How one entrepreneur broke free of the day job to start a cake making business

Jemma Wilson

Feeling unfulfilled working for someone else’s company inspired Jemma Wilson to start up her own enterprise, Crumbs and Doilies, selling homemade cakes.

Jemma started her cake-making business in 2006 in order to achieve a closer connection with her customers

Jemma Wilson founded her business, Crumbs and Doilies, in 2006 because she always wanted to have more of a connection with her customers. She was working in a bakery but being in the kitchen meant that the people eating her food didn’t consider where it had come from.

Leaving her job, Jemma decided to pursue her passion and set up a market stall, where she could sell her produce to a more engaged clientele. “I just started baking and selling stuff, which I loved doing as I could then see people eating my products and enjoying them. That provided me with an instant connection between my customer and my product.”

Jemma started her business with no financial input other than an electric mixer which her mother bought for her. “When I got my first market stall, I thought ‘how am I going to get there?’ so I had to buy myself a little car which was tiny. I have never had any financial backing or investment. Everything I’ve got now is from hard work, word of mouth and wonderful customers coming back.”

About six years ago, Jemma realised it was time to invest in transport when demand for her homemade cakes meant she could no longer fit all of her products in the small car. “Buying a Volkswagen Caddy was an obvious thing to do really, and it’s great because it’s got our logo on the side and it’s white and covered in pink sprinkles so everyone notices it,” she says.

“We use the Caddy to do a lot of our deliveries. We’ve always used a courier company as well but they cost money so I do quite a lot of the deliveries myself,” explains Jemma. Having the option to deliver herself has been a great bonus but fuel consumption and capacity were key factors when she was deciding on a van.

“The fact that it’s diesel is brilliant, and we can go miles on a tank,” says Jemma. “For us, the Caddy is just right for what we do. Even doing two or three shows a day, getting all the cakes in there, all the equipment, all the furniture, somehow we’ve managed to tessellate and it’s worked.”

Jemma thinks that her choice of van is representative of her business. The Volkswagen Caddy is “slick, smooth and very chic”. She saw the van as a blank canvas and it’s now part of the Crumbs and Doilies branding. “We chose it not only because it’s a really well engineered machine but it also looks really good. This is basically what we do in cake form: we make really good looking cakes that absolutely deliver awesomeness. So it’s the van equivalent of a Crumbs and Doilies cupcake,” she says.

Jemma is equally discerning with all aspects of her business and uses only high quality ingredients to bake with, even when reducing costs would mean just a minimal change to the final cakes. She says: “We never scrimp on the stuff that goes into our product. If it’s cheaper it’s probably less good, which will end with a less good end result. That’s when you start losing customers.”

But the hardest obstacle Jemma has had to face has been the fear of failure, and that’s exactly what she’d advise potential entrepreneurs to be aware of: “If I met someone who was starting a new business, I think I would tell them that they should get over the fear and just go for it. But before they do they should think really carefully about their life and where this fits it.”

Running a business can be tough, but the rewards are worth it, says Jemma, who thinks you can’t get the same satisfaction when working for someone else’s company: “I like the freedom. I don’t answer to anyone, and I think if you’re a creative person, that’s a much better way of life than being confined to someone else’s idea of what makes a good job or a good product.”

Despite challenging economic times, Jemma is positive about the future. “I think what gets me through it is an awareness that people will always want a good product,” she says. “Customers will always return to quality products that are made with love. I guess that’s what kept me going through tough times – knowing I’ve got people that are still buying the cakes today and were buying them seven years ago when they were picking them up from my mum’s house. I think the quality of our product really helps us keep that in check, so even through the tough times we still have those loyal customers coming to us.”

Via The Guardian

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