After a bit of a false start the first week of January (except my lovely and patient husband designed my accounting system; maybe a guest blog from him another day??), this week has been awesome! I feel like I’ve done loads, and that things might suddenly start coming together.

I’m not sure if there’s a right order in which to sort everything out, but I feel I want everything sorted now so I can just start selling. However, I also know that in the long run taking time to set myself up properly will pay dividends so I’m taking each week as it comes and trying to prioritise tasks that impact other pieces of work. For example, until my kitchen is sorted, I can’t apply to the Council to approve me as a food business. Or until I have a bank account, I can’t get a mobile phone to be paid for from said account, and without a phone I can’t order my business cards, and so on.

Firstly – and it doesn’t get much more exciting than this – I rearranged the kitchen. The key benefit here is the return of our kitchen to its primary use rather than being a bunch of surfaces I store my ever-expanding set of cake supplies on, leaving me 5 square inches to prepare food. There’s something really important here (aside from the removal of clutter) about the way you want to run your business – starting as you mean to go on. My wonderful mum helped me for two days while we cleared out the fridge, including throwing out some jars with best before dates of 2015, emptied every cupboard, then added additional shelves into each to create extra space. How beautiful does my new baking cupboard look?!

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The one ‘admin’ job I did this week was to open a business bank account. I’ve been toying with having a personal account – there isn’t a legal requirement for sole traders to hold business accounts – and as I’ll be starting small, it does grate with me a little that you have to pay a monthly fee for business banking. However, I’m keen to appear professional from the outset (and not just a ‘stay-at-home-mum-passing-the-time-making-a-couple-of-cakes’; what I’ve really noticed in my research is that if this is my ‘brand’ then my value declines significantly, meaning I can’t charge my worth for my work) and want everything I do to carry the business name, so it felt the right choice. Plus, as we’re already Santander customers, I get the first eighteen months fee free, which as far as I’m concerned is more than enough time to find out if I can make any money from selling cakes!

I had a bad experience with Bromley Adult Education Centre recently. I booked my Food Safety and Hygiene in Catering Level 2 training on a Friday (in person), then I received a letter in the post Monday saying it had been cancelled. The letter must have been posted before I even left the building. Anyway, concluding I didn’t trust them with my money, I found I could do the same course for a fraction of the price online. My local council recommended finding a course accredited by the RSPH (Royal Society for the Protection of Health) or City and Guilds.

So on Friday I spent the day working through an online course with Virtual College, and am now qualified in food safety and hygiene (yay!). It is a reasonably straightforward course, and the majority of what you learn is common sense but I still found it useful, and it gave me some ideas I’ve added to my plans around ensuring the kitchen is fit for purpose. At the end, a 30 question multiple choice test gives you your qualification (assuming you’ve been concentrating).

Then on Saturday I attended StartUp 2018, hosted by Enterprise Nation, a community membership organisation supporting people to start and grow their businesses. It was a long day, and I didn’t get a lunch break as I was determined not to miss out on any talks, but it was absolutely – and unexpectedly – brilliant. I had, thankfully, decided which talks I would attend ahead of the day; with ten stages, I wouldn’t have known where to start otherwise.

I’d made a conscious decision to avoid too many ‘process’ talks, and instead focus on talks related to food businesses, especially where I’d have the chance to hear people’s real life stories. Throughout the day I heard from ElizabethDBakes, Chocolateeha, Kim Kong Kimchi and The Foraging Fox, alongside talks on using PR for food businesses, what a good website looks like, and setting up a limited company or applying for trademarks. It’s left me buzzing and full of ideas for the coming weeks.

The last week really showed me just what I can achieve when I put my mind to it and just how exciting it is to be learning so much. And I found this rather dramatic Novo Cemetary in the middle of Queen Mary’s University on my way out of the conference, which reminded me how much I love living in London, when you can stumble across anything, anywhere.

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