Baking and Business: Finding the Balance with Bec Severs
Today’s episode is an unusual one with an extra guest, Graham’s employee Ellie. Together, we chat to Bec Severs about baking and business.
Bec is cornering the market in all things sweet and delicious in the Keighley area and the rest of the UK. She owns the beautiful business Three Little Birds Bakery.
The highlight of being a podcast host…
Bec made this podcast very special by sending Ellie and Graham some treats to sample on The Next 100 Days Podcast. Big THANK YOU to Bec for that! They’ll be tasted a little later on.
Three Littler Birds Bakery
Bec’s bakery has just celebrated its’ fourth birthday on November the 5th. They provide a luxury experience in wedding cakes, celebration cakes, macarons and cake decorating classes. When you go to the Three Little Birds Bakery, you get treated like royalty and experience luxury in service and product.
Bec’s business came about because she heard too many stories of cakes looking beautiful on the outside and tasting dry and crumbly and disappointing. Cake shouldn’t just look amazing; it should taste fantastic and, as the consumer, you should feel special when buying a special product.
Now, macarons are difficult. Actually, macaron classes are Bec’s most popular for that very reason. However, there is an important question here:
“Is it macaron or macaroon?”
It’s MACARON. Macaroons are the traditional British dessert that tend to be baked on rice paper with the almond on the top.
The macaron is what Bec sells – they are called French macarons. Bec has actually baked three for Ellie and Graham…one is strawberries and cream flavoured and the other two are salter caramel.
My oh my, they tasted delicious! She really delivers on the taste as well as the delicate appearance.
Where to find Bec
Bec works from home and she had the kitchen done so she has a lot more space! Macarons are sold for weddings, as lots of people are following the trend of a macaron tower rather than a traditional wedding cake. Also, she does seasonal macaron packages as well as the wedding and celebration cakes.
Speaking of weddings, Kevin tells us the story of his daughter’s disaster on the night before the wedding. Kevin’s daughter is also a baker and she created her own wedding cake but there was a slight disaster in the back of the car. They had to rebuild the wedding cake – nightmare!
As for Bec, she’s happy she got married before she started the business!
Cake artistry: baking and business
On Bec’s business cards she calls herself the ‘cake artist’. Cakes for celebrations are becoming more and more fantastic. Bec likes edible art and that’s one reason why she loves her job. She has always loved craft, drawing and painting – essentially, creativity – and being able to combine that with cake and business has been great!
There are still trends for naked and see-naked cakes which offer a rustic look. But, Bec loves the trends of illusion cakes and artistic cakes.
What’s a naked/semi-naked cake Graham wants to know – well, it’s a simple and natural cake with buttercream that is spread on the edges but still shows the cake underneath. Very good for barn weddings apparently!
The difference with Three Little Birds Bakery cakes is that each consumer gets a completely tailored design. Her process is:
- You’ll go to her and fill in details about what you’re looking for.
- Bec will sketch 2 or 3 designs for the cake.
- You get to choose
- Bec will bring the design to life by making it and decorating with sugar, or icing, depending what the design is.
This way, her baking is art but just with a different, yummy media.
Given that the service is luxurious, Graham thinks Bec’s pricing is fairly modest. Where the cost comes in is the decoration, so her pricing list is a guideline.
The issue with the baking industry is that pricing can be a real challenge. Because the industry is saturated, because there’s a low entry line and there are lots of people who are homemakers who do it for fun, baking isn’t seen as something that’s high worth. You can buy a cake for a tenner at Asda, and you can buy a cake from a hobby-baker who isn’t assured or licensed. These factors make generating a business and establishing the price very difficult – it’s hard to make people see the worth in the hours and expertise that justify price.
Nonetheless, the luxury market is exactly where Bec needs to be, because people those people don’t want a cake from a hobby baker or from Asda. They want a cake from someone exactly like Bec!
Icing or Cake – a little bit like marmite?
Some people like the icing and some the cake. At weddings, Bec used to eat her brother’s cake while she would give her icing to him. It must be a marmite thing. Cake or icing: love it or hate it?
Why ‘three little birds’ bakery?
There are two parts to this answer:
- Bec has three daughters (ages 9, 7 and 6).
- As a family, they love Bob Marley and especially the song ‘Three Little Birds.’ It has really good vibes and the chorus goes “Don’t worry about thing, because every little thing is going to be alright.”
