Pop-Up Cakes

I had my first pop-up shop on Saturday – it was a lot of hard work, but terrific fun!

Hopefully, within the long and rambling record that follows, there will be something of use to someone else wishing to do something similar.

Come on in!
One of the first challenges you face with a pop-up shop is that they tend not to be in the best of areas.  There are plenty of exceptions aimed at big name companies doing promotions, but on the whole, for small start ups like mine, what’s available will be premises that other people are not snapping up.

This obviously means you’re going to have to work hard to drive business to, and through, your doors…people are not just going to discover you all by themselves.  Cue social networking.

Did you notice me shudder then?!  ‘Social networking’ is so beyond my comfort zone it might almost be categorised as torture.  Almost.

This means I don’t have a personal Facebook page, nor do I do Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.  Despite having Googled ‘what the hell is Twitter all about?’ and variations thereof, on numerous occasions, I just don’t get Twitter; I’m going to have to find a patient and non-condescending niece or nephew to help with it I think 😉

Little treats
Anyhoo, I did my best to overcome both reluctance and the lack of avenues I actually have through which  to socially network, pushing everyone I could possibly think of to publicise my business Facebook page through their social networking channels.  It will come as no surprise to you that it definitely helped raise my profile.

I’ve discovered that my desire to have my business be a reality is enough to at least partially overcome my social networking aversion; I still don’t want to get out there as an individual, but as a business…I’m up for it!  I shall be working on working out Twitter et al. over the coming weeks.

Here we are!
So, here we are, at my shop 😉

As I observed to Big Bro, this is not a location from which I’m likely to make my fortune; however, it’s a foot into the arena and is a fantastic, low risk way for me to try out ideas, start getting my name known, and to learn.

It’s also a great opportunity to try to put something into a community and area that has struggled historically, and to support residents of the area who are striving to improve their neighbourhood.  I believe wholeheartedly in the power of a strong community and the importance of contributing to it.

Stocks and supplies
The shop was clean, tidy and pretty empty, with just two small tables and a few plastic chairs.

In the back there was a small kitchen and storage area, complete with hot water urn, fridge, freezer and basic kitchen utensils.


In the windows were these cute paper lanterns, decorated by children using the art club, which also takes place in the pop-up shop (I think during holiday times).

Making tables
We used the existing chairs and tables for customer seating (we were also serving tea and coffee) and got creative for the display tables.

I wanted the overall look to be pretty and welcoming, and to look reasonably professional – not the ‘school bake sale’ look that tends to come with cakes displayed on folding tables 😉

So, using drawers taken from furniture at home, an old pine table top, woodworking clamps (provided by the ever helpful Medieval), and some fabrics, we made lovely, vintage looking benches.  These stood either side of a folding table that we also brought with us.

The drawers doubled up as packing crates when transporting things to and from the shop, so they more than earned their travel expenses 😀

A family affair
Then we all set to, putting out cakes, writing signs (after cleaning off previous notices!), stringing bunting all over the place and generally making the place our own.

This needs saying loud and clear  – I couldn’t possibly have pulled this off without the help of my wonderful friends and family…the morning ‘setting up’ helpers seen here, the daytime, ‘serving’ helpers, and the evening, ‘pack up and go home’ helpers.

In particular, thanks must go to Barn, Petit Man, Mme. E, Super L, Medieval, Queen Ay and Thange – THANK YOU so, so much – you rock my world!!

Time to sit and stare...
On the point of needing help with a venture of this nature, and at the risk of coming across as making some kind of passive aggressive jibe, I learned a valuable lesson, worth noting and passing on:

When people say, “Let me know if you need any help”, they don’t necessarily mean they’re going to give the help!

The thing is, your business is (one would hope) extremely important to you, probably your number one priority, particularly when you’re taking on your first public retail space, be that pop-up shop, market stall or whatever.

Not so for the majority of the people around you – they have other priorities.

And that’s fine, and natural and understandable, but you need to bear it in mind when making your plans – does “sure, I’ll help” mean someone’s really committed, or should you be careful about relying on that person?

