Ms. Cupcake is a vegan bakery located in the UK’s Brixton in South London. The colourful, indulgent delights reflect the company’s tagline ‘The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town’. Founder and owner Mellissa Morgan shares her secrets of success.
What is your ‘why’ for running a vegan bakery?
Six or seven years ago when I was making the transition from being vegetarian to being vegan I was shocked to find there was no vegan bakery in my local area. Since cake is one my main food groups I realized I’d have to make it myself.
After about a year or so of experimenting and playing around and getting everyone to try the cake I realized I might actually have caught onto a good business idea because if there is something you want in life, generally there is going to be someone else who wants it too.
How do you cope with the overwhelm experienced by so many small business owners?
When I started, I spent 18, 19 hours a day on my business much to the chagrin of my family and friends. I’d say to business owners that you will become so passionate about what you are doing that it won’t feel like a chore.
You should of course feel tired, you should of course feel over-worked and stretched but if you don’t feel passionate while you are doing all of those things, be it the accounts or the social media, then maybe you are trying to grow your business just too quickly and you need to slow it down a little bit. Businesses can grow at lots of different paces.
One of the lessons I learnt really early on is that it’s ok to say no to things. It hurts when you say no to an order but I would much rather everything we do exceptionally well than have to cut corners because we have taken on too big of a workload.
How much time do you spend working ‘on’ your business, as opposed to ‘in’ it?
I had a turning point about two years ago when I realized that we were just treading water and it was because I wasn’t stepping back enough and now my huge part of what I do is stepping away from the business and looking at it and looking not just on the grand picture of growth but also on how we can get more efficient and also a better place to work for my team.
How do go about finding and keeping motivated, reliable staff?
Since we can’t pay huge sums of money because our profit margins are so slim, I go out of my way to find different ways to ensure that my team knows that they are valued. Like recently we closed the shop two hours early because my staff has had a couple of busy weeks and I needed to take them out for dinner to say ‘thank you’. Sometimes it is about putting the business second and putting your team first.
How do you go about standing out from other bakeries and cupcake businesses?
I don’t mind the competition because even if 50 people started vegan cupcake businesses in the same area of London as I am there would be 50 different businesses because they are run by 50 different people and I find comfort in that.
We created a market for decadent, vibrant vegan cakes and everything about our branding and marketing reflects that. I always say to people when they are starting a business, it doesn’t matter how much money you have up front, you can have £10,000, you can have £10; whatever it is, you need to spend half of that money on your branding. You need to get your branding right as this will pay off for years to come.
What social media platforms are you most active on and which are the most successful for your business whether raising brand awareness or getting sales?
Facebook is long term for us; we don’t find an immediate sale when we post on Facebook because we get Facebook followers from all over the world so it’s a much longer process for us.
We find that Twitter is more immediate, so if we say we’ve got this particular product on Twitter, we’ll have people in within a couple of hours who want to get that product.
I think because we are a food business, the number one focus right now is on Instagram and that’s because photographs are just perfect for food.
What are the key lessons that you’ve learnt through running your business?
Whatever your product is, sometimes you get it wrong, sometimes you make mistakes, sometimes you have an unhappy customer and you have to accept that you have done everything in your power to try and rectify the situation but at the end of the day you can’t let it sit personally on yourself.
I’ve also learnt to trust my instincts and know when to say, ‘We need to stop doing this.’ Knowing when to quit is just as valuable as knowing when to grow.
Also check out: Ms. Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town! by Mellissa Morgan