A Little Help Goes A Long Way

Things are going well. So well in fact that I’ve had to start thinking about expanding. This business started as a sort of hobby job, something to keep me busy now that the children have grown up. Two have flown the nest and the third is thinking about it so I wanted to do something for me. During the past year, and in part because of the pandemic, my customer base has grown considerably. With two big days already conquered, Valentines Day and Mother’s Day, I have found myself in the kitchen for up to ten hours a day. Add on to that the delivery times and the fact that I also supply cakes to a local cafe and you can imagine the workload.

I have pretty much been a full-time mum much of my adult life. Before I married I was a hairdresser, a job I loved and have never really stopped doing, the family all come to me for free haircuts and my grandson has never been to a barber, although I’m sure he won’t want nanny cutting his hair once he gets older! Once we had young children I did many different part-time jobs which fit in with school hours. I was a shop assistant, a receptionist at a vets, an evening insurance underwriter, I ran a school uniform shop. After my youngest was born I had a strong desire to become a midwife. I took a job as a midwifery assistant at my local hospital and enrolled on a foundation course hoping to be able to start properly once my son started school but the shifts at the hospital proved too difficult to juggle with my husband’s high-pressured job and I had to give up my dream. The one constant during this time though was baking. I baked for the children and often with them. I sometimes baked with my mum as a child and whenever I was with my granddad in Devon on summer holidays I baked with him. He was an amazing baker, his fruit cakes being the stuff of legends. It is in my genetic make up, a need, almost a compulsion, to create amazing flavours and textures. It is my happy place. No matter how much pressure I’m under I am still enjoying myself. Baking is never a chore for me. It’s no wonder I chose to make it my full-time job. I just wasn’t expecting it to be so full-time, so quickly!

What I don’t enjoy quite so much about running a business is the paperwork. I am constantly filling in my Health and Safety manual, logging fridge temperatures and cleaning records. Then there are the accounts. Maths has never been my strong point but right from the beginning I have kept receipts, meticulously numbered and logged and tried to keep track of the numbers. I have made mistakes along the way. For ages I was not charging nearly enough for my work. Even now I am shy about talking money to customers. It took me a long time to realise that I needed to charge for my skills and time, not just for the cost of ingredients. I worried that people would think my prices were too high. It is something I am getting better at as demand for my cakes grows. I have begun to believe in myself.

I have also realised that I need some help. We live in a largish house, with three dogs and to be honest the housework was being left behind. Although I’m not someone who enjoys cleaning, I do need my environment to be tidy and organised in order for me to focus on things. I can’t relax if there is mess everywhere. The kitchen is always kept spotless as it is where I work but the rest of the house was suffering from a lack of time. It would get a cursory, quick once over if I had a spare half hour and standards were slipping so I managed to persuade my husband that we needed a cleaner. He resisted at first as he is a very private person and I think the thought of someone coming in to the house and moving his things around worried him but at the same time he knew how much time my job was taking up and, like most men prefers an easy life, so he agreed and I spent a while looking for the right company. I needed someone who only uses natural products as I have to be mindful of pet-friendly methods, no harsh chemicals, but also someone who understood my working life and could work around me if I was busy in the kitchen. Luckily I found a perfect match, it is early days and I found it tricky at first giving up control of what I perceived to be “my job” but now the relief is immense. One less thing for me to think about on a daily basis.

And this is how I mean to go on, always mindful of my work/life balance, especially as we hopefully move slowly out of lockdown into a more ‘normal’ routine. If the work keeps coming in once restrictions are lifted I may need to look for a bigger workspace, maybe a commercial unit, and possibly another member of staff. We shall see.

For now, I hope you are all keeping well and staying busy.

Thanks for reading. xx

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