On the flip side, don’t be afraid to go down all potential avenues of help and support…it often comes from the most surprising sources.

Cupcake Table
There were six choices on the cupcake menu:

  • Peach melba: sponge cake made with fresh peaches, filled with fresh raspberry purée, topped with a double swirl of buttercream – one flavoured with fresh peach purée, the other with fresh raspberry, finished with a natural peach jelly sweet.
  • Very Vanilla: Light sponge and silky Italian meringue buttercream, both flavoured with Madagascan vanilla.
  • Black Forest: Chocolate and black cherry cake, topped with light vanilla buttercream and a drizzle of black cherry compote, finished with dark chocolate shards.
  • Award winning Banoffee after Dark: Roasted banana cupcake topped with a puddle of caramel and a swirl of dark chocolate whipped ganache, finished with a banana chip.
  • Citrus Tang: Lemon and lime sponge cake topped with a double swirl (one lemon, one lime) of buttercream and finished with lemon and lime zest.
  • Choc on Choc: Fudgy chocolate cake topped with dark chocolate ganache and finished with a trio of chocolate buttons.

On the treats table we had:

  • Choc pops: Strawberry, Lemon & Lime or Apple
  • Hand made vanilla fudge
  • Cake loaves: Lemon Curd or Black Cherry & Vanilla (both yoghurt cake)
  • Chocolate Bark: Dark & Milk with Cranberries & Pistachios; Strawberry & Vanilla with Strawberry & Meringue; Milk & Peanut Butter with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

There was also a table for a couple of display cakes, to advertise the custom celebration cake service.

And there we were, all set up and ready to go.

Just time for a cup of tea before opening up 🙂


We flung open the door and…well, I can’t say we were exactly knocked over by the rush!  Nonetheless, a slow but steady trickle of people started to pop in…and buy 🙂

Of course...put the display cakes in the window!
Things were helped a great deal when Barn and I realised there’d been a collective, ‘Duh’ moment during setting up (blame tiredness and over excitement); having moved the display cakes to the window we began to attract a lot more attention from passers by.  Fancy that, eh?!  Honestly, for intelligent people we can sometimes be so stupid! 😀

IMG-20160402-WA0005
So apart from the obvious thing about putting your display where people can see it(!!!) what else did I learn over the course of the day that might be helpful next time?

  • Curiosity might have killed the cat but the human race is pretty safe!  If some new place opens up around where I live, I’ll be there, face pressed against the glass, seeing what’s gong on.  In fact, I’ll probably have chatted with the builders/shopfitters/delivery people beforehand 😉  Turns out most people are not as nosey as I am.
  • With due regard to the above, I need an A-frame and a large printed window sign in order to attract more attention.
  • Ditto…need to build online and social presence and really push the business name so that people know who we are and want  to come to where we are!
  • Allowing for waste, stock that will carry forward to next week, rent, insurance etc., my takings meant I finished the day on a small loss, just short of breaking even.  With less waste I might even have made a tiny profit…so next time, make and take less stock!
  • I need to invest in some polystyrene cake dummies for the display cakes.  I didn’t have time (or the resources right now!) to get any this time around, so they were made up of odd layers, baked from various leftover cake batters.  Not only was this an unnecessary cost, it also made the creation of the cakes more time consuming than needs be.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a business (although, in fairness, that could be filed under ‘Things I Already Knew’).

20160402_101338
What next?  Well, I’ll be at the same place this coming Saturday but then I’ll be taking a break from the pop-up for a while; there are some legal necessities that have to be dealt with and put in place before I go any deeper into this venture.

I definitely, most certainly, positively, for sure, want to keep going on this path.

One day I’m going to open up the cutest little cake and tea shop, with welcoming staff, comfy seating, delectable, top quality treats to eat, and a Cake Tailor on hand for when you’re ready to order your custom designed celebration cake…

Perhaps I’ll see you there? 🙂

x

Statistics, Search Terms and Salaciousness

Statistics

Do you find the stats page of your blog interesting?

I do – I find it utterly intriguing working out what brings people here, how they find me and which posts are most popular.

