Paula Wilkinson, co-founder of cake marketplace Mums Bake Cakes, tells Business Advice the story behind her brand, from foundation to pitching to the Duke of York in just 18 months.
Who are you and what’s your business?
Paula Wilkinson, co-founder of Mums Bake Cakes, a marketplace for cakes.
To understand the concept of Mums Bake Cakes, there are three elements to the process. There are customers, recipients and bakers.
- Customers have a desire to buy a freshly made cake or cupcakes for somebody as a gift
- Recipients are the lucky receivers of the cake
- Bakers are subscribers to the service who will supply fresh cakes to a designated area, for example a ten mile radius of their homes
So, customer John, who lives in Maidstone, wants to have a freshly made cake delivered to his Aunt Mabel, who lives in Manchester. John will put Mabel’s post code into our website and he’ll be given a list of bakers who are able to deliver to that area.
Each baker will have uploaded samples of their cakes, John chooses a suitable cake and places his order. That order goes through to the baker who will then accept the order, bake the cake and hand deliver it to Mabel. Mabel will feedback on the quality of the cake.
The process is that simple, and derived from a personal need to send a niece a gift for her final birthday, aged 43. With a bucket list including cakes from top restaurants, the final gift could only be cake.
Unable to source a baker local to my niece, I enlisted the help of a baker and endured a 600-mile round trip to deliver the cake. She ultimately lost her battle with cancer, but has given her full support to go on and create an “Airbnb for cakes”.
How long have you been around for?
We created the concept in November 2015, and by January 2016 the website was collecting baker details and informing them of the imminent launch for bakers to load their information. May 2016 was the UK soft launch.
How do you make money?
Currently, bakers pay a subscription to appear on the website although there is currently a hiatus on this to encourage more bakers to join. We take a commission on every cake sale.
Future plans include advertising on the website, we have an excellent audience base of bakers, innovative purchasers who like the concept and satisfied recipients that can be used for targeted marketing.
Long-term, there is the possibility to offer branded goods through our website.
What makes you different and why should people take notice?
No other company in the UK is offering this service. Cakes can be posted by Royal Mail, couriered, or indeed hand-delivered locally, but we are the only company accepting orders from around the world and have an army of bakers throughout the UK completing those orders; generating revenues for their business, and generating revenues for us too.
Consumers are looking for alternative gifts – vouchers are boring, they’ve all done flowers and Mums Bake Cakes provides a source for novel gifts. We encourage customers to purchase locally-sourced gifts, reducing transport costs and consequently their carbon footprint.
Our bespoke cakes are baked on-demand, not held in stock in massive warehouses. They are delivered fresh, not frozen. Customers have an input in the design of the cakes and they’re not bulk produced.
What was key in terms of getting started?
Understanding the bakers needs and desire – they are successful in their local areas, but gaining additional business appeared to pose a problem as the cost effectiveness of advertising outside their local areas was prohibitive.
Also, ensuring the website was simple to use for both customers and bakers. They’re not computer whizzes, but our simple to use website makes ordering cakes easy. Bakers lead busy lives and can need reminding when orders are due. The web site has three prompts throughout the process to ensure deliveries arrive on time.
Finally, making sure customers were happy to use our web site. All bakers must meet Food Standards Agency and local authorities requirements, and are insured.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
Having over 7,000 cakes loaded onto the website, with all styles, tastes, and dietary requirements catered for. Also, having over 300 bakers on the site trusting us to gain them additional business, covering most of the UK and all major towns and cities, and having over 4,000 bakers registered on our site.
Winning a Great British Entrepreneur Award for food and drink, against some stiff competition, was completely unexpected.
Describe your experiences at Pitch@Palace
Completing the information for Pitch@Palace really makes you condense your business into some key facts and poignant points.
We were invited to attend CEME Launchpad Centre Pitch@Palace Event, which we felt proud to go to with HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York, attending together with alumni and mentors.
The day was fantastic and very professionally set up. We had time with each, and the alumni had so much praise for the previous events and explained the process from here on in. The mentor gave advice and Prince Andrew chatted to many of the business owners with his aide by his side. He actively listened and looked for introductions and opportunities where he could help advise and assist with networking.
The whole day was rounded off with the understanding that you may get an invite back to the bootcamp in October, followed by (if successful) a Pitch@Palace event. Our fingers are obviously tightly crossed for this, as the businesses that have been through this process fully have indeed benefitted enormously from the exposure and business support overall.
What setbacks have you had along the way?
Appearing on Seedrs during the Brexit referendum probably didn’t help as we didn’t raise the funds. Although many questions came in, I don’t think we were fully prepared for going to the market for funding.
However, from this we were accepted onto an accelerator programme and honed the skills required to run an international marketplace.
In five years time, I will be…
A known household name, globally used and number one in the UK, with a streamlined template to take this to emerging markets around the world.
Also, teaching that small businesses can be created from passion – teach someone to bake and they can not only feed their family, but they can provide for their family. Finally, redistributing wealth.
What one tip would you give to others starting out?
Cost out the marketing budget you think you’ll need then double it. Use as much free marketing as possible but make sure what you use is time-efficient. Set time aside each day to achieve your marketing aims, set yourself targets and strive to meet them.
Here’s all you need to know before running a small food business
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