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Cake Gate, Cheesecake Lady, and Afternoon Tea's Galore!

Fighting over cake, being recognised as the cheesecake lady and finding flour in the supermarket being the best night EVER!#Covid 19

Well, who would have ever thought we would live through a global pandemic? Not me, that’s for sure!

Without a shadow of a doubt, staying safe and social distancing or self-isolating is THE most important thing, and it has made me realise how courageous, and selfless those who work on the front line are.

When it first came about, it scared the hell out of me. It still does, but I was worried that people weren’t going to take it seriously enough. The Café and the Chocolate House closed before lockdown began, and I stayed at home with my children for two weeks.

I noticed that other businesses like myself were offering deliveries quickly, but I felt unsure if this was the right thing to do.

Our Chocolate workshops that were all fully booked had been suspended and will have to be rearranged. Any Afternoon teas that had been booked were also cancelled, which was not good for business and I was apprehensive.

I considered deliveries of food from the Café. Still, my main concern was not knowing if deliveries would risk the virus spread at the time, and second of all, would people be spending their money on having food delivered when the majority didn’t know if they had any income coming in at all?

I honestly felt that I could have come across as being selfish and greedy and insensitive to people’s financial situations, and so I left it for things to develop for a couple of weeks, to see how things panned out.

Employing eight staff members, was also very worrying, not knowing if they were going to get paid or how, and not understanding the more significant impact of the virus on every level.

Luckily for the staff, the government issued the Furlough Scheme, which was a massive relief for us all, but not so lucky for me as I didn’t qualify for any financial support. My husband is still working, and I hadn’t been self-employed for long enough, and the “Rates” that I pay, are part of one payment, and therefore the business didn’t qualify for the 10k business support.

This took about two weeks for this information to come through, but as soon as it did, and I realised that I had zero income, I had to look into the delivery side of the business and see if I could drum up some business in that sector. I had never done deliveries before and didn’t know if this was going to work or not.

The Chocolate House online sales over the Easter week went well (thankfully). It was overwhelming seeing so many orders coming in, and people supporting the business at such a difficult time.

On a personal level, I had a lot of support, and there are a few people who helped me primarily through these few weeks, and this is my husband Mark, and my best friends Sian and Catherine. My husband Mark is my everything, (yes, I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true). My friend Sian who has recently set up her own Marketing business (i Need Marketing) has been a huge support using her Marketing expertise to help me with all my social media (I’m useless at hashtags and all that!), and coming up with constant ideas and planning through the evolving weeks. She has been brilliant! My other friend Cath helped me in many ways, and a simple suggestion from her managed to attract many new followers to my Social Media. I am a great believer in nothing can be achieved on your own, and I love learning and listening to other perspectives on any subject (especially business of course).

As time was going on, it was becoming more evident that many small businesses were succeeding during this time. The milkman was fully booked, there was fruit and veg business all delivering their goods, and it felt there could be a chance for the Chocolate House to survive.

Overnight, I added a restaurant app to my website, which allowed customers to order and pay for their food online and get it delivered at the end of the week. I had a huge problem, and that was that none of my bakers was baking! Both for different reasons, one was too busy, and the other was closed. This meant I had to bake all my cakes! Luckily, I have always enjoyed baking, but to be honest, I hadn’t done it in a while, and I have never cooked scones in my life!! Well, it’s sink or swim kid, and I just made a few nice bakes that I could bake that my customers would enjoy.

Getting ingredients was another thing altogether!! Buying Self Raising Flour and Corned Beef was like trying to find gold! It was crazy! One dessert I thought wouldn’t include flour was a cheesecake, and boy do I love a nice cheesecake! The Cheesecake Factory in America is my idea of heaven!!

I sussed out that if I went to the supermarket where I live at about 9pm, there were literally four cars in the car park. It was a relief not to have to queue for an hour to get in, and then try to adhere to social distancing (which is super hard to do in a busy supermarket). They were also re-stocking the shop at this time, so I had a good chance of getting most of my ingredients in one shop.

One night, I even rung Sian to tell her that I had found pastry, self-raising flour and soft cheese. I was sooo excited. We were both laughing at how weird it was! Getting excited over such basic things, but that is literally how drastically things had changed in such a short space of time. As it was Easter weekend, I made the cheesecakes in half an Easter egg and put all crushed mini eggs in the mix and topped it off with lots of crunchy treats! They went down an absolute storm, and it was a huge relief that everyone enjoyed, and all the orders were delivered within time! Success!

I then decided to repeat for the coming weeks, but only sticking to one or possibly two delivery days. It pretty much takes me three days to prep and do all the baking for one / two delivery days. I invited one of my staff back on the second week, as I was overwhelmed with orders. It was quite easy adhering to social distancing, as we stuck to our areas of the kitchen, but there are no walls in between so we could have a good old chat and a laugh while we were prepping.

With Sian’s advice (and against my will!), I started doing short videos just keeping customers updated on what was going on in the business. It is the first time I have ever done videos of myself, and I pretty much sent it to Sian straight away (without overthinking about what I look like or criticising all my flaws). The impact of the videos has been positive, and it just feels like I am connecting with people on a different level. I have been walking around the supermarket, and someone has shouted “your cheesecake looks absolutely lush!” and “you are the afternoon tea girl”…Lol!! Putting a face to the business has made me look at it differently. I have always known that it’s essential to put a face to the business, but I always made an excuse not to do it, I suppose. More than anything it gives that personal touch, which I think is so important these days. I hope to continue with the deliveries throughout lockdown, and beyond (hopefully)! Who knows, this might be a side of the business that won’t disappear once the virus has subsided and things have started to settle down. I am not putting all my hopes on this, as it’s best to keep going with the demand and evolving with this uncertain economy. Still, for now, it is working, and the business is maintaining it’s loyal customers and gaining new ones! Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading my first EVER blog!! I hope I done ok, and you haven’t fallen asleep? I have enjoyed writing this and would love to continue writing monthly. It will be strange reading this back in months/years to come and remembering everything that everyone has gone through and realising how our world changed after covid 19.

Thanks for reading.

Stay Safe

Liz x

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