It’s clear we’re living in a world full of sugar junkies (I’ll be the first to hold up my hand and take ownership of that label); sweet treats always garner a lot of attention, whether the posts are recipes or just pictures.  That’s fine by me, given that I’m a cake creator 🙂  What has been somewhat surprising has been which of my many creations most frequently captures people’s attention.

It turns out that my most popular post to date has been these vagina cupcakes (NSFW!!).  They’ve had easily twice as many hits as the next most popular post, although a mention on Reddit certainly helped that along.

Search

Still, the fact remains that without fail, every single day, someone, somewhere in the world types “vagina cakes” into their search engine and finds my blog (well, I’m assuming it’s different people and not just one, hugely devoted, vagina cake fan).

Now due to Google privacy rules (which I fail to understand, but hey…) most search terms are not visible; however, a seemingly random selection do show up and my word do they raise some questions…

How to muff a vagina” and “sulking the vagina muff” are my current top favourites.  WTF?!!

As Petit Man kindly pointed out to me, the chances are high that people are seeking porn when they stumble across my cake pictures…and they may not even have been disappointed.  I REALLY don’t want to think about that 😮

What is wrong with everyone?!  I’ve made beautiful handbags and shoesfancy hatsboxes of chocolates and fairytale dessert tables; I’ve even made award winning cupcakes, but no, I am being sought out for my vagina cakes. (Nonononono!  Not my vagina…my cakes shaped like…oh c’mon now, you know what I mean!)  ‘The Vagina Cake Lady’ – not really who I set out to become 😀

By contrast, my second most popular post is thrice baked potatoes – to me a strange and amusing juxtaposition of practical and pervy.  Maybe people just got hungry after…after…doing whatever they were doing with regard to sulking a vagina muff.

Coming in at a close third place is the 3D corset cake made last year for Big Sis’s birthday; a curvy and elegant cake of which I’m still proud.  It seems many are seeking a ‘how to’ for this.

Hmmm

My conclusions?  My readership is made up of people who like sexy cakes and down to earth dinners.

Are you one of them? 😉

x

 

You know you’re going in the right direction when…

FEATURED IMAGE: “Full Steam Ahead” by Vladimir Kush

Well, as I indicated in this earlier post there have been some major upheavals in the day job arena.  Due mainly to circumstances beyond my control things have got very, very messy, very, very quickly – to such an extent, in fact, that from the 12th February I shall be day-jobless.

I’m not going to go into much detail, for two reasons:

  1. It’s rather uninteresting for those not directly involved, so I think it’s best not to bore the pants off you, dear reader…that’s what family’s for 😉
  2. What has been (and is) taking place is now the subject of pending legal action and as such is not an appropriate discussion to have in public.

Suffice it to say, the last few weeks have been mentally and emotionally exhausting and the next couple are not looking like being a walk in the park either.  There are now 8 working days left for me and the countdown is sometimes the mantra that gets me through the day.  I never thought I’d be walking away from there in this way – it’s quite sobering to realise that a job I’ve enjoyed so much could turn sour so fast.

So where does this all leave me and the wannabe cake business?

Apart from the aforementioned day job related exhaustion, it actually leaves me in a very good space…more determined than ever to build a successful and profitable business, more positive of my ability to make that happen and to do it in a way that is legal and ethical.

The plan is to find a new day job that is part time and far less responsibility laden than the current one.  This will free up time and mental space for my cakes.

The work that is necessary to be done on the kitchen in order to pass certification inspection should commence mid-Feb; this will take some time as we will be undertaking most of the labour ourselves…the aim is to be inspection ready in April.

In the meantime there are numerous things to be done: seeking out potential funding avenues, and applying for it, passing my driving test (!!!), signing up for a business mentor, sourcing affordable equipment, getting a website up (where do you even start?!), getting decent business cards and promo leaflets/flyers designed and made up, getting public liability insurance, registering with tax office etc., getting all H&S and food hygiene assessment docs written up, finding and booking sites at appropriate local summer fêtes and shows…

This could all get overwhelming but Chef J and I have teamed up to create a trans-Atlantic Accountability Committee; in an effort to beat our twin procrastination habits we are identifying weekly/fortnightly targets and challenges, upon which we have to report (with evidence of progress!! 😉 ) at specific times.  We don’t let each other off the hook, so it works.

