"Most people often encounter hurdles early on in their business venture, and Katies story is a re-minder that with the right professional guidance, turning an idea into a reality is possible."
An Atherstone mum has found a recipe for success as a professional cake maker after starting up her own business just before lockdown.
After two years of planning, furloughed office manager Katie Keates officially launched The Real Cake Company in March from her kitchen – just days before the Coronavirus pandemic struck the country.
The 31-year-old baking enthusiast bakes a range of cupcakes, brownies and celebration cakes, and business has been booming ever since.
After her first month, word was spreading online about Katie’s cake and brownie treat boxes with more people wanting a slice of the action, and in the month of April she had tripled the number of orders she had forecast – serving up around 120 orders.
The company’s customer base is continuing to grow and Katie is working with local cafes and businesses to develop her wholesale and corporate services.
Prior to launching her business, Katie was assisted by the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow and Scale Programme, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Warwickshire County Council and the district & borough councils.
Kate’s business advisor helped her to develop an initial business plan, an action plan ahead of launch, as well as marketing methods and financial forecasting.
She said: “My initial idea was to launch a mobile tea party business, but as soon as I figured that I would need to run at least 50 of them a week to make it financially worthwhile, it dawned on me that it wasn’t going to work - but my business adviser at the Chamber urged me to look at the positives.
“My business adviser told me to ask myself two key questions - why do I want to run a business? And what do I want people to say about my business?
“From then I realised that I wanted to focus on making cakes that people can enjoy at an affordable price, and to have a business that is flexible around my family life - the meeting I had with the Chamber was a lightbulb moment for me. From then on, the regular Chamber meetings were around financial forecasting and how I was going to market my business and that stood me in good stead for my launch.
“I already had my baking equipment as I regularly bake from my kitchen anyway, so the only major outlay that I had to start with was my branding.”
Katie launched her business during unprecedented circumstances during lockdown, but after consulting with her local environmental health officer, she decided to roll on with her venture.
“I was unsure whether I would be able to start trading, and even if I was, what kind of take up I would get.
“However, I was inundated with customers wanting to send gifts to loved ones that they were separated from, but now that friends and family can come together and celebrate events, I am starting to see celebration cakes dominating my order book.
“It will be interesting to see how my business performs in the longer term now that cafes and restaurants are allowed to re-open, but if I stick to my philosophy of serving up big, tasty portions and having fun with it, I’m confident that over time, this can become a full-time adventure for me which really would be the icing on the cake!”
Start-up businesses are able to gain free support from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce; covering all aspects of setting up a business including free workshops relating to business planning, finance and marketing, alongside personal mentoring and sourcing finance.
Keely Hancox, from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, added: “Starting up a business is a brave move in itself, let alone during a pandemic, so Katie deserves a great deal of credit for getting her business off to a strong start.
“When her initial business plan wasn’t quite right it would have been easy to have given up, but just by sitting down with Katie to understand more about why she wanted to launch her own business soon had her on a pathway to success.
“Most people often encounter hurdles early on in their business venture, and Katie’s story is a reminder that with the right professional guidance, turning an idea into a reality is possible.”
For more information about start up support from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, visit www.cw-chamber.co.uk
Pictured: Katie Keates (left) with Keely Hancox