A Life in Cake: Trading in the 9 to 5 to Start A Wedding Cake Business
Zeenees’ cake baker Liam Goldstein takes over the blog today to talk about his experiences in starting up a cake business and what it’s like to trade an office job for a life in the kitchen.
I’ve always loved baking and some of my fondest memories from childhood involve making cakes in our family kitchen. Like many people I thought of baking more as a passion and a hobby than a career option. I guess there are a lot of things like that: activities that people love but don’t believe that they could turn in to a business. We all know that there are people out there who’ve made a living from writing, painting, singing or baking… but we never imagine we could be one of them.
When it came to making decisions about careers and education at the age of 18 I didn’t even think about going in to baking. It was only just over fifteen years ago, but there was definitely more of a focus on conventional careers and degrees. By comparison I think today there’s much more of an open view of the workplace and an acceptance that people will make their living in more diverse ways.
I studied Software Engineering at Aberystwyth – it was a five-year Masters degree and I enjoyed the practical nature of software engineering, particularly the design side of things. I went straight from studying at a university to working at one and then spent the best part of ten years working as a web developer at Cardiff University.
In 2013 I took a year out from work to travel with my now-husband Nick. It was an incredible year and opened my eyes to so many things – different cultures, different lifestyles and of course different foods! It also reinforced for both of us that we wanted to make changes in our lives. When we returned from travelling we moved from Cardiff to Devon where Nick grew up. We started new jobs and were much happier with where we lived… but there was still a nagging desire to change our work lives.
I remember clearly us sitting down and talking about work in the winter of 2015. Neither of us was unhappy with our jobs, we both had good employers and the work was interesting. But we wanted to do something different and to pursue those childhood dreams that seemed impossible. For Nick it was writing and over the two years that followed we found a way for him to carve out some time in the working week to write. Two years on and he’s written four books with more on the way. For me of course it was baking that I wanted to pursue… and so two and a half years ago the idea for Zeenees was born.
Taking Zeenees from a passion for baking to a working business hasn’t been easy, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. In the first year there were lots of new business processes to take on – particularly around the accounts and administration aspects of starting a company. But those initial twelve months were also a really exciting time for experimenting with designs and flavours. I had a lot of fun inventing new recipes and trialling out local Devon ingredients and getting to know other suppliers and businesses in the area.
Over the last two years baking has become an even bigger part of my life and given me so many opportunities. One of the unexpected pleasures has been getting to travel round more of the southwest, particularly our home county of Devon. I’m now regularly out on the road delivering cakes to wedding venues, workplaces and family homes and I’ve got to see a lot more of Devon and Exeter as a result.
We’ve also attended some fantastic food fairs, agricultural shows and festivals, selling cakes and slices. We don’t get to go to quite so many of these now as weekends are often taken up with wedding orders, but it was a really fun period getting to explore more of our local area.
We went to some great local food fairs including Buckfast Abbey’s summer food festival, Sidmouth food festival and agricultural shows at Holsworthy and Kingsbridge. We also enjoyed a trip up to Bowood House in Wiltshite for the Great British Food Festival where we got to see GBBO’s Val Stones and Jane Beedle talking about their time on The Great British Bake-Off.
More recently we’ve been focusing on wedding cakes and it is such an honour to play a part in a couple’s big day. I really love coming up with a design that’s unique to them and their wedding theme and because every cake is different it’s a really varied area to work in.
I still love it when someone has an idea for their wedding cake that’s something new or unusual that I haven’t tried before. It’s the creativity of running a cake business that I find most exciting and designing for customers is a big part of that.
So have I managed to ‘quit the rat-race’?
Well no… not quite, I still work in an office job a couple of days a week. My employers have been really flexible and it’s worked so well that they’ve allowed me to scale my hours down as Zeenees has grown as a business.
But whilst Zeenees isn’t my only job it is now my main job and there’s so much about that sentence that still thrills me. I am now first and foremost a baker; it’s what I spend the majority of my work life doing and I love it – and I’m really excited about what the future holds.