Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 - That's how the cookie crumbled ...

Festive Red Velvet

So, it's been nearly a year? 

My resolutions and good intentions don't seem to count for much, do they?

All I can say is that stuff happened. And look marginally shame-faced, at least. 

Anyway, if there is anyone left to read this, I thought I'd pop by, wish you a Happy New 2017, and show a few highlights of our 2016. 

It's been a busy - and complex - year.

Our coffee shop is still there, nestled in the heart of Whitchurch in Cardiff.

We still specialise in artisan cakes and sweet treats (yeah - get me - I think I've started to value my 'talent' sufficiently to call it artisan). 

We do other things though, such as paninis and home made soup, and aim to use local Welsh food producers where we can. Our bread is from Brutons - one of the oldest bakeries in Cardiff - and our meat comes from a farm in the Vale of Glamorgan sold at our local butcher. I use Bacheldre Mill flour for baking. Welsh and proud.  All good, all good.

Birthday Cake Order - Fresh Raspberry Buttercream on a Dark Chocolate Sponge
We've continued to receive fantastic feedback via Facebook and Trip Adviser reviews. And we feel part of the community - something we're honoured by - sufficiently to have received so many heartfelt Christmas and New Year wishes it's been amazingly touching. 

Wedding Favours - 140 'Thank You' Cookies
We've been part of birthdays, weddings and funerals. It still amazes me that people choose us to provide the cake for their events.

Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes with handmade decorations - just because
There have been low points. One of our local competitors yet again trying to mess around with our suppliers. A leaking roof our landlord was slow to fix. Some sad person nicking our summer hanging baskets.  

There have been funny points, too. The toddler whose interest in the cafe toy box led to him taking rather too close a look, little legs waving in the air. The lady who thought a whole cake was available to buy for the cost of a slice. (Really? I mean, Really???)

60th Birthday Cake
During the last twelve months, we've raised around £1,500 for local charities, through coffee mornings, afternoon teas, donations and cookie sales.

Our Bobath Bear Cookies - all proceeds go to Bobath Cynru

And yep, I've had a whale of a time experimenting with bakes. 

Cookies 'n' Cream Cake

Carrot Cake with Pecans and St Clements Frosting

Lemon and Poppyseed Cupcakes
We've got some exciting plans going forward to 2017.

Part of that includes me returning to blogging. And I've got some great ideas for posts. 

Exciting times. 

So have a happy - and safe - New Year.

See you on the other side.

Susie xx

Monday, 1 February 2016

Livin' the dream ...

Oh my goodness! Where has time gone?

Is it really January? 2016?

I'm so sorry - I'm clearly guilty of neglecting this blog, mainly due to being incredibly tired and/or busy. 12 months' of sleep deprivation got in the way.

Anyway, as a few of you were kind enough to enquire how things are going (waving to you Gem and Denise), I thought I'd post an update on our foray into small business.

Firstly, the purchase of the shop took much longer than we'd anticipated. It's really not that clear to us why, other than solicitors and surveyors etc seem to operate in an entirely different time zone of their own. Sometimes gobsmackingly so. To give an example, our solicitor had the nerve to say to us in early December: "Oh well, as we won't complete before Christmas now, I suppose there's no rush ...". 

No, it's only that this deal has been dragging on for six months now, and Mike and I need to get on, get with it and hopefully start earning a living. Tsk.

We finally took ownership on 21 January 2015. God, there was a lot of work to do. We were having a bit of a re-fit, and our builders weren't able to start for a few weeks.

And then the typical builders' estimate of six days, inevitably became three and a half weeks and several thousand pounds more.

Finally, we had the place to ourselves.

Then the fun really started as we had decided to decorate the place ourselves. The first hurdle was deciding what colours could possibly mask the horrible orangey-brown combination we'd inherited. The next was teaching Josh and Ben one end of a paintbrush from the other.

Where we started, and where we were going, colour-wise

Then gradually, what had been (in my view) an orange and brown hell hole of a coffee shop, started to look brighter, as cream, dark grey and teal began to make an impression.

The delay at least meant that we were also able to kick on with our recruitment. We received over 70 applications, and eventually whittled them down to four. Four really great people.

Our team was in place and we had our first get-together in the coffee shop on 25 February.

We opened on 3 March - just for a few hours - and then opened full time on 8 March. (That seems so long ago now!).

Within a few weeks, we'd had our anxiously awaited food hygiene inspection.

We achieved a '5' which we were really pleased with.

And now it's going well. Yes, really well.

We've had to learn lots, and there have been a few mistakes along the way. We are sooo tired, with having just a couple of days off since we opened. Mike bears the brunt of this, as when Sam is not in nursery on a Saturday, he has been in the coffee shop while I toddler-sit.

And Sundays more often than not are spent either on trips to the wholesaler, or carrying out some maintenance/primping to the shop. Or both.

And there is usually baking that needs to be done so that we have a decent selection of cake available.

Or accounts, or some other form of paperwork.

I could go on, but I guess you're starting to get the picture.

The tiredness makes us tetchy. It's not been great for my stress and depression, and there have been times when I thought we were going to snap.

But there are great moments that are carrying us through.

The previous owners had clearly lost interest in the shop by the time they sold it. It was unloved and with a dodgy reputation. We have had to work hard to turn this around, and try to get across that we are an entirely different business. It's a real pick me up to overhear a new-to-us customer commenting that the place is 'so different now' and 'lovely'.

Afternoon Tea - Sweet Style

It's been amazing watching Mike and the boys develop their barista skills. And the relationship with the customers, some of whom were a little, ahem, surly at first,  and win them over. We've got a real cohort of regulars now, and we've worked hard to build a sense of community.

We've done some fundraising for local charities, and held a bake-off as part of the Whitchurch Festival. Good times.

As a keen - yet anxious - baker, it's been an ego boost to get  some fabulous feedback. People actually like my cake! People who've actually tasted it!  And they come back. Whoop!

We've had our first engagement on the back of some of our Red Velvet Cupcakes. We've seen babies  whose first birthday has been celebrated with one of our cakes turn into toddlers. We've had our first Christmas, with lots and lots of twinkling fairy lights, hot chocolate and mince pies.

We've been building our social media, too, with Facebook and Twitter, and our website. We've had some reviews - on Facebook, Google and Trip Advisor - which have been really encouraging.

There's so much more we want to do, but we've needed to take time to learn the business. It's been so much harder than we anticipated, but we're still here, nearly twelve months later.

Hopefully, I won't leave my next post so long. 

Susie x