How do you integrate baking and business with family life?
One of the reasons Bec set up the business is because she wanted work that had flexible hours, would challenge her and would fit around school pick-ups and drop-offs.
It can be a huge challenge to work from home, be self-employed and set boundaries. It’s something that Bec is working on. What she’s done in the last month is buy a new phone for personal use so that business and personal life are not bound together with the use of one mobile device. She tries to not work at all when the girls are awake and at home.
Bec and her husband work together and split things equally. He is free on a Saturday so Bec can work when she needs to; he’s a teacher so, during the summer holidays for example, he will look after the girls when she needs to be sorting out wedding cakes, etc.
In terms of what Bec’s daughters learn, she thinks it’s really good for them to see how her and her husband Aidan decide who is going to manage which tasks in the household and how to manage their jobs.
Obviously they are not allowed to help with the baking – for food hygiene reasons! However, they love to help so they help stick stickers on boxes and putting flyers in bags. They come visit Bec at fairs and Bec says she thinks it is really important for them to see what Mummy does and how that has an impact on other people.
The past 10 years…
Ellie and Graham try a carrot cake muffin, with cream cheese frosting no less, and chocolate muffins. The best cupcake of Graham’s life, he says!
While Graham and Ellie eat cake, Kevin asks a very important question. Working from home, Bec is very much at the behest of her customers. Her workload is dependant on customer wedding dates and birthdays, etc so she may have times which are quieter and times that are super busy. Does that happen?
Bec agrees but, as the business has grown, the quiet and busy times have evened out. When she started, she wanted to say “yes” to everything. Sometimes she had nothing to do and, other times, too much to do!
However, now she learnt to balance things and turn down customers if she is fully booked for orders, etc. A lot of the business now is classes. So, now Bec can choose when those are and fit those in the quieter periods – she has more control.
Saying ‘no’ was a hard lesson to learn, but necessary. And, as is often the case, that lesson had to be learnt via experience. For example, during the last general election, Bec remembers she had to stay up until 4 baking cake because she had taken on too much work. She watched the ‘swing-o-metre’ to entertain her!!!
Baking and business: growing from scratch
The short answer is that she invested a lot of money into business and marketing. She also did face to face coaching as well as the online courses.
She really got to grips with online and local marketing, as well as social media. There is often the myth that social media marketing is the entire shebang but it isn’t. There’s no use having 5000 instagram followers if they’re all from Australia and can’t order a cake from you!
The second thing is word of mouth and referrals. A lot of the time, enquiries come from recommendations.
Plans for 2020…
Bec plans to go into the world of online and downloadable tutorials. There are opportunities to harness clients from all over the world. Bec is going to film a macaron tutorial in January, with pictures and a troubleshooting guide. That should be available from February 2020.
Her other idea is Facebook lives. Live classes on Facebook can be quite popular.
Part of the interest in a downloadable is that it will be cheaper than a in-person class. However, the beauty for Bec is that once it is out there, it’s passive income. It is out there for people to download as they wish. Bec’s business development resonates with the podcast episode on membership models with Mike Morrison.
Bec is also hoping to launch the Cupcake Party in a Box. It’s going to have naked cupcakes for people to decorate, decorations and pre-filled icing bags. All the equipment to keep!
She’ll have to come back and tell us how those plans go!
Bec the business owner, or cake artist?
Bec wants to be known as a business owner as that’s where the passion lies. She hopes that her business will be scalable and the passion is to grow the business and to make it eco-friendly, to be honest and fair and ethical.
She also wants to be a good employer as, like Graham, she has just employed her first employee. It’s meant that Bec doesn’t have the ceiling of productivity that she had before – she has increased her capacity.
You can get better and better at delivering your product but that won’t grow your business. It’s the marketing that will invite more consumers to engage with your business.
If Bec had limitless funds, she would invest more in her business and marketing skills. However, if she was asked in 5 years time it would be to have a shop front. With working from home, it is incredibly hard to be visible. You don’t have the overhead of the shopfront and rent, but you don’t have the footfall or people walking by and noticing you. Marketing really is the only way she can get her name out there.
If you want to know more about Bec and the Three Little Birds Bakery, take a look at her site here. We can say with first-hand experience, her baking is truly delicious!