I have the ingredients to do so. I am indulging in a few pointless time wasting activities to keep myself occupied, mostly colouring books and serial killer documentaries because, why not? I've also started the couch to 5k. We've just about got use to the financial impact although falling behind on bills isn't something I am comfortable with but we have learnt to accept that for now, we need to have fewer priorities than usual. The bills can be paid back once this is over and we're back on our feet again.


IF we get back on our feet.


Because that's the thing I have lost the most sleep over.


I have spent four years building my business from nothing except a name and a love for cake. That name now means so much more than I ever believed it would and my love for cake has only grown. I have achieved so much, accomplished things I never thought possible, I didn't know that I had it in me to aim as high as I have and to actually reach for goals let alone hit them. I've become a different person in so many ways over the last four years and that is completely down to my business and the people I have met. Without my business I almost don't know who I am.