In this blog series we're catching up with entrepreneurs who are 'Reacting & Adapting' to make sure their business can survive and thrive through these unprecedented months.
We first met Natasha Arbia last Summer, when she need some advice, support and direction in setting up her gluten-free bakery, The Gildergreen.
As with many entrepreneurs, Natasha had to react fast and adapt her business model when the UK went into lockdown. She quickly launched a new delivery service, making sure her customers could still get their gluten-free sweet fixes delivered right to their doorsteps.
Read on to find out how Natasha has managed to create a more profitable way of doing business, all while reducing her waste, maximising her time and growing her customer base…
Tell us what business would typically look like for you in the pre-lockdown world?
My business is a Gluten Free bakery, making a selection of cakes, brownies, cookies and tray bakes. I specialise in mini cakes, rather than large cakes, as I want my bakes to be a little treat for people who are often the only one eating Gluten Free in their household.
We have an online shop, from which we sell a range of bakes that can posted anywhere in the UK. We also offer a cake subscription, where we send a selection of bakes to subscribers every month, in a letterbox friendly package. The subscription also include tea from The Liverpool Tea Warehouse, making it a lovely treat.
Under normal circumstances I sell my bakes at weekly Farmers Markets around Liverpool. At the markets I normally offer a selection of 3 or 4 cake flavours, brownies, tray bakes and Cookies. I usually have a market every week and have some wonderful regulars who come and support the business.
February was pretty terrible for the markets, as we had week after week of high winds, meaning that they were either cancelled called off early. On one occasion the market was called off at the last minute and I had all my cakes ready, with nowhere to sell them. I decided to see if any of my lovely social media followers would like to have some cakes delivered to them, so that the bakes didn’t go to waste and I could recover some costs. I had a great response and sold most of the cakes that day.
A few weeks later Coronavirus had hit and I had to make some difficult decisions. The markets were still running (this was before lock down), but I just didn’t feel that it was safe for myself and my customers to keep attending, so I decided that I needed to move my business in a different direction. You could already see that people were staying at home more and I had got plenty of interest for my deliveries a few weeks earlier, so I decided to move to weekly local deliveries instead.
Was it a straightforward process to shift your business model? And how is it going so far?
My website had plenty of products on it, but they were all full or half batches of bakes (for example a whole loaf cake or four mini cakes – this is because I bake all my cakes fresh to order). I wanted to be able to offer customers the same sort of selection they would see at my markets, without waste and in a way that was logically possible for me, so I can up with my Market Selection Boxes.
Each week I bake 3 different flavours of Mini Cakes, one flavour of Brownies, one flavour Cupcake and Caramel Shortcake. I then offer these as various mixed selections and will deliver for free, anywhere in Liverpool (this generally means within Liverpool City Council boundaries, but we will deliver just over the boundaries, as long as its within about 20mins drive of the City Centre). All orders are placed through my online shop, which means contactless payment, so its safe for everyone.
As well as my mixed boxes offering a great selection to my customers, they also make delivery viable for me. It wouldn’t be sensible for me to offer deliveries on single items, such as a £1.50 Brownie and I also couldn’t make a whole batch for just one slice. I thought carefully about what I needed the minimum order to be and made up the box selections to meet that minimum order. Customers can order for Saturday delivery, any day of the week before, up to 5pm on Thursday. This means that I only have to bake enough for the orders I have, reducing waste and maximising my time.
In fact, this pre-order system has been much more profitable than my weekly markets and my business has grown because of it. My customer reach has expanded hugely, I have new regular customers who buy every week and I’m still able to make people happy with my cakes!
This new service must be proving popular with your customers?
I have one regular who always emails me excitedly each week to tell me how much she is looking forward to the delivery. One week she made a large order for herself and someone made a separate surprise order for her. It was lovely to see her face when she opened the door and saw the pile of cake boxes on her doorstep.
I miss my weekly markets for the customer interaction, but at a safe distance on the doorstep I am still getting wonderful feedback from my customers and able to see their faces at the prospect of the treats in front of them.
You’ve certainly achieved a lot over the last few months – are you pleased with how The Gildergreen has been able to react and adapt?
When the lockdown came I was in a panic about the future of my business! Could I continue to deliver my cakes? Was it sensible? Possible? Viable? I am so glad that I made the decision to carry on!
If you'd like to try out Natasha's desserts, head to here website: www.thegildergreen.co.uk
If you'd like to contact Natasha directly, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also keep up with everything Gildergreen through Facebook or Instagram!
Whether you are thinking of starting a business, sustaining your business through the current climate, or even growing your business, we have a team of expert business advisors who are here to help you through the practicalities.
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