Tuesday 14 May 2013

2Inspire Business Profile: Delights By Cynthia

Who doesn't love cake? We love cake here at The 2Inspire Network and there's nothing better than meeting an amazing inspiration who makes cakes for a living! In this profile we meet Cynthia Akinsanya, the founder of Delights by Cynthia.

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
My typical business day is worked around my family.  I have two young daughters, aged four and ten.  I start off my day at around 6am, sometimes earlier if I have to bake.  I start off by committing my day to God.  I get a coffee, read the bible, pray and have a moment of quiet; while everyone else is asleep.  The rest of the morning is spent getting the girls ready for school; some mornings things run smoothly, on other days it’s like boot camp in our home.  It’s really important for me to take the girls to school; most mornings I feel like mother duck and her chicks as we stride to school.  If you run a business, the school gates are a good place to tell other parents about what you do.  Once a week, I sit and read with my youngest daughter in the classroom.

I drop the girls off at school and head home and begin working.  There is no such thing as a ‘normal day’; no two days are the same for me.  I have a window of time to get as much done before picking up my daughters.  I try to split the day into things to do in the morning and things to do in the afternoon.  In the morning, I tend to check emails for orders and enquiries and then begin to make phone calls.  I’m a bit sprightlier in the morning, so I tend to do any paperwork – pay bills, place orders and check that I have enough stock.  Some mornings I may go to meet with a supplier or go to a venue, to drop off samples and some details about my cakes and how I can work with the venue for their events or occasions.  I tend to use social media in the mornings; Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and LinkedIn. I’ll tweet about the cakes I’m working on, or post new pictures on the Delights by Cynthia Facebook page, and see if there are any new connections on LinkedIn.  If there are any interesting articles to read from LinkedIn groups, I print them off and save them to read at lunch time.  Lunch can be a lonely affair – a sandwich and a coffee at my desk.   

The afternoon is spent in the Delights Kitchen.  I might spend the time baking or preparing cakes for decoration – this might be carving cakes into 3-D shapes, mixing different flavours of buttercream, or covering the cakes with fondant.  I aim to get as much done in this period, so I also have time to tidy and clean up; cake making and decorating can be quite messy; but it’s all part of the creativity.

Before you know it, it’s time to be back at the school gates.  I pick up the girls from school and we head home.  Before my husband gets home, we’ll probably have a glass of milk and a sneaky slice of cake (there’s always leftover cake in the Delights Kitchen).  The early part of the evening is spent listening to the girls reading, finding out about their day and preparing dinner; we don’t have the television on, during school nights.  On the nights my husband isn’t working late, we have dinner together as a family, have a bit of downtime and the girls are in bed at around 7.30pm. 

I catch up with my husband for about an hour or so and then it’s back to work.  If I’m baking, I get the cakes in the oven and then this frees me up to get back on the computer.  The earliest I get to bed will be about 10pm.  While the cakes are baking I spend the time writing blog posts (I love to blog), updating the website, responding to emails, sketching designs and options for customers; or just working out the logistics or the construction of a cake.  If I’m decorating a cake, I will stay up for as long as it takes to get the cake complete, and this can sometimes be the early hours of the morning.  Sometimes it’s just me in the Delights Kitchen, on some occasions my husband will sit with me and keep my company.  If I start to flake and get tired, it’s best for me to pack things away and go to bed.  When I’ve had some sleep and I’m refreshed, I always do a better job on a cake.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I have always been passionate about baking.  Family and friends have enjoyed my cakes and desserts and I’ve also been known to have a sweet tooth.  Several people commented that I should be selling my cakes to the public, so after a while, it was a no-brainer.  I started off by looking into all the legal requirements I might need to set up in business.  Secondly I started baking and decorating items.  I asked friends and family to give me honest feedback as a customer; so I could change and modify recipes and packaging.  At the same time I started doing some research into cake businesses and the local competition.  I started to tell people that I had started a business and I signed up for some courses to build up my skills.

What would be your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
Last year I received a commendation award for the Small Business of the Year, at the Camden and Islington Business Awards.  I was also nominated for a Mumsclub Business Mums Award and nominated for Business Woman of the Year for the Women4Africa Awards.

What has been your biggest challenge in the business so far? 
Looking back, it has to be working full-time and trying to grow a business and still being professional.  I ran the business for several years and worked full-time.  I would do crazy things like deliver cakes at 7.30am in the morning in order to get to my desk for 9am.  Once I did a live radio interview during my lunch break. 

What are your future plans for the business?
It’s a big step, but I need to begin look for premises and it is also time to expand the Delights by Cynthia brand.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
If I had to do things again, I would pursue my passion and follow my dream a lot earlier.  Sometimes you just need that confidence to step out and chase your dream…

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dream?
It’s important to show that with hard work and determination you can achieve great things. Also, the one thing you dream about doing, is usually the one thing that brings you joy…You just need the confidence to start doing this.  I’ve done quite a few talks and presentations in secondary schools over the last year.  One of the things I remind my female students is that being a female entrepreneur can also fit around your family.  When girls are given career advice, somehow people forget to discuss raising a family and balancing your career; I know not everyone wants to have a family, but this aspect is often overlooked in careers advice. 

What advice would you give somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

  • Get legal: any legal or insurance requirement you need to trade or work  get registered and signed up
  • Do your research, look at the existing market and competition
  • Find your own niche or thing that makes you different from other cake businesses and enhance this
  • Get to grips with your finances and financial paperwork (file those receipts and invoices on a regular basis)
  • Get skilled up: do some courses which will bring you up to a professional level.
  • Be professional about every aspect of your businesses, otherwise, it is just a hobby.

Who or what inspires you in business and why?
I take inspiration from people all around me.  Sometimes I am inspired by big names in business and the media.  I read a lot of books about how people become successful; I’m interested in their stories.  But a lot of the time, I am inspired by regular people; usually women.  I recently met a woman who has just become a widow; she has two young girls, like me, and she is doing her utmost best to continue running the business her husband started before, he lost his battle to cancer.  On the outside, and to her clients, there is no change in the level of service and delivery that they are receiving; it simply is business as usual. This woman inspires me, because under difficult circumstances, she has stepped into a role she hadn’t planned and is making things succeed.  Sometimes we need to look nearer to home for inspiration and encouragement.

My daughters inspire me to do well and succeed. I’m leaving a legacy behind for them and I’m showing them that if you put your mind to something and be committed, you can achieve great things.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
Can I be cheeky and give you two:

Psalm 37v4 – “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” – I believe all our dreams, visions and desires have been placed within us by God.  Just look to Him and the rest will flow…

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us can see the stars” – Oscar Wilde – I love this quote because we all come from a level playing field, but some of us have bigger dreams and visions.  I think I’m someone who can ‘see the stars’…

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