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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Fighting Feathers!

I read this expression the other day and it just struck home... In context it wasn't relevant at all (describing the political intrigue of the jacobite uprising of 1745) but the words "I feel as though I'm fighting feathers" really sums up the stresses of starting your own business. The hard work is a given when you embark on this kind of adventure, you know it will be all consuming but the frustration lies in what is out of your really do feel like your fighting against something as wispy and almost intangible as feathers!
I'm a complete control freak so it's not surprising I get stressed by the things I can't either can't control or where I've been wrong and am learning as I go along, but I'm guessing this applies to lots of new ventures too. I think the two main areas for me are advertising and revenue.
Advertising or more specifically getting your message to the right market is harder than it seems and boy have I learnt the hard way, I've been seduced by glamour (see Vogue add above.. expensive and effectively useless) swayed by wedding fairs (an obvious choice you may think, but not that effective either) and found the most productive advertising to be word of mouth and internet searches.... You have to think like your customer, where do I look for anything these days.... erm GOOGLE. If you don't show up on an internet search you're not going to get very far.... this is something I'm in the process of remedying with a brand new website that acually shows up on search engines! The second marketing tool I'm finding incredibly helpful in terms of getting my name out there is networking. Not expensive BNI type affairs but twitter and tweet meets collaborations with fellow wedding professionals. By mutually promoting each other, we will hopefully increase all our profiles and have a lot of fun along the way.

The advantages of having a presence on the high street are huge, especially as well placed as my studio is above a beautiful florists and bridal boutique I am lucky to have a ground floor window display too, I love it when people come in and say it's the cakes on display that have drawn them in :-) Obviously this needs to be weighed against the cost of running the studio but I'm convinced it will pay for itself in time.

The frustration with revenue is fairly obvious, more needed now not six months down the line when the wedding happens. In the wedding industry cakes are normally booked with a deposit and the balance paid a month or so before the wedding... so the first few months are pretty hairy, I know it will balance out eventually but this bit is literally robbing Peter to pay Paul. You always hear that it's the first year where businesses are fighting for every penny and it's sooo true. I'm learning not to count a booking unless I actually have hold of the deposit as people can be very 'relaxed' about getting round to handing it over but at the same time am amazed by the amount of bookings that have been taken since the studio opened, I can see a light somewhere far away in the distant future when I might actually be able to come home and present my salary to the family :-) I'm afraid I'm guilty of telling my girls that mummy has to work so I'll have lots of money to buy nice things for them.... well one day girls I promise :-)
All this said, I wouldn't change it for the world nobody said starting your own business would be easy but it's a hell of an achievement and worth every tear and every late night...I have big plans for Just Darling Cakes! The studio is looking fabulous, I've got lots of exciting projects coming up with Hello Vintage, Caterpilar Dreams and I am Nat and I can honestly say I love it ... and the feathers.... well that's just character building :-)

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