Every other month, Perfect Layout goes out into the community to talk to local businesses. The aim is share with our readers the personal experiences of these companies. What has worked for them and what they could do a little better…
Perfect Layout believe that sharing knowledge and experiences is a great way to help other businesses wherever they may be situated. Attracting customers to the local area is paramount if independent companies are to thrive.
As a result, and being fairly new on the block ourselves, we are keen to promote the awesome, creative and varied companies that exist right here on our Essex doorstep.
Read on for our very first inspirational interview…
Business name - It’s Mine Cakes
Owner – Amanda Easy
Location – 3 Grange Road, Harold Hill, Essex, RM3 7DU
What was life like before making cakes?
Life before cakes saw me working full time as a trainer in my other business called ‘Easy Management of Aggression’ otherwise known as EMA. This business delivers mandatory training and secure patient transport within the mental health sector.
Making cakes is quite far removed from your role within your other business. What inspired you to start making cakes?
My sister asked me to make her a birthday cake, for herself, as she couldn’t find what she wanted in the shops. When I made the cake, it came out so nice that my other sister wanted one and then other family members began asking me to make cakes for them too.
After making three or four cakes, I saw other cakes that were on sale in a new business and comparing my cakes with theirs, I decided that mine were a lot better! I thought to myself, if they can do it, I can do it. I made an Instagram page of the cakes that I’d already made and within a week I had someone email me with an order.
I then started making cakes from my kitchen and had so many cake orders that my husband had to go out and buy me a wallpaper paste table to put all the cakes on. I had them all lined up on this table and my kids began complaining that they were taking up too much space.
Making cakes from my kitchen went on for about 4 months. I couldn’t cope with the amount. For the cakes that I was unable to make, I had to get another cake firm to make them for me. After that, for consistency, I had to work from a bigger base. It was at that point that I realised that in order to grow the business I had to get premises for all the cakes and taking on staff. Plus, my house was getting destroyed!
I started looking at information on how you get premises, and what would be needed to get a shop.
It was then that I realised that the outlay would be too much and I had to get a business loan. I used the Government funded scheme for start-up businesses. I had to write a business plan with forecasts etc and talk to various people about the business. I spoke with them twice and got approval for plans within days. Two days later the money was in my account. Part of my plan submission included the details of the shop, which I think made my proposal look more attractive and got quicker approval.
The rest is history!
How did you come up with your business name?
I first of all thought about using my own name with cakes in the title. But I thought that if my name was in the title I would become the brand and I didn’t want that. Eventually, I want to really grow the company. The idea for my name came when watching how everyone reacts to having a cake. They would react by saying, “it’s mine”. I thought it was catchy so went with it. It makes me laugh as people still have that reaction when I deliver their cake.
Have you had any formal training?
No! I am completely self-taught.
How long have you had your shop in Grange Road?
Three years this November.
How many employees do you have?
I currently have one part-time member of staff. I have tried working with a young apprentice from a baking school but the person didn’t fit and it worked out that the role wasn’t right for her. I do believe in hiring staff in this way and will revisit doing this in the future.
What advice would you give to other cake makers and decorators that would like to make money from their creations?
Don’t under price because you think people won’t pay it. Take a deposit to cover your costs before you start working on your cake and have a good set of terms and conditions.
How’s business going since you first started out?
It’s going well! I’ve increased my product range to include, glow in the dark cakes, wedding cakes, cupcakes, push cakes, cake pops, biscuits, chocolate covered strawberries and oreos. I also make my own creations using the current trends like, ‘whole in the cake or look through the cake’ or ‘abandoned theatre’ style. My twist on this is to create a circus tent inside a cake.
Next year I’d also like to introduce taster open days for wedding cakes. This would be done on a group basis of 4 to 5 couples. On offer to taste would be sponges (vanilla, chocolate, red velvet and lemon flavours) butter creams (chocolate, vanilla, cream cheese and lemon flavours) and fruit fillings (raspberry, lemon and cherry flavours).
Where do you see It's Mine Cakes in 5 years time?
Becoming a preferred provider for wedding venues and with a team of 5 full time members of staff.
Do you have a digital marketing strategy?
I use Instagram and Facebook to promote my products, word of mouth and loyalty scheme. My loyalty scheme is that for every spend over £50 they get a stamp. Acquiring 3 stamps, will get the customer 6 free cup-cakes, for 6 stamps, they get 12 cup cakes and for 9 stamps they will get a 6-inch cake.
What types of businesses do you think would benefit from using Instagram?
Any business that can promote their business with a photograph.
