It has been two weeks since I last penned a blog and, during this time, quite a lot seems to have happened. I say “seems” because, over the last nine days, I suffered from the flu and this time it struck me so hard I thought my brain was slowly being stripped away and it was all about to end. I’ve heard people talk of the ‘man flu’ before – a term I define as manly drama around a relatively minor bug. Well, this was sure none of that. I was unable to move, breathe, even eat cake or attend to the opening of our latest shop.
To stop the whole company getting a virus, I thought it was wise to stay clear and let the team get on with it. And so they did. Before the first cakes were shipped from our small production hub in Holborn, Barnwood the shopfitters did a very good job of getting the site ready on time. Even a few last-minute blips with our new decorative feature – a neon sign, alternating between “Cake is what you Love” and “Cake is what you Need’ – were ironed out with some overnight magic. The unusually heavy Corian cake stands, fabricated in Germany, were offloaded at the wrong store first, but still made it in time for the opening.
Our bakers and cake decorators had stepped up and produced some wonderful display cakes to give Konditor & Cook its London Cake Shop feel. And from the moment the doors opened, the customers were as exuberant as our displays. In fact, this excitement seems to spread through the whole of Goodge Street, as confirmed by the Evening Standard’s foodie critic Fay Maschler, who wrote about its merits as one of the new foodie destinations streets in London. Next time you are in London check out this happening neighbourhood.
One person who did was the president-elect of the American Retail Baker’s Association, Beth Fahey. Beth and her sister run a specialist bakery café, Creative Cakes, in Chicago (http://www.realbuttercream.com/). The business has been going since the early 1990s and was bought off the original owners about 10 years ago. Producing up to 400 wedding cakes each season is core to the business. It sounds as if the American bride is very demanding and one of the challenges for Beth’s business is to work all the demands and lengthy consultations into a realistic price for a celebration cake. Beth referred to this as the “Pinterest cake challenge”, since so many customers are inspired by the most elaborate images to be found on Pinterest and want the same, but without any realistic ideas on price.
Since the wedding season runs from after Easter to the autumn, Creative Cakes has found itself with a drop in business in the winter months. To combat this, it has added a café and events space with a savoury and party menu. While reasonably successful, the challenge has been that it undermined the core cake business. The challenges of running an SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) Stateside appear to be much the same as in the UK. For entrepreneurial support, Beth has turned to executive coaching group Vistage (http://vistage.co.uk/). She found the exchanges with fellow business owners and the chairs provided by Vistage an amazing support and couldn’t recommend them highly enough.
And just to confirm we’re all on the same path in this cake universe, when I saw Konditor & Cook CEO Paul Cons’ diary entry for the next day it read, “Meeting Vistage”.