How do you juggle a cake business with a busy farm and family life? Sam Loder shares an insight into her week.
After a weekend of the children playing outside and running about with the new lambs, it’s time to rein them in and get ready for school and pre-school (and be taxi for my nephews).
As well as the entertaining the children and getting them to after-school clubs, there’s the daily question of “What’s for tea?”. Plus, there’s the farm.
Balancing it all can be tricky so forward planning is crucial – hence why my “cake diary” is my bible.
Sometimes, orders come in months in advance, other times I’ll fit in “short-notice-next-week-cakes” as I hate to disappoint.
In three years, Love My Cake has gone from a hobby, to idea and then into a business.
Sam’s tips for starting a business from home
- Make sure you have space. You need an area specifically designated for this purpose
- Get all the paperwork sorted. Speak to the Inland Revenue, arrange insurance, a local authority visit (if applicable)
- Talk to people and ask their opinions. Whether it’s friends or anyone who may have been in the same situation, it’s all valuable info to guide you decision making
- Consider advertising. Getting people to know who you are, whether a form of social media or design of a webpage.
- You’ll need a good husband/wife/partner to listen to you – at all times.
- Try to have a switch-off time. Otherwise you can find yourself working into the night without realising. Sometimes this is necessary. If it happens too often, it can be a bad thing.
- Make sure you are organised. Keep on top with paperwork and receipts.
Sometimes, I work late – perhaps not getting going until 8pm.
I’ve long-since learned you have to have a flexible approach, although making elaborate cakes with sugar modelling takes time and you can’t always just stop and start.
I’ve also learned that you can never rely on a farmer to come in at a set time.
Good job I’ve never been one to sit around twiddling my thumbs.
Tuesday night is the time my husband Vernon can usually be found propping up the bar with the skittles league, so in the absence of distractions I’ll often get on with some sugar modelling.
Vernon has always been incredibly supportive of my business.
We actually met at Young Farmers – his family have been farming in Yeovil Marsh, Somerset, for 75 years.
Even though it’s a way of life is, it’s important to have a break – so his skittles evenings are great in that respect, even if the guys do end up talking about farming all night.
I’ve been passionate about baking since I was a child and am proud that my business was established – and is still based in – our farmhouse kitchen.
I’m also proud of the fact that I use eggs from a neighbouring farm, plus locally sourced flour and butter.
It was a cupcake-decorating workshop that kickstarted it.
I came home from that course fired up with enthusiasm, practised what I’d learned and before long I was being asked to make birthday cakes for my friends.
It was daunting, but it helped me grow in confidence.
The business is run alongside the farm – we have 130 pedigree Holstein Friesian dairy cows milking on robots, plus some sheep to keep the children entertained.
If you bake and sell cakes from home, you have to be registered with your local authority.
Cakes are, however, low risk and therefore you only need an environmental health officer (EHO) visit every three years. I initially registered in 2012 so my turn has come round again.
I made sure my kitchen was all up together and had any paperwork I might need at the ready.
Opening the kitchen door, the EHO said “wow”. I immediately thought: “Phew, she likes a farmhouse kitchen.”
Me being me, I put the kettle on first and popped the biscuits on the table, then she asked: “Do you have real milk?” Luckily, no problem there.
We had a brief chat about what I was making and who I was selling to; we discussed issues such as my work area and cleaning/waste disposal.
Also, new allergen laws came into place last December, so I was pleased she was impressed with the labelling we had done.
At the end of the visit, she informed me the kitchen had a five-star hygiene rating. I was over the moon.
See also: Diversification options for dairy farms
Time to update my Facebook page. I set one up for Love My Cake last year and have slowly built up a good online customer base.
Photos are key to Facebook, but you must keep your “likers” engaged with regular posts.
I receive new messages frequently, so while I am baking the constant “ping” of the phone means I can get a little distracted.
The phone rang, too, while I was up to my neck in icing sugar.
It was Vernon, asking if Henry and I could stop by once I’d collected him from school to help out with the sheep.
School uniform or no school uniform, it’s an extra pair of hands.
I was then ready for cake collections. I love seeing my customers’ faces; it makes all the hard work worthwhile, especially as every cake’s level of detail and design is different.
It’s wonderful to see the reactions to any birthday cakes I’ve made. I love that moment where everyone is waiting for you to walk in with it, candles lit. Hopefully, party guests will end up in awe of the celebration’s all-important centrepiece.
This was baking day for the busy farmers’ market at Yeovil the following day, which I attend once a month as the mainstay of my business is celebration cakes.
I’ll always whip up some of the classics, but variety is key – chocolate-based cakes are good sellers, as are tiffin, Australian crunch, lemon drizzle, salted-caramel cakes and even simple flavoured cupcakes with Maltesers and Mini Eggs.
Cupcakes are most definitely the in-thing at the moment.
I get organised the night before and I’m always surprised what I can get done before the school run, but I really do draw the line at the children wanting to lick the bowl at 7am.
Vernon normally sticks his head around the door about 10.30am, hoping there is something going spare; my brother-in-law Rupert and family and father-in-law Maurice, who also live and work on the farm, have a habit of cruising through the kitchen hoping there’s a cake going their way, too.
The kitchen can be fraught even on my own, with the radio for company and the constant washing up.
It’s all made that little bit harder as my daughter Hetty isn’t quite school age.
I’m eternally grateful to Mum who helps out.
With the back stable door half open, glancing out for a breather, I see my daughter playing – it’s a windy day and the tractor weights are holding down the swing and trampoline. Ah well, that’s what they are for, isn’t it?
I was packaging cakes at 7am ready for the market.
It’s an outdoor event under canopies – you can’t always rely on the British weather, but you make the best of it and big smiles can go a long way when you’re dealing with the public.
I’ve a great rapport with the stallholders around me, from those selling buffalo meat to those offering to jams and chutneys.
This really helps make the morning enjoyable as you are stood there for five hours.
You need to have a bubbly personality to sell and I’ll talk to anyone.
Afterwards, we had a rare night out, celebrating Yeovil Young Farmers 80th anniversary with a dinner and dance.
It was time to get dressed up like the good old days.
Young Farmers was a huge part of my life and I was pleased to hear this club is still going strong.
What a wonderful night of reminiscing.
Even more importantly, I won on the raffle.
The prize was the most powerful umbrella I’ve ever had, shame I didn’t have it at the market earlier in the day.
We generally have good intentions for an afternoon out on a Sunday, but animals, fences and general farm chores often get in the way.
You just come to accept this and fit in family time when you can, normally spur of the moment stuff, the door flings open and you’ll hear: “I’ll be finished in 10 minutes, shall we go out?”
The children love running around, so we decided to pop over to Ham Hill for an afternoon of running up and down hills (them, not us).
Within 10 minutes, it was pouring with rain. Cue a trip to the local pub.
That evening was spent finishing some cupcakes.
They were my first batch of decorated ones which I was posting – this was exciting but scary as I didn’t want them to get damaged so I packaged them in a specially designed box.
To my joy, they arrived in immaculate condition.
The early night I’d been planning didn’t happen. Ah well, it was almost time to start another week anyway.
You can find more pictures of Sam’s work and get in touch with her through her Facebook page.