Butter, Sugar, Flower - I Built That Business

Tell us a bit more about yourself and Butter, Sugar, Flower?

I’m originally from the United States. My love of scuba diving led me to meet my English husband on a remote dive trip a few years back. After a few years of working, living, and travelling abroad, the pandemic hit and caused a massive shift to our remote work lifestyle.

Since I have an artistic background, I was doing various website design projects. Yet my love for baking and cake design hovered in the back of my mind. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with baking - cakes, and cupcakes, specifically. Even while in the Chinese countryside, I’d create cakes with whatever ingredients I could source and ‘bake’ one in our rice cooker! However, I was so passionate about diving stunning yet endangered reefs around the world while I still could that I didn’t feel ready to commit to a location-dependent business.

When COVID hit, we rushed back to England, and I found myself starting a new phase of life, in a new country, where I knew few people. Social and professional opportunities were more of a challenge than usual, and I found myself not just thinking more and more about starting my business - this time I’d thought of a great name, and that iced the cake. With travel on indefinite hold, it was time to whip my dream of running a cake business into a reality.

I threw myself into plotting and planning, obtaining permits and equipment, acquiring certifications, and perfecting recipes. I designed my website, created social media accounts, marketing campaigns, and way too many spreadsheets.

Now, a little more than a year later, I’m living my buttercream dreams!

Why did you set up Butter, Sugar, Flower?

I launched Butter, Sugar, Flower in July 2020, two months after moving to England. Given my lifelong passion for baking, this was the right time to ‘share my creations with the world’! With the pandemic unfolding, more than ever I wanted to bring cheer through my cakes and lift people’s spirits with beautiful, unique products. There was also just one cake shop in my city - an eggless one - so I knew there was a gap in the market where I could insert myself. I loved the idea of offering hand delivery, enabling family and friends to send the gift of cake when they couldn’t be together in person. But most importantly, I launched Butter, Sugar, Flower because it was a dream I’d had since childhood. Seeing how life could shift in the blink of an eye, I decided to bring joy and smiles to people locked down in unprecedented times.

Do you enjoy running your own business?

Absolutely! Running my own business means I can ensure quality control. I have extremely high standards, from client communication to the best ingredients, to a gorgeous end product. It’s so important to me that my cakes not only look incredible but are as fresh and delicious as possible - which is how I’ve built the loyal client base I’m so grateful to have.

After the flexibility of working remotely, and from previous experience working in an office, I knew returning to an office wasn’t the lifestyle for me. My husband also works remotely, so it’s really great to be able to manage my time so that it works for my business as well as our personal lives.

However, running my own business means I’m also incredibly busy throughout the week! There’s always something to be done, and most of those things need to be done daily: client communication, inventory, finances, social media posting, keeping my website current, marketing, sourcing supplies, designing custom cakes - and of course, baking and creating all the goodies!

What does a typical day look like for you?

Well, it always starts with a strong flat white and a workout! Then my day is typically split between my desk and my kitchen. I begin by answering emails and replying to order inquiries that trickled in overnight and assess what supplies I need for upcoming orders. The rest of my day is usually spent between my oven and my cake workstation - with some great playlists or podcasts playing in the background!

What's your greatest moment so far with Butter, Sugar, Flower?

I’m grateful for some really exciting achievements over the last year or so since I launched BSF. From BBC1 broadcasting their interview with me to winning the London Cake off, to creating cakes for celebs and high street brands, to amounting over 160 5-star Google reviews, it’s hard to choose just one of those moments above the rest - so I won’t!

So, I’d say the greatest moment for BSF was in July 2021, when I reflected upon my first year of business. When I thought back to the hundreds of cakes and thousands of cupcakes I designed for people, it warms my heart that I contributed to making all those celebrations so special. Due to COVID, it was clear that occasions were even more important than ever before - whether celebrated together or virtually. I remember so many faces lighting up upon receiving my creations, the messages sent to me after enjoying my cakes, or messages thanking me for surprising loved ones with some Butter, Sugar, Flower when people couldn’t be together. Hearing that my creations bring smiles to so many people is what keeps me happily piping away on cakes and cupcakes!

What are you hoping to achieve with the business?

That’s a difficult question to answer because when I started BSF I had a set of goals I was keen to achieve - and since then, I have. My initial goal was to be the ‘go-to-gal’ for all things cake - and I’m thrilled to have achieved that with so many lovely families and businesses.

A year into a business is an excellent time to reflect and set new goals for the years ahead. My passion, coupled with my customers’ passions for what I do, invigorates me and pushes me to set bigger, broader goals. That being said, some exciting things are in the works over at Butter, Sugar, Flower!

Has anything surprised you on the journey?

Certainly! When I registered my business, I had 28 days until I could begin trading, which I happily used the time for by setting everything up so that I’d have no surprises - but that’s not always possible, is it? Now I’m through the first year, and hopefully, there are only good surprises on the horizon!

I’d say the biggest surprise for me was the quick success! As an artist, there’s always uncertainty in the work you produce, doubts lurking in the back of your mind. To me, baking is the simple part (basic science after all!) - designing is a whole other story. But my creativity has always driven me. It honestly took months of custom orders for me to reach the level of creative confidence I have now. To hear such excitement and kind words from my clients was an incredible and heart-warming surprise to me. Though I hoped BSF would thrive, it was still surprising when I stepped back and realised it was thriving - the first year honestly felt like a whirlwind!

What do you find a challenge?

“Turning off” can certainly be a challenge. My passion has never faltered, but owning your own business comes with massive responsibility if you want to maintain high standards and for it to succeed. I hit the ground running, and honestly, I’ve only managed to slow down to a jog when I’m lucky enough to take holiday.

Cake design is a competitive field, and while I’m grateful for my clients who order from me for all their occasions and happily spread the word, growing my clientele and my business as a whole is very important to me. With no one serving as backup for daily tasks like client communication and social media posting (let alone making the cakes themselves!), it sometimes can feel like a toss-up between the success I’m so grateful to be experiencing and having a weekend with my husband!

Is there anything, if you were given the time again, that you would do differently?

Honestly, I’d probably look for resources on a website like Build That Business! By reflecting back on starting my business in order to answer these questions, it became clear how more resources and a community would have been lovely to have!

What advice would you give to other people thinking about starting their new business?

If you’re on the fence, make a list of what you actually need to do to get started. For me, once I’d written it down, not only did it seem more manageable than I’d anticipated - it became really exciting! Also, be aware of the lifestyle change it brings. It’s essential to throw yourself in, because if you’re not passionate about your business, who else will be? Just establish a work-life balance as soon as you can!