Kasey Clarke: 'Sweet Cakey Thing can really go the distance'
Posted: Thu 25th Mar 2021
Back in November, we announced the launch of Food Fellowship - one of three support programmes we're delivering as part of our Empowering Journeys partnership with Uber.
Designed for aspiring food entrepreneurs, the six-week Food Fellowship programme has - via a six-week course and a year's access to a workbench at Karma Kitchen - equipped participants with the knowledge and skills they need to run profitable, sustainable food businesses.
With the course having drawn to a close, we wanted to hear how some of the participants have got on. Here's Sweet Cakey Thing founder Kasey Clarke's story.
Kasey, where did the idea for Sweet Cakey Thing come from?
"I spent a lot of time with artists and musicians at Radio 1. I saw people like Wretch 32, Tinie Tempah and Katy B go from zero to stratospheric. The entrepreneurial passion that went into creating the life they wanted really rubbed off on me.
"I wanted to see if I could make it. And I love eating cake. That's really what it was. I was often disappointed by the cake I'd eaten. If I put effort into it, could I add something to this space? It's just super important to me that you have great looking cake that also tastes great. So that's what I got to work on.
"So, one day in 2011, I came into the office and said 'I make cake now. Get your orders in.' And people did, which was just nuts. They had their own little requests, and I'd always find a way to create what they needed. It gave me more confidence as the orders started coming in. The opportunity came for me to go full time in 2013. I grabbed it, got myself some proper training and got stuck into making cakes."
It took a little while until you arrived on the concept for Sweet Cakey Thing, right?
"It did. Originally, it was Kupkase & Co. We had a ball creating amazing cakes, and they were stocked in some prestigious locations. But my health was getting a little bit out of control.
"I discovered the Paleo diet, which is about eating food the body needs, is nourished by and responds to. If you eat enough of this food, fat just melts off. The body gets a chance to perform at its optimum. I felt the best I ever felt.
"But I found myself wanting. I'd be out looking for natural treats with no refined sugar, wheat, gluten, soya and grains and couldn't find any - so I decided to make my own!
"I wondered if I could create really fabulous cakes that fill a hole that's there for me, and which might be there for other people too. That's when I got to work creating Sweet Cakey Thing."
Where was the business at when you discovered Food Fellowship?
"Setting up a business has been a steep learning curve. I had been self-employed for three months when a friend said to me: 'How many cakes do you have to sell to pay your rent?' It was such a good question. I should have known the answer. It's like business 101.
"I got caught up in the way of thinking that's 'find your passion, follow it, go for your dreams'. Yes, do that - but do it with a plan. It will make the whole experience far less painful.
"It's been eight years of learning the hard way, so when the Food Fellowship opportunity came up I jumped at it. It offered mentoring and guidance from people within the food industry. I had mentorship in various guises along the way, but I never actually had it from somebody in the industry.
"To be able to have someone that I could ask specific questions to about food, manufacturing, food standards - and networking with certain people in a way I hadn't been able to before - was incredibly appealing.
"With a lot of entrepreneurs, the product they've released that's enabled them to realise their goals probably isn't their first. Sweet Cakey Thing isn't the first thing I've done. But it feels like the first thing that can really go the distance."
What have you got from Food Fellowship that you couldn't elsewhere?
"There were some things that I didn't fully appreciate the importance of - regulation things like if you're running your own website, you need an ICO certificate. But the real thing for me was the opportunity to reconsider my ideas and how I was going about them.
"Going into retail was something I wasn't interested in doing again. I did that with my previous business - it was great that my products were selling in high-end locations, but I wasn't making enough money to be able to grow on their success. I was determined to build Sweet Cakey Thing as a direct-to-customer business.
"But to be honest I'm not great with social media. It's not a natural thing for me. It's one more thing I needed to get good at. The conversations we had in Food Fellowship made me understand that the road I was on, and my belief that I'd need to rely on social media was key, wasn't necessarily right.
"I had some fantastic conversations with everyone from accountants and pensions advisers. I was introduced to platforms like Delishops and reintroduced to the idea of appearing at trade shows. It's not just about speaking to retailers; it's about meeting people in the industry who can support you in the vision you want to create - and in a way you've not seen before.
"Food Fellowship married my desire to keep as much in house as possible while still being able to get to bigger platforms, or bigger sales opportunities, which if I just stayed on Instagram I might never had had the opportunity to get to."
What's next for Sweet Cakey Thing?
"Right now I'm preparing for the Speciality & Fine Food Fair in September. My horizons have been fully broadened as to the possibility. I can't wait to be there.
"It's a big investment for me - I don't have a stack of resources, which is why [driving for] Uber has been such a lifesaver for me. It's enabled me to continue to work on my passion, without having to forsake that. Every pound I spend is a big deal, but fingers crossed it will give me the reach I am looking for."
_Do you have a fledgling food business? Sign up to Enterprise Nation for free to access the Food Fellowship's e-learning modules. Discover more.
And make sure you check out Sweet Cakey Thing's delicious cake pots (and don't take our word for it; this is a businesses with gold stars from the Great Taste Awards)._