The terms COVID19, Lockdown, quarantine, unprecedented, tiers (that aren’t cake related) social distancing and isolation are all new to our vocabulary thanks to the year 2020!
Quite frankly we can’t wait until 2020 has been a distant memory and we can all return to ‘normality’ whatever that may be.
When it comes to business we have seen many come, sadly go, and also some fortunate ones grow and adapt as a result of the frequent changes, tweaks and easing in laws nationwide.
As a small business which was set up in 2011 from home, I always aspired to grow a successful online business and figure out how to be able to post cakes nationwide. It literally took years of practice, trial and error, and cost a small fortune in the process.
Eventually, I had sussed it out and in 2019 the launch of the online store saw sales trickling in. By the end of 2019, I was struggling as one-woman-band and decided it was time to try and expand.
In January 2020 I started the year by taking the leap to become a Limited Company, moving away from being a home-based business, to a larger premise and also employing my first employee!!
All these decisions I didn’t take lightly and had a lot of lost sleep over!!
The year started off well with a number of large corporate orders for branded cakes, wedding orders for 2020/21 and numerous bookings for celebration cakes. Business would be ok and the books balanced. Result!
Then in March came the devastating news that we would face a nationwide lockdown… you know the rest.
In the first instance, I resigned myself to the fact that the business would close temporarily, all weddings and corporate orders were cancelled or postponed whereby I took I huge hit financially.
I immediately furloughed my staff member and sat at home for 4 days. During which time I had to remain active to maintain my mental health, I cleaned, jet washed, painted, ran, cleaned and cleaned then had nothing to do after day 4!!!
Then… lightbulb moment! It dawned on me that because I had an online store, I wasn’t a walk-in shop and didn’t have to see anyone face-to-face I could actually reopen and offer a contactless delivery service.
Earlier in 2020, I had developed a range of new products which included the now VERY popular cake-in-a-box and cake-in-a-jar. It soon became evident that reopening was the best decision, not only on a personal level to ensure my mental health remained positive but also to provide a service where people could send loved ones a thoughtful and delicious treat whilst being unable to see them.
I was literally overwhelmed at the volume of orders that came flooding in. The gift tag messages that customers added were comical, sentimental and heartwarming to read and kept me going on my busiest of days.
After a couple of weeks, I had to take on additional temporary staff. All in all, I had 7 staff in total who came and went as demand changed throughout the year.
My mind was blown and I had a LOT of learning to do with expanding a business so rapidly.
My absolute hero was my husband (don’t vomit just yet I’m not the soppy type). He runs a very successful digital marketing agency so has a lot of experience with developing websites, running advertising campaigns and helped me with the infrastructure of the business.
Who knew there were programs for printing labels, spreadsheets for organising daily orders as well as soooo many other digital ‘things’?! He really did make my life easier for once 😃
After the initial lockdown was over I took the opportunity to fulfil further business aspirations. We rebranded the company, had our own packaging made (lockdown saw a huge rise in home bakers which also meant I was unable to source boxes and packaging) and shaped the core staff team. Currently, our team consist of 4 absolute superstars!!! (5 including me).
The other key learning curve has been finding the best courier service to handle our precious goods! Without a doubt, this has been the single most stressful part of 2020.
We used 2 couriers consecutively after experiencing ‘issues’ shall we say! As a direct consequence, this lead to the new job role of dealing with customer complaints which still gives me anxiety!
I honestly did not realise people could be so rude, aggressive and threatening over cake!!!! I always try my hardest to resolve any issues or complaints and I think this is something I have got better at dealing with.
Since we moved to the amazing DPD and have our own postie (no more trips to the post office with 364859 bags of postal cakes) I am so glad to say that this was the final piece of the puzzle to running the online service successfully. They are so reliable and cause me minimal headaches I couldn’t recommend them enough!
In December 2019, if anyone had told me what lay ahead for 2020 I would have laughed in disbelief.
Having a successful online store, marketing strategy, keeping a close eye on cash flow, having a fantastic accountant/mentor, hardworking, loyal staff team who have the same sick sense of humour and also not forgetting Alexa! She has been the centre of many of our sing-offs and work karaoke keeping everyone’s spirits high despite being rushed off our feet!
So, without sounding boastful or braggy, 2020 hasn’t been all that bad in business. In fact, it’s been funching amazing!!!! I am so grateful to everyone who has supported us along the way and to my staff team. I hope 2021 sees further development and expansion and our wedding and corporate orders can resume… watch this space.
And if anyone else is wanting to grown and expand their business online (since all the shops keep opening/closing and Boris clearly thinks businesses can just keep bouncing back!) I would highly recommend Mechanised to increase your online sales ten-fold! I know I’m biased but honestly, the proof is in the pudding or cake 😉