Gingerbread & Vanilla - looking back on 2012
With the end of 2012 fast approaching, I've found myself reflecting on the past 12 months & wondering what might be in store for 2013. A lot has happened this year - my husband & I relocated from London to Melbourne, a huge thing to do on its own let alone with a wedding to plan as well! We were married in January & in February we moved into our new home in Melbourne. We had been living out of suitcases for three months & I'll never forget the day when all of our furniture & belongings finally arrived & we nervously opened each box hoping that nothing had been lost or broken! (I can report that nothing had been lost & the only casualty was an Ikea bedside table which suffered a broken leg - all in all a great result!)
Having worked in a career I didn't enjoy, I decided I needed a change for the better so I spent my last year in London planning for the home baking business that I would start once we had moved to Melbourne. What began with a course on how to start up your own cupcake business from home, soon turned into research on local council requirements for running a food business from home, the decision as to what to name my business, incorporating the company, registering the website domains, creating a website & applying for a trademark... the list goes on! It was all systems go.
I set about practising the skills I had learnt at the cupcake decorating courses I attended, which also meant buying all the tools, icings & food colours that I needed. I made a loads of vanilla cupcakes & at the beginning would quite enjoy sampling the odd one or two, but that soon wore off & it's fair to say that nowadays you'll have to twist my arm to eat a vanilla cupcake! My husband was my chief quality control officer & I remember one day I made several different recipes for vanilla cupcakes & we lined them all up for a blind taste test to choose the best one for me to use in my business. Various factors were considered, lightness of the sponge, strength of the vanilla flavour, the cost of each recipe - it was all very serious!
I knew I didn't want to limit myself to selling cupcakes alone because, although I enjoy making the pretty decorations for cupcakes, I also enjoy home baking & wanted to sell things that people could buy to cater for afternoon teas, work shouts, special occasions etc. I set about thinking about what I would one day sell & would churn out various slices & biscuits which I would give to my husband & friends to take to work. I would get regular feedback which was great & I really enjoyed knowing that it brightened up the work day to see some home baking come through the door!
I set up my own website, having never done anything remotely technical like that before! Although I often felt like there must have been a simpler way than how I was doing it, the main thing is I got there in the end! I set up a Facebook page for MonDelish which I invited friends of mine to join for a start & I began posting photos of my baking. I couldn't wait to get to Melbourne to start my business.
Once we were settled in our new home in Melbourne, I set about creating my own business cards, post cards & product stickers. I had to research who to order things like icings & packaging from & was soon shocked at how expensive everything was over here (I'll leave THAT to another blog!). Talk about official - it was an exciting time! I obtained my food safety supervisor certificate, did all the things I needed to do to get my kitchen officially registered with the local council, opened bank accounts (which meant getting an Eftpos machine - the novelty of which still hasn't worn off!) & made the finishing touches to my website which I finally 'launched' in May. I set about telling my friends that I was open for business & to spread the word! One of the best things I did was join the Cake Appreciation Society which resulted in complete strangers liking my Facebook page (it's very exciting when that happens!). One of my best friends soon put in my very first order for some cupcakes & lemon slice to take to her work. I'll never forget putting the payment through on my Eftpos machine - I was finally a business!
Since that first order, I've definitely had my ups & downs over the past few months. I've learnt that just because you launch your business, the orders don't start magically flowing in! Being a home based business means that you don't have a shop window that people can walk past to know that you exist. Advertising has it's advantages but for a tiny business it can also be a big expense. It's kind of a double edged sword really, you need to advertise to get more business & make more money but you need the money to spend on advertising to begin with. I have found that the biggest form of advertising has been word of mouth & I'm lucky to have a very supportive husband, family & friends who have helped me spread the word about MonDelish by telling all their friends or distributing my postcards around their workplaces.
One of the biggest hurdles I've had to overcome (& am still working on) is having the confidence in myself that the things that I make are good enough & that people will want to buy them! It's very easy to look at other people who are doing what you are doing but have had years more experience & instead of feeling inspired to work hard & reach that level, there are times when you compare what you are doing to what they are doing & end up feeling like yours isn't good enough. When I find myself feeling like this, my husband (he's my biggest fan!) will tell me that what I have made looks & tastes great & he will often take one look at an elaborately decorated cake on TV or the Internet & without hesitation tell me that I could do that - that I could do anything I put my mind to. He's right - with some determination, practice & patience, any of us can achieve the things that the people we admire have.
Fast forward to today & I can proudly say that I have just finished baking my last Christmas order. My year has been fairly quiet on the order front - it's going to take time to get established & for the orders become more regular. But for the past few weeks I've been flat out with Christmas orders from friends & have been delighted to receive two large orders for gingerbread cookies from corporate clients! I had an order of 90 cookies which came through a friend for her work & then I had an order for 250 cookies from someone who found me on a Google search (thanks Google!). Over the past few weeks my kitchen has been converted into a gingerbread cookie factory. Bench space for my husband & I to make any sort of food for ourselves has been at a premium. I've had very little time for anything else & have put in a lot of hard work but I have enjoyed every moment of it.
What I am grateful for most of all is the support I receive from my wonderful husband, family & friends. My husband has always been my number one fan & is always on hand to help out in whatever way he can - whether it be cleaning up the kitchen when I can't face doing it after a busy day, compiling spreadsheets & helping with the 'business' side of things (I am hopeless at that!) or generally taking care of me when I've been too busy to stop for a break. He is always giving me words of encouragement & telling me how proud he is of me. My family & friends have also been really supportive, whether it be putting in orders to take to work, distributing my postcards or just generally spreading the word about MonDelish. My Nana & Mum are a constant source of inspiration for me, being such wonderful bakers themselves. I started up a blog earlier in the year & have been doing a baking tribute to them both & making some of their favourite recipes. I love the fact that the skills I use every day were handed down to me by them both & will often text or call Mum or Nana for baking tips & advice!
With the Christmas orders I have received over the last few weeks, my confidence & enthusiasm has been given a massive boost & I can now feel really proud of myself that my hard work is (slowly!) starting to pay off. I am hoping that the Christmas orders I have done will be the start of something really exciting - word of mouth is golden & as I decorated each cookie I couldn't help but say a little wish that the recipient would be impressed enough to visit my website to place an order for themselves or to tell a friend.
For those of you who have joined my Facebook page & have liked my work or written a kind comment, thank you. I really appreciate it & I look forward to seeing what 2013 brings. To anyone starting out in their own business or about to make that career change, have faith in yourself & your ability to produce something wonderful. You are the captain of your own ship - life is short. It won't always be easy but when you start to doubt yourself, take strength from the ones who love you the most because they will always be there to help you along. Stick at it - because the rewards will outweigh the stumbling blocks you may have leaped over along the way.
I am extremely grateful that I have been able to make the break from a job I hated & pursue something that I really love. I wouldn't have been able to do that without the support of my husband, family & friends. So here's to my loved ones for helping me get this far & here's to MonDelish.
Have a wonderful Christmas & New Year everyone. I'll see you back here in 2013 xx