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Heaven is a Cupcake

“I make cupcakes and I like to eat them, sometimes I even like to share” – Lucy Clark, University of Hertfordshire graduate and creator of ‘Heaven is a Cupcake’

Lucy Clark

Lucy has been selling her cupcake creations (and other treats) since early August 2010. Her little works of art were recognised early on. Just two months after trading had begun she was awarded winner of the 2010 ‘Local Gem’ in the St Albans Food and Drink Festival Awards. Graduate Futures caught up with the Hertfordshire entrepreneur at the May Summer Jobs and Careers Fair where over 100 of her cupcakes were devoured within an astonishing 10 minutes! Graduate Futures delves under the icing to find out more about her…

Where did you find your inspiration?

It sounds clichéd but ever since I was a little girl I would spend time baking with my mum and my Oma (my Austrian grandma). It was a big part of my upbringing and I always loved spending an afternoon making rock cakes or fairy cakes. I always admired my mum for her skills as a cake maker and she would make our birthday cakes every year, yet it never occurred to me to do it for myself. I always thought of it as a hobby rather than a career. Then after I finished my Masters degree I decided to take a much-needed break from the ‘real world’ and go to America for a few months. It was there that I was reminded how much I loved making and decorating cakes as I was submerged in the world of cupcakes. When I got home we celebrated my Masters results by having a literature themed party and I thought I’d try my hand at making some cupcakes decorated with books. I was given so many compliments on my baking and the models and it put a smile on everybody’s faces. I popped a photo on my twitter page and not long after that it had been seen by over 3000 people and shared by one of my favourite authors, Margaret Atwood and that was what encouraged me to do it as a business.

How did you turn the initial idea into something achievable?

I was working part-time at a temporary job and trying to find something full-time before I started up but couldn’t find anything suitable, so I went to job centre plus and they told me about the self employment benefits which enable you to start your own business whilst giving you a small income to help with start-up costs. They also pointed me in the direction of Business Link and STANTA who are a local small business advice agency.  When I first started the business I don’t think I ever thought it would take off the way it did, nor did I think that I could really do it. The thought of starting up your own business can be quite daunting and it seemed like a dream. However, I went on a Business Link Startup course and it really made me realise that it was possible and that I was onto something quite special. They gave me lots of useful information including other sources such as local business advice companies.

How did your time at university prepare you for your career?

When people ask me what I did for my degree, I think they are always a little surprised when I say ‘English Literature’ but I did what I loved and it may not be the subject I went into as a career but it helped me become the person I am now and is one of my greatest achievements so far. One of the most valuable skills I honed during my time at university and which has proved most important in my business, is my organisational skills and time management. In order to run your own business you have to be incredibly organised – there are no extensions in real life! It also showed me that I am not afraid to work for what I want and that if I really put my mind to something, I can achieve my goals. It is not easy but it is the most rewarding thing to be able to show how hard you have worked and what you have achieved.  In the last month the university have been very supportive with my business and I had a lot of fun talking to current students and staff at the networking event in May. It was really lovely to be back and I look forward to working with UH again in the future.

Looking back on your experience, what 3 top tips would you give new entrepreneurs?

  • My first tip would be, do the research. And this I feel is the most important. In order to turn your idea into an achievable business you have to make sure you have something that will work and that other people want. Look at what is available and what you can do that is different. And this doesn’t just involve researching your idea, but researching what help is out there; the local job centre is a good place to start and of course, the internet is a mine of information but be careful, it’s not all helpful!
  • Do something you are good at! It sounds silly but there’s no point in jumping on the bandwagon just because you think something is popular or will make money. If you’re not good at it, then it won’t work! I have seen so many cupcake companies emerge recently and unfortunately, they’re not all good!
  • Know your competition and stay ahead of the game. There are always going to be other companies out there that will try to do what you are doing or, as I have unfortunately learnt the hard way, that will try to steal your ideas. In order to combat this, you must keep developing your ideas and offer something different. Always be on the lookout for new trends and marketing strategies. Finally, get yourself on Facebook, Twitter and get blogging! These tools have been invaluable to me and in the age of the internet they are one of the best ways of getting yourself known.

Good luck!

Check out some of Lucy’s bespoke creations and find out how to order your own on her website and Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/heavenisacupcake

www.heavenisacupcake.net

‘We don’t just sell cupcakes, we sell little bites of Heaven!

Elizabeth Mortimer

Careers Professional

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