I note that you are very active on social media. Have you thought about growing your business with the benefit of having a website?
Yes! I think that having a website will help me reach more people and give me a more professional image. It will also allow me to write more information about my products and offer people the chance to make payments online.
If you could start It's Mine Cakes all over again, what would you do differently?
I would try to work on the business rather than in the business. I would have concentrated more on establishing the processes and marketing rather than making the cakes.
Do you watch the Great British Bake-off on Channel Four?
No. It’s a show about baking and I run a business focussed on decorating cakes.
So for all things cake – check out Amanda’s varied delicious selections via:
Facebook - itsminecake
Instagram - itsminecakes
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have a business that you would like to feature in this regular slot, why not get in touch? We’d love to hear from you!
Whilst having a well-constructed, informative website has the obvious benefits of helping promote your business, you can’t underestimate the need to engage with your customers in other ways and on other online platforms.
Engaging on at least one social media platform like Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest Google+ and Facebook is a must to get your brand known and the services in your business used by new and repeat customers. These platforms allow you to distribute your business ideas and talk about your services and/or products in a way that entertains and informs the customer.
Facebook, is a platform that you may already be engaged in socially. Sharing your personal information, photos of your latest holiday or passing on clips of a silly video is easy to master. On the other hand, if you have or are thinking about creating a business page to promote your wares – you will have to think deeper about how to encourage people to view, like and share what you’ve posted.
I wanted to keep this blog simple and basically offer some ideas of what you can talk about week in week out to promote your business page on Facebook. This list is also good enough to use on other social media sites, so pick your theme appropriate to the platform you're using and get writing.
You have no excuse but to get into the habit of spreading your news.
The following ideas have been taken from another source that proved to be an excellent read….Enjoy creating!
The term ‘Content is King’ has been bandied about for many years. It’s something that you may have heard mentioned on one of the blogs at Perfect Layout or whilst perusing the internet for news and top tips on how to make your website attract customers.
So, what does the term Content is King mean and from where did it originate?
The term ‘Content is King’ came from an essay that Bill Gates wrote in January 1996 entitled, ’Content is King’. It was published on the Microsoft website and stated…
“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”
Imagine, Bill Gates, the creator of Microsoft computers made this statement over 20 years ago! Did he have a crystal ball? We’ll never know, but his intuition was certainly firing on all cylinders as his prediction has become a reality. Today, content is a huge factor in what drives the internet. It’s what search engines love to find and use to rank a website as an authoritative and trustworthy site - hence content being at the top of the pecking order when it comes having a great website.
Is content on a site that important?
There’s really no getting away from the fact that having interesting, informative, content on your website is great news for your business. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t buy a book entitled: ‘How to create a great blog’ if the ideas contained within it was not about blogs and full of grammatical mistakes.
It’s the same with a website. Nowadays consumers aren’t solely surfing to buy a product or service. They want to be clued-up, educated or tickled with something that will draw them in to press the buy, subscribe, like or recommend button, and ultimately come back for more. The right content on a website can help a business achieve these things – but it can’t do it on its own. That’s where the rest of the royal family come into play…next up, ‘The Queen’.
So, what is the role of the Queen?
My thoughts are that having great content is not a stand-alone facet of getting customers to a site. There has to be a strategy behind the content to ensure that it’s relevant and directed at the right customers at the right time.
The content that’s being offered should have the right ‘context’ which means offering information that is relevant and helpful to the customer in their current situation. The more relevant a post is to that person’s need, at that point, the more that person is likely to buy that product or service. To fully merge the right context into your content means thinking about what context would be helpful for your customers and then identifying the kind of factual data you need to identify that context.
The work of The Queen doesn’t stop there. Her role also holds the title of ‘creative development’. Making your content stand out and really shine amongst the competition isn’t easy. Depending on your niche you will have a particular demographic and age-range that you need to appeal to. Do your research and tailor your content to appeal to them.
I believe that the final role of The Queen (such a busy lady!) is that of ‘distribution’. What platforms are the best to get your content seen by those that need to see it? Nowadays, there’s a plethora of social media platforms that can be used to get your content seen by the right people. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ are just some of the ways in which you can distribute your content directly to the people that want to see it.
So, during the planning stages you will need to think about:
And last but not least…The Prince and Princess
Whilst there’s little written about the off-spring of this royal family, I’ve taken the liberty of identifying who they are and the role they play in keeping the King on his throne.
The key to ensuring that your website, and the content contained within it, are working optimally, are Web Designers – surprise! They may also go under different Marketing titles, but I’m writing this blog so have the freedom to be biased!
