IN this week's SME Focus an entrepreneurial cake lover explains how she has developed a fast-growing business in a niche of the bakery trade.
Name: Liggy Morgan.
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What is your business called?
Liggy's Cake Co.
Where is it based?
We have stores in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
What does it produce, what services does it offer?
We produce bespoke cakes for high-end weddings and other special occasions.
Who does it sell to?
Our brides and grooms come to us from across Scotland, although most cakes we make are for couples in the central belt. We also sell wholesale cakes to a number of cafes in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
What is its turnover? £350,000.
How many employees? Seven.
When was it formed? 2008.
Why did you take the plunge?
I decided I wanted to start a business when in my final year of university. I identified cupcakes as a growing trend and a business opportunity that would require only marginal start-up costs. Once I had started trading I could see potential in other markets, such as weddings and events, and so I diversified and expanded in line with these opportunities. Looking back, I think I also knew at that stage in my life I had literally nothing to lose!
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I was at St Andrews University studying modern history.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
A Business Gateway grant, a Princes Scottish Youth Business Trust loan and personal savings covered the initial start-up costs. I took a further growth-fund loan from the trust to open the second store in 2012. I am currently looking at funding options to open a third store this year.
What was your biggest break?
Our biggest break was winning the VOWS award back in 2011 for wedding cake design. The awards recognise companies in the Scottish wedding industry and are voted for by the brides themselves. We have since gone on to win the award for 2012 and 2013 also. Winning the awards led to many of Scotland's best hotels putting us on their preferred supplier list, which gets sent to prospective couples looking at booking their weddings. This led to our wedding bookings tripling over the last three years.
What was your worst moment?
The worst moment was definitely the "hard yards" back in 2009 when I had just opened the first shop and I was doing everything myself, from baking to decorating because I couldn't afford staff. It was only a couple of months before I was able to employ someone, but looking back it was a very bleak and scary time and I really questioned whether or not I had done the right thing starting out on my own.
What do you most enjoy about running the business?
Apart from the obvious fact that there is never any lack of cake available to scoff, we are in a very fortunate position that we largely only deal with happy people. Our customers come in because they are celebrating - either planning a wedding, a new baby, a big birthday, or even just to buy cupcakes for their office to celebrate a good result in a meeting. It gives the company a real energy and we genuinely feel quite privileged to help our customers plan these milestone events. What's even better is getting to see them every year when the birthdays and anniversaries come around again.
What do you least enjoy? Making difficult decisions! Sometimes it's making changes to our team, sometimes it's about pursuing a new opportunity, but ultimately the buck always stops with you.
What is your biggest bugbear?
The amount of time I spend on red tape, which seriously reduces the time I can spend growing my business.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
We are going to open a further three retail premises over the next two years and continue to grow our reputation as the leading cake company for weddings and events. We are also launching a range of more affordable wedding cakes to compete with the mass-produced high street option which currently takes around 10% of the total wedding cake market in the UK.
What are your top priorities?
Growing the company to realise its potential is my main priority and the thing that I spend my time and energy on.
Customer service - we pride ourselves on our service and our customers have come to expect nothing less.
Style - we appointed a creative director last year who is in charge of looking at upcoming trends, as well as designing our two new wedding cake ranges every year, making sure we stay at the top of our game.
Taste - we make all our cakes totally from scratch using highly skilled bakers, and never, ever a cake mix!
Staff - we have a stellar team and keeping them happy and motivated is always a priority.
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?
More relaxation around employment laws would be a big help, as well as better options for woman regarding childcare. Although there has been recent progress I think a lot more could be done, especially for self-employed women.
What was the most valuable lesson that you learned? Knowing that you can't do everything yourself and that there is probably someone who can do it a lot better than you! Letting our designers do what they are good at has been a valuable lesson and has allowed me to shift my focus from working in the business to working on the business.
How do you relax?
At home, on the farm in East Lothian with my boyfriend, Mark, our dog, Rooster, and a large G&T.