You’d think a soon to be day-jobless person with no definite income ahead would be at least a bit sad or freaked out, wouldn’t you?  But no.  Truth of the matter is, I feel excited – as if I’m on the cusp of some grand new adventure.  You know you’re going in the right direction when you look ahead and that’s how it feels 🙂

x

David Bowie

As for so many others, the news today about David Bowie’s death has saddened me greatly.

David Bowie

(Quite) Some time ago, a work event required that we dress up as our musical hero.  I chose David Bowie.

Through early adolescence, teenage angst, first marriage failure (and subsequent happier times too!) David Bowie’s music and lyrics have been a huge contributory factor to the soundtrack of my life.

As a person he fascinated and intrigued me over decades.

He really was my all time musical hero.

RIP David and thank you for all you gave.

x

 

 

At a crossroads and seeking some help

As the title of the post suggests, I’m looking for some input into a “What should I do next?” work/career dilemma…hopefully some of you guys might be up for a bit of tip giving/idea generating/brain storming?

(EDITED TO ADD: If it strikes you as weird that a person would publicly ask for help with a private matter, I would refer you back to the reason I started this blog…on 43Things this kind of question was utterly normal…I still miss that community and the support that was offered there 😦 )

Before going any further, I’d just like to point something out…the very fact that I’m putting this on my blog for all and sundry to read should tell you that I am in equal parts open to new ideas and utterly stumped as to what my next move should be.  So please, if you would be so kind…a minute of your time…

Want to help a desperate woman? 😉  If so, here’s the situation:

It is time to move on from the day job.  Actually, it’s long overdue but now, due to a number of fairly major matters, it really needs to happen, and quite quickly.

What I’d ideally like to do is strike out with my own cake business, but would need commercial premises in order for it to be financially viable.  This does not necessarily have to be bricks and mortar…I’m up for some lateral thinking (converted railway carriage?) but have no idea how to make that work in practice.

I currently don’t have commercial premises kind of money and am not what would be called an excellent bet for your regular bank type lender.

So, in order to get the money together I need to earn some big bucks and save.  And/or get funding some other (legal!) way.  Cool.  But…

My qualifications (Environmental Health) and experience (retail and food management) would easily bring the big bucks IF I was the corporate type.  But I’m really not.  I’ve tried and got chewed up by the machinery.  It was horrible for everyone concerned.  I just can’t do the corporate thing…I can fake it for a short while, but then my Renegade starts showing and ripples inevitably occur.

Anyway, to do the corporate thing I’d have to be really committed with my time to the corporation, which would mean I couldn’t even keep up the pitifully low number of cakes that I currently do, never mind build up the business.  I mean, that would be ok for, say, 6 months or so but not the longer term deal that would really be required.

Which means, what I’m really saying is, I’d like something that’s short contract/high return…I don’t necessarily want job security!

So the big question is, what should I do now?

Smaller questions include, where should I be looking – a) for ways of getting funds together for the cakery? b) for employment? c) all the other stuff?

Please feel free to chuck the seemingly craziest of ideas or most trivial of thoughts into the pot, you never know, it might be the one that sparks…

Thank you.

x

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you – I hope that 2016 brings many good things to your life.  May you shake the cobwebs of 2015 from your feet and stride forward with confidence into the untrodden pastures of promise that wait to be discovered in the coming months.  May you not burden yourself on this first new day with resolutions that are likely doomed to failure, but may you succeed with any fully intentioned pledges you make.

Yep, that is my diary

To be honest with you, I’m a little ambivalent about the whole New Year thing.  On the one hand, I love the ‘clean sheet-ness’ of it, and the potential that this could be the year that…I don’t know…I become a superhero or something.

Superhero hair
Actual hair, not a wig.

On the other hand, it can be slightly disheartening to realise that yet another year has now gone by and…  Well, certainly not a superhero yet (although I did get superhero hair this year).