If you are unable to write content like a King with the right context and undertake all the other tasks included within the role of the Queen, the Princesses within this company can assist you to:
Be inspired to… think and write creatively
My husband has a beard. Not a moustache, goatie or bit of stubble – he has a full-grown cave man beard. It suits him. It draws him attention and makes him stand out from the crowd for his unique style.
These days, having a business online can be difficult to master. Depending on your niche, getting a foothold amongst your competitors can be a daunting task. You have to think outside the box, be unique and have the equivalent of a really big beard (!) to draw customers in.
We are accustomed to writing content and thinking outside the box when it comes to promoting local online businesses. We write content that’s relevant, interesting and full of keywords that will get you seen by the right audience. The key is to making the text sound natural, interweaving an outline of your services and products into the content all the while helping you to stand out from the crowd.
What role do you think The Prince and Princess play in this royal family?
When was the last time you went to a conference to network?
On 25 September 2017, the Mums Enterprise Roadshow event came to London. The Perfect Layout team took time out of their busy schedule to go and assess the event and see if any networking opportunities presented themselves.
Located in the London Business Design Centre close to Angel tube station, we arrived to see a queue of women already eagerly waiting to see what the day had in store for them and what new opportunities would arise. The uniqueness of this event was present early with the audience (mostly women) carrying babies on their fronts, backs and in buggies.
The atmosphere was one of anticipation and expectation (in between the background din of babies babbling) as the welcoming atmosphere embraced the almost playpen-like environment. It was refreshing to see how relaxed everyone was and feel the excitement of this day - potentially being the day that their life would change forever.
The main area was full of stalls offering women part-time and full-time opportunities of work. Flexible work that would allow them, if required, to fit around childcare. There were also franchises to be purchased for those wanting to take the plunge and truly be their own boss of something tried and tested. For those already in the throw of setting up their own business, there were companies offering outsourced services too.
The conference part of the event offered multiple tracks, where speakers changed every half an hour, talking about their areas of expertise. Many in the audience were frantically scribbling down their every word, in between offering their little ones a bite to eat or an iPad to keep them quiet.
Whilst we were there, we spoke to several interesting characters, but one in particular stood out. Her name was Poppy. A thirty-something from Hampstead Heath accompanied by her 3-year-old daughter. She was ready to go back to work, but not in her previous role as a Social Worker. She desired to have more kids in the future, but also wanted to start carving out something for her to work on now. Her dilemma was not knowing what she wanted to do. A feeling that resonates with so many of us. Do we ever truly work in an area that we love and enjoy until retirement?
She continued by saying that her passion was crocheting. She was able to crochet anything and everything. From an adult hat to baby booties for a newborn. She had sold some items through Etsy, had a Facebook page, but was at a loss as to how she could increase her visibility and actually begin making enough money so that she didn’t have to go back to work.
We told her about our business, Perfect Layout Digital Marketing. That we were a website company based in Romford, Essex, there to help small local companies across Essex and London to increase their visibility online.
We explained that having an e-commerce website was something that she should consider to really exploit her audience – which was effectively, the entire world wide web.
She would be able to display all her merchandise in categories and offer her clients a portal into what makes her company tick the way that it does. Having a website was a real must. It would allow her to have a blog and create interesting keyword rich content that would grow her followers. She was already on Facebook so we suggested that she join other social media platforms, like YouTube and Pinterest to optimise being seen. These platforms could then be linked back to her website where the full range of her merchandise could be viewed.
We also suggested that she put her business on local directories like Google My Business, Bing and Thomson Local. They were numerous other directories she could list her business on with the bonus of being all for free. The knock-on effect would be that search engines, like Google and Yahoo would see her business as being trustworthy and credible and rank her well.
Running a Google Adwords campaign was another way to be seen above competitors. It would allow you to set the budget and the keywords most likely to be searched for by your customer. As well as being seen above your competitors it works as a Pay Per Click which means that you only pay Google when a customer clicks on your advert.
Whilst these were all services that Perfect Layout were happy to do, we explained that a lot of it she would be able to do herself. Optimising her site (creating keyword rich content and backlinking to trustworthy external websites) may be something she could seek professional help with.
Poppy was a little overwhelmed at first, but grew more confident in understanding each aspect as we spoke over coffee. She was very grateful for our advice and felt empowered to know that her future could change if she decided to take the reins and explore the unknown.
But now she didn’t feel that she was quite so alone. She had the team at Perfect Layout to hold her hand and build up her knowledge about all things digital.