As part of Tasteful Thinking’s Faces of Food Series, we chatted to creative cake architect, Kate O’Hora, who is the food business owner at The Cake Table. Kate bakes bespoke cakes and delectable treat box delights. Some of her creations have appeared on national television. Read on for her tasteful tips, food business insights, business owner highs and lows, and more…
Design For Life
Hello Kate, it’s a pleasure to talk with you…can you tell us about your food business?
The Cake Table is a baking service creating bespoke cakes, treat boxes and cupcakes.
What’s your favourite thing about running your own business?
My favourite thing about working for myself is that I can organise my work life around family life. I was cheffing for ten years before I made this move and although four of those years I was running my own catering firm, I was bound by franchise arrangements so working weekends and nights was a requirement.
With my cake business I can plan cake orders to ensure that I am there for school runs and family occasions. My husband is in the hospitality industry also, so having one parent at home really helps. We paid for childcare for years when we were both working full time and missed a lot of events and important occasions for the children. You can only do that for a short time, before you realise that work-life-balance is so important.
My favourite thing about working for myself is that I can organise my work life around family lifeKate, The Cake Table.
And what do you find is the most frustrating?
The most frustrating thing about working for myself is the paperwork!! After a long day baking, its hard to sit down and start answering emails and doing orders. Also, working from home means there can be a lot of interruptions! (A small price to pay!!)
Describe an average work day.
My work days vary, Mondays and Tuesdays are quiet, nobody wants cake on these days! Unless it’s a special occasion, but generally most orders are for Thursday-Sunday. I like to deliver my cakes as fresh as possible so do not bake too far in advance. An average Thursday would involve baking the cakes ordered for Saturday, and filling and decorating anything ordered for Friday.
I generally deliver first thing in the morning, between 9-10am, so if I have orders for Thursday, they will happen straight after the school run, then it’s back to the kitchen to bake. I try to get most of my work done between 9-5pm but I invariably have to go back to it after dinner. Although I swear I won’t be up all night decorating, it happens quite often!!
Saturday mornings are an early start, I usually have a few bits to finish on cakes, before boxing them up and off on deliveries. After this, it’s the weekend so I try not to work, unless I have an order for Monday which is very rare.
I love the creative side to the job; I studied architecture in college before getting into hospitality so cake designing enables me to indulge that artistic side while also dealing with food which I am ultimately passionate about.Kate, The Cake Table.
What keeps you going or inspires you?
I absolutely love what I am doing, in fact while I was working full time I was still making cakes for people. I know it’s the ultimate cliché, but if you enjoy your work it doesn’t feel like work!!
I love the creative side to the job; I studied architecture in college before getting into hospitality so cake designing enables me to indulge that artistic side while also dealing with food which I am ultimately passionate about.
I am very focused on the aesthetic, but the product must taste amazing too! I really enjoy seeing people’s reactions to cakes and getting positive feedback. It’s nice to be a small part of life’s celebrations.
Initially, did you manage to get any support or funding for your business?
No. I had most of the equipment required from my old catering business, and I work from my own kitchen- at the moment!
Can you see your business expanding further?
Of course I would like to expand, but for now I am happy with the amount of business I have. Some weeks I am booked out and then there are quiet weeks too. It would be nice to have a steady income, but that would mean renting a kitchen and moving up to the next level. I made the move to home baking to get out of the kitchen! I guess, I’m reluctant to throw myself back in. I am genuinely surprised at how the business has grown in the last year, I didn’t expect it.
I am genuinely surprised at how the business has grown in the last year, I didn’t expect it.Kate, The Cake Table.
Do you have any ‘time saving’ tips for business owners?
All chefs make prep lists, it is impossible to work without a list. I suppose my advice would be to make sure you have a clear way of taking orders. I was initially using Instagram as a way of dealing with cake orders, before switching to email ordering only. I found myself spending hours trawling through the direct messages looking for contact numbers etc. for orders, wasting a huge amount of time.
Things get lost on Instagram and although it is a great platform to run a small business on, unless you have a huge following it is impossible to get help if anything goes wrong. My account was recently blocked from advertising, I have no idea why, and can’t get any help to resolve this.
My business started online really. I posted a few pictures of cakes I was making for friends and family, got a few shares and likes and then people started to order from me. An online presence is essential for my business as I don’t have a shop or premises where people can view or sample the product.Kate, The Cake Table.
Social Media Savvy
Did you embrace or dread the shift to online (further induced by the COVID pandemic)? And has having an online presence helped or hindered your business?
My business started online really. I posted a few pictures of cakes I was making for friends and family, got a few shares and likes and then people started to order from me. An online presence is essential for my business as I don’t have a shop or premises where people can view or sample the product.
How do you engage with your online customer? (What’s your favourite channel?)
I engage with the online customer on Instagram, mainly through stories. I try to leave my grid posts as a portfolio of finished creations, whereas the stories are more day-to-day life, baking, and even some personal stuff. I think people like to see the human behind the business, however I’ve still never directly spoken on Instagram!!
I keep meaning to engage more on Facebook, but just never get around to it. I use Twitter and LinkedIn in a different way and I don’t advertise my cake business on them. Instagram is a more friendly space. Generally, I’m very careful about what I post on Twitter and feel that there’s always someone waiting to take a pot-shot at you.
When you are posting your own creations, you are putting yourself out there and leaving yourself vulnerable. To tell you the truth I’d never have thought I’d be doing this a few years ago!
When you are posting your own creations, you are putting yourself out there and leaving yourself vulnerable. To tell you the truth I’d never have thought I’d be doing this a few years ago!Kate, The Cake Table.
Tasteful Tips for Food Businesses
Kate, what advice would you offer someone who is thinking of starting their own food business?
It is very hard to make money out of food. Good quality ingredients cost money, and generally people do not realise the amount of work that goes into producing good food. Whether it is restaurants, cafés, artisan producers, or bakeries, it is a tough business to succeed in.
- It’s very important to work out your margins from the beginning, many food businesses fold in the first year, purely because the business model does not work.
- Find a unique selling point (USP) and stick to it; this is what will define your business.
- Learn how to say ‘No’. You can only do so much, and spreading yourself too thin can compromise the quality of your product.
You can view Kate O’Hora’s portfolio of cake creations on her Instagram Business Page: thecake_table
And to order a cake, treat boxes or cupcakes from The Cake Table, email Kate: firstname.lastname@example.org
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