On the third hand (if you’re counting the hands and you don’t have a friend assisting you at this point, you’re an alien.  Or possibly half of a bee).  Aaanyway, there is quite a lot of pressure surrounding New Year and I don’t find it pleasant.

New Year’s Resolutions are one such pressure area.  I’m sure for some people it’s a great way to kick start change in lifestyle or habit, but it really doesn’t work for me.  In a similar way that Valentine’s doesn’t really work for me.  I just don’t like being told that on this particular day I must express a certain feeling or do a certain thing, in the publicly perceived acceptable manner.  You might call it contrary, I call it individual.

Plus, of course, there’s the fact that in my sphere somewhere around 99.5% of New Year’s Resolutions are broken before February ends.  With such low odds, people are almost waiting for you to slip up; stating a resolution is tantamount to saying, “This is what I plan to fail at first in this lovely new year.”

So I actively avoid making resolutions.  Any decisions I make to change lifestyle or habits are merely ‘plans’.

Champagne Cocktail and Candles

I also find there’s quite an expectation that you do something for NYE.  I dislike being asked in the lead up what my plans will be as there’s a sense that one is somehow letting the team down when there are no envy inducing plans involving yachts and/or casinos.  Or at the very least a party down the local pub.

Over the years Barn, Petit Man and I have individually and collectively experienced a great number of ‘fun things to do on NYE’ (restaurants, nightclubs, house parties, Edinburgh, and all that jazz) but either never did, or have ceased to, find them all that much fun.

So this year Petit Man and Mme. E came round and we brought in the new year at home, with champagne cocktails, candles and board games.  I can’t think of anything else I’d rather have done.

to stand and stare

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies (Leisure)

This is one of my primary plans for this coming year – to take more time away from shoulds and oughts and people who sap me, and devote more to wants and wishes and people who value me.

How about you?  What did you do this NYE?  Do you make resolutions?  Is 2016 going to be fabulous for your heart and soul?

I hope so.

x

 

 

More Monkey Adventures

Day 22 of Advent and Monkey was getting himself party ready by practising his dancing.

Day 22 Monkey's practicing his sitting down dancing

He only does ‘sitting down dancing’ as his legs are a bit uncoordinated.

Day 22 Check out the moves

He can still bust some fancy moves though.

Day 22 7 in 1 Tool

When he finally stopped boogying and took a proper look at his gift, he discovered that the instructions for his 7-in-1 multi tool were written in Chinese.  Sadly Monkey does not speak or read Chinese.

He’s worked out that there’s a saw at the top, then a can opener on the corner, an extremely sharp blade/knife running down the side, a bottle opener to the left of that, and a screwdriver on the bottom right corner but he’s stumped about the rest.

Do you have any idea what those remaining holey bits do?!

x

Monkey’s Advent Adventures

This is essentially a guest post by Barn as what follows is his creation – an idea he came up with to visually share his advent calendar with family and friends – I thought you might enjoy it too 🙂

On Day 1 there were Minion socks and Day 2 a miniature but very powerful torch (ideal for camping trips).  On Day 3 Monkey was introduced to the scene…

Day 3 – A passing Monkey was drawn to the bright colours on the tree and asked what was going on.  After having the concept explained to him he asked to join in then immediately lay claim to the contents of box no. 3.

Day 4 – Curious Monkey discovered a Man Flu treatment in his box…and immediately felt a headache coming on.

Day 5 – Monkey got so excited he was biting his nails, and actually got a trifle over giddy.  When he finally got the wrapper off he was very pleased with his new chocolate friend.

Day 6 – Barn went for a bike ride and came home to find Monkey anxiously watching out for him at the window.  Monkey gave a great big cheer when he came in, then rushed off to get in the shower with his new shower gel.

Day 7 – Monkey was sent to climb up and collect the box from the tree.   He was quite out of breath when he got back but felt it was worth it for a chocolate snowman.

Day 8 – After having his breakfast Monkey was in such a rush to get to his present that he got his hand stuck in the box.  After freeing himself and opening the gift he decided to laze around and do nothing but dream and eat the chocolate bars he’d received.

