Tell us a bit about you…
Hi, I’m Amber, owner of Little A’s Cakery. I’m Mum to Amelie who’s 5 (Little ‘A’) and William, 2. I design, bake and decorate cakes from my home in Dereham, Norfolk. We’re a registered home-based food business with a 5* food hygiene rating and food hygiene certificate, I am also fully insured. I’m chief baker, pot washer, stock controller, administrator, delivery driver and marketing manager….in other words, it’s just me (with a little help from my husband Jeremy, biggest supporter/critic and quality control!)
Why did you become self-employed, and where did the idea for your business come from?
Before starting my business I had a successful career as Branch Manager with a large corporate estate agent. After the birth of my second child, negotiations around returning to work left me feeling that as a mum of two, my 16 years experience was no longer valued. I’ve made cakes for family and friends and had seen an article in our local newspaper about a mum who started her own cake business. I’ve always yearned to have a more creative career and felt that I may never get the opportunity again (after all, we’d been used to living on my maternity pay – I was sure I could equal that in cake sales!) I decided to pop a few cake photos on Facebook and had a hugely positive response. We got our kitchen registered and after a lot of debate with family and friends, I handed in my notice…. with a quivering lip, a knot in my stomach and wobbly knees…..and I’ve never looked back!
What has been your proudest moment/biggest achievement in your business so far?
I think the fact that people trust me to make their wedding cakes makes me enormously proud. My biggest achievement has simply been not giving up when the going gets tough.
Let’s talk mornings – are you an early bird, do you have a set morning routine, and what do you do before you start working each day?
I’ve always been a morning person and my children seem to like an early start too! My husband leaves for work at 3.30am (but is home in time to pick the children up from school!) so it’s down to me to get everyone ready for nursery and school. We get up at around 6am and I usually start work before we go on the school run, checking emails, stock, updating social media etc. I’m back in the kitchen by 9.30am, ready to bake!
Where do you work from?
I work from home, I have a lovely big kitchen overlooking the garden and an office/store room which is fast being outgrown.
What does your typical working day look like?
I aimed to work 3 days a week. That went out of the window at week 3!
My working week starts on Tuesday once the children are at nursery and school. I working until they come home at 3.30 and once they’re in bed I go back to work till about 10.30pm. Wednesday is supposed to be a day off with my son but I seem to spend lots of time replying to enquiries, shopping, checking deposits have been paid, writing posts for Facebook and editing photos for my blog. Wednesday evening is spent stacking cakes, preparing cake boards and making decorations. Thursday is my ‘long day’ and where the creativity begins! I ice and decorate cakes all day, usually working from 9.30am till 10.30pm. I have a break in the evening when my parents (thank goodness for my parents and mother-in-law) bring the children home having collected them from school and nursery. I kiss the children and put them to bed, then back to work.
Friday is much the same, sometimes finishing by 4pm but if I’ve underestimated my workload (which I did a lot when I first started out) I can still be found, sitting at the kitchen table at 11pm!
Saturday morning is usually spent delivering wedding cakes or playing with the children waiting for customers to collect their orders. Sunday is my day off but I spend time on social media and planning my schedule for the following week. However, no two days are ever the same.
Tell us – what’s your favourite thing about being self-employed?
I love being in complete control of my own destiny! (and that I can take every school holiday off if I choose…. even if it is unpaid!)
And your least favourite thing about being self-employed?
Not having a secretary! I’ve never been keen on spreadsheets.
What do you wish you’d known before starting your own business?
I think I’d have looked for a mentor sooner. I thought being self-employed would be complicated, that I’d be penniless and lonely. I was wrong, it’s just bloody hard work to start with!
Did you get any start-up support, and where do you get support from now?
I started my business with £600 to my name and an incredibly supportive husband. He has been my rock, always insisting that I can do anything I set my mind to, even when I’m in a puddle of tears. I found a fabulous group on Facebook for self-employed Mums, through that I met Rebecca Claxton and Serena Fordham, both incredibly lovely, knowledgeable business women.
What tools/apps/products/services make life easier for you as a self-employed mum?
I’ve tried Quickbooks to do my accounts but anything spreadsheet related brings me out in a cold sweat! I pretty much run my business on Facebook using the Pages Manager app. I have a weekly worksheet and created my own paper diary/work schedule through to 2018 (yes, people book their wedding cakes that far ahead!!) I also have two wonderful ladies that clean my house from top to bottom every Monday, I can honestly say I wouldn’t manage without them.
What do you do for ‘me time’ or to take time out from running a small business?
Days out with my family and weekends away with my girl friends every few months. I also really want to get back into swimming regularly…..making cakes for a living has made my waistline expand!
If you could start your business again, what would you do differently?
Probably everything! I kind of stumbled into it and then got incredibly busy before really having proper systems in place to deal with ordering, invoicing, receipts etc. I’d definitely put my prices up sooner. It took a customer saying to me ‘Don’t be a busy fool’ to make me realise I needed to charge more and work less.
Have you overcome any barriers to self-employment?
My biggest challenge so far has been coping with having an operation which meant I couldn’t lift for 6 weeks. It made me realise that I need to save for a rainy day just in case I can’t work for any reason.
What advice would you give to other women thinking of becoming self-employed or starting a small business?
Do it! Especially if you’re a mum as you’re already used to hard work and multitasking!
Where can people find you online?
Via the Little A’s Cakery website