I’m thrilled to introduce our 2nd inspiring mum in this interview series, the gorgeous Emily. I love Emily’s story of turning something she enjoyed and was quite good at, into a wonderful home based business. Read on to check out the amazing cake that started it all!
Hi Emily, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I live in Yarra Junction with my husband Andrew, my daughter Heidi who is four, and baby Joshua who is six months old. I own Ever After Cake Company – a home business making designer cakes and cupcakes. I also teach group cupcake decorating classes as well as offering cake smash photography packages in conjunction with my mum’s photography business. Next month I will also return from maternity leave to my part-time “real” job in banking. So between baking, banking and raising kids, I am always busy!
What inspired you to start your business venture?
Like so many others in my industry, I started when my daughter turned one. I set my sights on making a princess castle cake and after a month of research and planning, produced a three tier extravaganza with twelve turrets that was taller than she was! I had discovered a whole new world of cake decorating, and when my best friend got married a few months later I offered to make her cake as a wedding present. Well, it turned out way better than anyone expected, and with that Ever After Cake Company was born.
What do you love about what you do?
There is so much I love about my job! I love that our house always smells like baking and sugar. I love that every cake is a completely different style or character to explore, and that I am learning new skills and techniques every time. I LOVE the feeling of satisfaction when I step back to admire what I have created. But the absolute best thing about my job is seeing other people’s reactions when they see their cake for the first time.
Another cake artist I admire says she is not in the business of making cakes, she is in the business of making people happy. It is so true, and so fun to be asked to be involved in other people’s milestone events.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
PRICING! I think this is true for people in a lot of creative industries. It can sometimes be hard to justify a quote of $200 for a birthday cake, when someone could buy one from the supermarket for only $12. But what I am making is bespoke, and it is not uncommon for me to spend between 10 and 30 hours on just one cake.
When I first started out I lacked confidence in my own abilities, so I was doing every order so cheap I barely covered my expenses. I justified it by saying that I was building my skills and my portfolio, but I was extremely burnt out and earning about $3 per hour! Over time, I have become better at pricing, but hey! I am an artist! I would still much rather be playing with rainbow sprinkles than crunching numbers.
What learnings would you like to share with other mums who are also juggling motherhood and a career/biz?
You need to be prepared to work hard. I often joke that being your own boss is great – you get to chose which 18 hours a day you work. I have days when I am kicking goals in my business, but then feel guilty that my kids and husband are being ignored. Other days, I am an awesome, fun mum, but then I stay up until the wee hours to complete orders. It is a constant juggling act, but I love my kids and I love my work, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My business takes up a LOT of my time. Even in my spare time (what spare time!?) I find myself dreaming up ideas for cake designs. But I am really passionate about my business and my craft, and if I wasn’t proud of what I do, I wouldn’t keep doing it. Simple.
In what ways do you ensure your own self-care and prevent burnout?
I am a big fan of afternoon naps!
I have also learnt to say NO occasionally. Be that to cake requests or social events, I try to know my own limits (and my kids limits) and recognise that I can’t do everything, even if I would like to.
How supportive have your friends and family been; and how important has that been for you and your success?
I could not do this without my family’s support. My long-suffering husband (who only ever gets a Safeway cake for his birthday every year!) washes 90% of my dishes for me, God bless him. My mum and my mother-in-law both adore our children, and are fantastic with helping out with them on days when I really need to focus on work. And my wonderful friends, who were my first customers, continue to order from me, refer others to me and share my work on social media.
Friends and family are also great when brutal honesty is required. I trial new recipes on them and ask their opinions, and I know they will tell me truthfully what I need to hear, not just what I want to hear.
What does the future hold for you, your family and/or your business?
Returning to part time work in April is really going to shake things up for us but I will continue to work on my business when I can.
I have previously been donating decorated cakes to really sick children via a charity called The Cake Angels, who liaise with places like Ronald McDonald House, Royal Children’s Hospital and Heart Kids. Making birthday cakes for these kids has been one of the most rewarding things I have been able to do in my work. However most requests are for families in the city, and this year I am hoping to give back on a more local level, so I am talking to some local charities to find ways to make this happen.
I am also venturing into the chaotic world of children’s parties, teaching cupcake decorating lessons for kids.
Design-wise, I have some real beauties coming up, a few themes that have been on my cake “bucket list” that I am just itching to get started on. The general theme this year seems to be the bigger the better, which suits me just fine.
Watch this space!