Tell us a bit about yourself and your business, i.e. what made you want to start your own business and how did you get there?
I’m Beth, owner of YAY! Flapjacks that I run with my husband Peter. I’m originally a scientist, I have an engineering degree and a PhD, during my time as a research scientist I started making cakes as a hobby and it just grew and grew. I’ve worked in a few different sectors but I hated it all. I came to realise that I have a fantastic work ethic and am incredibly motivated but I am completely unemployable. I just thrive when I am focusing on my own project, in control of my own destiny, working for myself. So one day, a twist of fate with a particularly awful job made me realise that I needed to just go do it and so I set up my own celebration cake business. This morphed over time, markets and events got added to the repertoire and then when the first lockdown hit, I joined forces with Peter, we thought on our feet and adapted again. And here we are!
Which women have been your biggest inspiration and helped you to succeed?
I think the women who have had the most inspirational influence in my business career were those as part of a social group of like minded cake business owners. I met one lady, Julie Gibson founder of The Baking Business Blueprint, on Twitter of all places, when we were both initially setting up our celebration cake businesses over a decade ago. Julie is now a very good friend of mine and through her, I met other “cake ladies” from around the UK and further afield, we all supported each other, answered each other’s questions, gave each other ideas and motivated each other to push further. This group definitely gave me the confidence to set up my first cake business and that anything was possible if I put my mind to it. At the time, I didn’t even know you could work from home!
I also need to give credit to my mum here. As much as my parents were nervous about my career choices at first, they’ve put hours and hours into various “cake things” I’ve had going on and my mum even altered her working hours to be able to help me a day a week (with an hour’s drive each way to get to me). Family is everything.
What tips would you give to other women who want to start their own business?
- Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about what you want to do, the market, where you fit in and what is required before you start so you can hit the ground running. I think I spent a good year plotting and planning my cake business before I actually got going.
- Accept that you can never know everything until you actually start and just start. It might not be perfect, in fact, you’ll make tonnes of mistakes but they will be invaluable. Learn from them, evolve and carry on. There are so many times when something less than ideal happens and there are always really useful, important lessons to be drawn from it.
- Be niche. Niching is good. You might think you are limiting yourself but you’re not, you’re focusing on your ideal client and they will love you for it. We were so concerned that turning ourselves into a completely gluten-free plant-based bakery would put people off in droves, but actually we’ve developed two incredibly loyal customers bases (vegans and food allergy sufferers) that we can’t thank enough for their enthusiasm and support for our products. We do what we do because we want to do the best for them, and they trust us because of it. It’s much better than trying to please everyone.
- Be a sponge. Watch what others are doing, and not just those in your own field. Good and bad, there are incredibly useful lessons and golden nuggets of information to be learnt wherever you go. Plus you could make some good business buddies too, which is always a nice thing.
If you could choose to be any woman from any film, who would you choose?
I think I would choose Ellen Ripley from Alien. Level headed, technically minded, confident in her abilities and good at her job. Trusts her gut and isn’t afraid of hard work or getting her hands dirty. I’d like to keep my feet on planet Earth but I think her character traits are what I aim to be.