Day 9 – Monkey upped the festive spirit by popping on his new reindeer antlers for the box opening.  He was gobsmacked by the Santa socks he got.

Continue reading

Oh Christmas, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

It’s the 1st of December, which means only one thing – we can start opening our advent calendars!  Hooray, hooray, hooray!

I’ve been very excited about advent this year. Like, really, really excited…the fit to burst kind.  You see, earlier in the year I decided to save up and surprise Big Sis with the Selfridges beauty Advent calendar.

Big Sis's Calendar

To say I was thrilled that I managed to get one, despite them being limited availability and selling faster than the proverbial hot cakes, would be something of an understatement.

That has been exciting enough in itself, but then I’ve also put together personalised calendars for…

DIY Advent No. 1: Baby socks filled with gifts pegged on a string washing line - pre-printed numbers cut from an 'in the January sales' bargain price calendar and glued to ordinary laundry pegs
DIY Advent No. 1: Socks on a Line – Pre-printed numbers cut from an ‘in the January sales’ bargain price calendar and glued to ordinary laundry pegs. Baby socks were filled with gifts then pegged onto the string washing line.

…Mum…

DIY Advent No. 2: More 'bought in the January sales' bargains - this time little self assembly gift boxes which have been filled with little gifts and hung from a white tree branch. This is an artificial one with a stand which I already had, but you could spray paint an actual branch and wedge it in a pot.
DIY Advent No. 2: More ‘bought in the January sales’ bargains – this time little self assembly gift boxes which have been filled with small gifts and hung from a white tree branch. This is an artificial one branch with a stand which I already had, but you could spray paint an actual branch and wedge it in a pot.

…Barn…

This is Petit Man's childhood Advent calendar, now hanging on the fireplace of his first own home :-) Some left over pieces of green satin and cream damask pattern fabric were sewn into little pouches and numbers written on the fronts using a gold pen. They were then filled with gifts and tied onto a gold cord using contrasting ribbons.
DIY Advent No. 3: This is Petit Man’s childhood Advent calendar, now hanging on the fireplace of his first own home 🙂
Some left over pieces of green satin and cream damask pattern fabric were sewn into little pouches and numbers written on the fronts using a gold pen. They were then filled with gifts and tied onto a gold cord using contrasting ribbons.

…and a joint one for Petit Man and Mme. E (he’s green, she’s cream, and they both get something on the 24th).

So you see, since January I’ve been building not only calendars, but also a huge level of gleeful anticipation about handing them over 🙂

Gorgeous advent calendar containing handmade scented wax melts - from Busy Bee Candles
Gorgeous advent calendar containing handmade scented wax melts – from Busy Bee Candles

Then, when I went yesterday to deliver the goodies to Mum and Big Sis, they surprised me with an advent calendar of my own.  This tipped me over the edge of reasonable adult behaviour, such that I could barely sleep last night through sheer excited anticipation.

Owl burner

My calendar has a little scented wax melt for each day, and came with this pretty ceramic owl burner.  Today’s scent is called ‘Crazy’, which to me smells of pine and pepper – which is surprisingly nice.  A certain someone commented on the appropriateness of it for me.  I think that sort of remark’s just not necessary.

Mum, Big Sis and Barn loved their first gifts and sent pictures, which made my day extra fun too.  Petit Man will doubtless call me tomorrow morning about today’s gift, because he’s hopelessly disorganised like that 😉

1970s advent calendar

As Big Sis and I observed, advent calendars have come a long way since the days when we took turns to open little paper doors to find, if you were lucky, a picture of the Star of Bethlehem (if you were unlucky it was a drawing of a tree bauble).

Come to think of it, I think I’d actually still rather like one of those.  And now I wouldn’t resent it being Big Sis and Bro’s turn to open a door.  Probably.

Oh, and by the way, in case you hadn’t guessed it yet, I REALLY LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!  May the joys of the festive season be upon you too because more Christmas themed post are inevitably going to follow.  Only 24 sleeps to go… 😉

x