4 Mistakes I Made That Led To My Small Business Collapsing

Between April 2010 and January 2012 I ran a cake shop. I absolutely loved baking and would spend every waking moment dreaming up new recipes for things like rich dark chocolate cookies with a whiskey cream or vanilla apple breakfast pastries with macadamia and strawberry jam. I would sell them every day from my small shop and the locals couldn’t get enough.

Then I got ambitious and decided it was a good idea to grow my small business. This is when things started to go wrong. I hope reading this will give you some idea if what to avoid if you are thinking about expanding your successful enterprise.

Spent too much in the wrong place

I had grand ambitions. I wanted my cakes to be sold in all the boutique shops around the city, and in all the luxury cake sections of the major supermarkets. I moved immediately to larger premises across town and took on some staff. I started working on entire ranges of cakes with ideas for themed packaging and all sorts…all before I had even approach any major distributors.

When I had finished and finally approached the supermarkets, they liked the cakes but didn’t like the themes and so killed off my chance. I set up some repeat orders with delicatessens but ended up earning less than I had done through selling to the locals in my previous location. Plus I had to pay staff which ended up making me lose money.

Spent not enough in the right place

What I should have done was build my brand from where I was. I had a steady stream of customers that were all spreading the word about my cakes naturally. All I needed to do was to spend money on advertising in my local area; maybe with a banner campaign or flyers, and I could have expanded more naturally and with more security than I had.

Put on a Fake Front

One of the worst things I did was to act as if I was bigger than I really was. I would call myself a company and issue business-like pitches, when I should really have stayed true to myself and let my personality and my baking do the talking. I was just too formal and didn’t use one of my biggest assets to sell myself…me.

Forgot About the Cakes

One of the things I was most ashamed about was the fact that I didn’t even make the cakes that I took to the pitches. I was so busy working on my figures, my outfit and my branding that I allowed my trainees to put the cakes together. They were good, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t make them. I think this is a sign of how I truly got carried away with my ambitions and lost sight of where my proven talents lie.

I have learned my lesson and am going to start selling cakes again soon (bespoke wedding cakes this time!), but hopefully this article will help you learn from my mistakes before you make them yourself.

Emma Weir owns and runs a cake business from her home in Scotland. She now uses promotional banners and exhibition displays at wedding fairs to advertise her business. 

Featured cake image courtesy of dichohecho.

Filed in: Business Failure, Business Success, Feature Articles
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