Tell us a bit about you?
I am born and bred in Dunoon. Before setting up this business I worked for ACHA housing association, as PA to Director of Housing.
What sparked your business idea?
I come from a family of great cake bakers and cake eaters, so I have always made cakes. I was taught by my granny, and knew it was something l loved doing.
The job I had before setting up the cake business required me to commute long distances. Although it was a good job, I knew I wanted to address my work / life balance and longed to make a business work here in Dunoon that didn't require me to travel and could give me more flexibility.
The property this cake shop is in is owned by my partner - I am really lucky. He encouraged me use this space to test out the idea of a cake business part-time, and at relatively low risk. I was able to build up the business, whilst keeping a part-time income coming in. When I was ready and knew the business would work I left my job and committed to this full time.
What challenges have you faced to make use of online resources or promote your business digitally?
When I first set up the business, 11 years ago now, I had never used social media, but knew I needed to reach local people to make this business work.
Someone convinced me, fairly early on, that I needed a website and I paid a lot of money for a site that simply didn't work for me or the business. It was tricky to update and didn't help me connect to my customers. 97% of my customers are local, so I don't need to be selling cakes online. Over time I have learnt how to utilise Facebook to reach and sell to my customers.
I now know how to gauge when people are online and when to put cake offers up that work. I also know that selling cakes is about posting great pictures of the products I create. It has to be visual! If I wanted to expand the business and take on another shop then I would look at a website again, but right now the flexible way I can engage people with Facebook, scheduling posts and setting up automated messages to help manage customer communications, really works.
I also use social media, Facebook and Instagram to research and see what other cake making businesses are doing. It helps me feel connected and inspires me to keep creating new designs.
What is unique or interesting about running a business here in Dunoon?
It is amazing how last-minute people are about ordering cakes for special family occasion. People come to me on the day of the 21st birthday and ask for one! Luckily I have perfected the art of emergency cake making, and my customers know I will not let them down, but a bit more notice would be really appreciated.
Tell us the one thing about your business that you are most proud of?
That is simple - achieving what I have in making my own business work, and not giving up at the first hurdle.
What changes do you think could help sustain and develop Dunoon as a place to do business?
Local consumer attitudes and habits need to change to keep the high street and other local businesses going in Dunoon. You really don't need to go across the water, or order everything online. We have some great shops and shop keepers in Dunoon, who will go out of their way to get you what you need, but you need to talk to us and commit to shopping locally if you want Dunoon to thrive.
What support do you think is missing for small businesses in the Dunoon Area?
I'd like to see more action from local government to make sure there is a joined up approach to supporting businesses and developing the town.
Other local business people who are active in the Dunoon BID provide me with a network of support. I am chair of the BID and talk to a lot of people who run businesses in the town.
There used to be a local business network that met at Hunters Quay, but that ended a long time ago, so there is nothing else here to connect people to the support, which is a shame.
What are your key business goals over the next 12 months?
To survive. To carry on as I am, and enjoy what I do.
To order stunning bespoke cakes from Yolanda, contact Choux Makes cakes here>