1. Why did you start your own business?
I couldn’t imagine working for anyone else. I really loved spending time in coffee shops and I kept seeing places I could improve upon. I felt sure that I could do it so I did.
2. What are the hours that you work?
Our operating hours are Tuesday – Friday 8am to 5pm and on a Saturday 8:30am to 2pm. We are closed on Sunday’s and Monday’s.
The staff work during shifts so there is a day shift and a night shift work force. At any given time there is at least one of the owners in the shop as well as managers and the staff members. Our night staff is essential as it equips us with the ability to keep up with the overflow. The night staff also prefer working in the evenings because they can work at ease, there are no distractions and they prefer it. The electricity is also 50% less in the evenings. We also have quite a systematic and structured approach to how tasks are distributed amongst the staff members. A lot of the staff have very specialized skills but the staff are also able to double up when necessary so our staff are quite hands on.
3. How many people work in your business?
39. The business keeps demanding more people but we have had to cap it because we have decided to keep quality over quantity.
4. What are the goals for the business?
We are working on a book. It is about everything. The growth of the business, the story, way the business is run, training, decorating techniques, “how to”, our charity work and the how and why our business is not just about cakes. We are also excited about our season of the TV show and we have some other new developments of evolution and incarnation. It is mainly just about staying current and allowing for movements within your concept.
5 How do you handle pressure?
We are adrenaline addicts! We thrive on pressure. But constant pressure is not healthy that is why we are strict on our operating hours and time off. Because of our structure we can do this with ease because we know things are taken care of. It’s also the perk of having a family business is knowing someone is there to back you up and you also just adjust to a higher level of stress. It takes a long time to get work fit. We have created firm boundaries though, we have a garage door over the door at Charly’s so that people can’t see through once we have closed. We have to do this because we need to prep for the next day, respond to emails. 50% of our orders come through email. We have also tailor made our website so that a customer fills in what they want in a cake so we do not spend five emails going back and forth with what the cake spec should be like.
6. How would a man run your business differently?
SO DIFFERENTLY. Being women, we run the business on a gut feel. It is more feminine, from our creativity to our problem solving. Our how approach is different. We have to multitask effectively and constantly see between big and specific pictures. There are so many hats that we have to wear. And as woman, you really have to understand the value of an apology. Woman are more available in their creativity and they push the boundaries in it, it is very female inclusive. Woman relate by listening to customer stories and nourishing them. We as woman want to fight the perception because often we are not competing on the same ground.
7. Would you ever go and work for a boss again?
I was fired at the age of 19 while training to be a manager because I kept telling people how I think they should do things. I don’t know if I could do coperate. I think I could do social media for a vibey company – I love social media and I love handling our social media accounts.
When you have your own business, it’s on your own terms, you really develop a business ethos and personality.
8. Do you ever take work home with you?
I do, I never stop looking at our Twitter account. I sort through, categorize and label everything so that’s all manageable and so that the next person taking over a shift knows exactly what’s going on. I also send myself reminders so that I know exactly what needs to be done and what is labelled as high priority.
9. What do you do to relax?
We love eating out, gardening, and we love to all just get together at my house and chill at the pool.
10. What would you like to know more about to run your business better?
I’d like to speak Xhosa. A lot of our staff members are Xhosa speaking. I understand a fair amount but I think it’s very important for people in South Africa to know a African language. We also teach ourselves whatever we want to know. We sort of live by the motto: “jumping off the bridge and growing wings on the way down”.
11. What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?
I wouldn’t have done anything differently as I have learned such amazing lessons from the things that in retrospect were mistakes. I consider them school fees for life lessons 🙂
12. Did you have to borrow money? If yes, what route did you follow?
In the beginning my dad lent us money. We also borrowed money against our bond to finance the business.
13. What satisfaction do you get from running your own business?
We have created a brand, we’ve given opportunities to people and I’ve made something that my daughters can develop and take into their future. We’ve also received a lot of positive feedback and that’s from working hard in what we do.
14. What makes your business successful?
Being completely individual and unique. Never compromising, being present in our business and being willing to grow and evolve. We play a lot on social media and we have a cheeky attitude because we walk a bit on the edge, we are happy to laugh at ourselves and others. Our business slogan is “mucking afazing!”.
15. What form of marketing do you use?
We’ve never advertised. I don’t believe advertising food is worthwhile. Every cupcake that walks out of the shop is advertising. The first day we opened everything was free, the next day we had a business. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Now we have a business that is a go to place in Cape Town.
16. Do you have a favourite mantra or quote that keeps you going through tough times?
The Marian Williamson quote that Madiba used in he’s 1994 speech: “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.