Single mum of two Christina Saccoh juggles a busy career as a teacher and private tutor with a new cake business. We found out why it was important to her to start her own business, how she did it, and how she makes such a hectic life work.
What’s your background?
I’ve been a teacher for 11 years now. I used to be a head teacher, but I scaled work down in favour of a life a few years ago.
I love to learn and move forward, but I have always been desperate to work for myself, doing something I love. I have two daughters – my eldest is 18 in January, and is off to uinversity to read law next year, and my youngest is two, and a real ball of energy. I come from a difficult background, and I was the first person on both sides of my family to attain GCSE’s, A’ Levels, a degree, and an MA. My daughter is the second!
I became a single mum when my eldest was four and I was in the middle of a degree. I remarried when she was 14, and my husband left me when I was seven months pregnant with my second daughter. My daughter was born prematurely, and I was forced to return to work full-time when she was only three weeks old.
It’s been tough, but my eldest daughter is amazing, as are my friends, who really helped me. It all made me take stock. I have always been a very high powered career woman, but now I just want to be with my girls, so I am trying to make it all fit.
When did you start your cake business?
I originally started the business in 2010, but because of my personal situation everything became too uncertain, and I had to stop before everything took off. I simply didn’t have the time or money. So I gathered myself, saved and planned. I officially launched in Aug 2013.
What inspired you to start it?
Many things made me start it, but essentially I want to work for myself and be around for my girls. I also know I have the capacity to run a successful company, and I needed to prove it to myself. As a teacher, parent and female it’s important to be a good role model. I want people to know being a single mum doesn’t need to stop you. Things happen but there are ways to get on, and there are always people who are happy to help if you are willing to make the effort!
What makes your business special?
Me! I’m probably not your average cake maker or teacher. My mum is Roma, my dad half white and half Jamaican. I’m a single, tattooed mum, with a penchant for bacon double cheese burgers!
My customers tell me my cakes are different. But more importantly, my cakes are affordable without compromising on quality or wow factor.
How do you balance your business and work?
As well as my business and day job teaching at secondary level, I also privately tutor. It’s hard work, but I’m determined. I have a set amount of hours I do for school work, and then after that time I switch to cakes. I always wait until my two year old is in bed before I start any kind of work, so very often I am crawling into bed at 2am!
I did once do a full 24 hours without going to bed. Not recommended, but this has simply got to work!
And how do you balance everything with your family?
As soon as I finish school I go home and spend time with my girls. We always sit down to dinner together. I try and incorporate cakes into our family time too – my two year old loves to decorate her own cupcakes while I’m doing big cakes.
I also care for my gran, so we spend Sundays with her every week and enjoy a roast dinner together. Thankfully as a teacher I have good holidays, which means my daughters and I can get some good quality time together.
I don’t have any family close by. My elder sister is the nearest in Oxford, but she’s a real supporter of my business and often turns up at the weekend to help!
How did you go from having an idea to launching your business?
I took business advice from free services, and my local council offered me funding for a Business Advisor for six months. She was brilliant and helped me to devise a business plan.
I had saved some money, got equipment together, and once I had the plan, I just did it! My gran gave me £1,000 out of the blue, and that was a really emotional moment for me as she isn’t at all wealthy. It really helped me to be able to plan more effectively for the future.
What have been your successes so far?
I got bookings within the first week of starting. I thought carefully about my image and this paid off. Social media has worked really well for me. PayPal picked us up on Twitter and commissioned us to make a cake for them. That was HUGE for us, and got us some great media attention.
Because of that we have just been asked to be part of a competition to ‘win a wedding’. This is launched by the Nottingham Evening Post. In terms of exposure for us it will be massive, too.
I’m already fully booked until February next year, and even have two orders for 2015! For the length of time we have been running (officially), this is a real boost.
The best thing though is the feedback I have had about our customer service and the quality of our products. I have already had three repeat customers.
What hasn’t gone as you expected, and how has it helped you make positive changes?
So far things are okay. I have had to be realistic in terms of the amount of customers we are going to generate – when we started I was expecting to be flooded with orders, and when you have invested so much financially it is a worry.
The other thing I have done is gone back to my logo and branding. I decided that I needed to look at my customer base again, as I didn’t think I had it right in the beginning. But I have taken on some specialists to ensure I get things just right. This means that I have wasted some money, but it’s been a learning curve.
What’s your vision for the future?
By five years time, I’m hoping to be firmly on the map. I’d love to have a shop, and to be a recognised brand. I want to teach others to decorate. But I would also love to use my teaching skills to help others get into business, and mentor other females and single mums.
What advice would you give to other mums wanting to start a business?
DO IT!! What are you waiting for? Use every scrap of social media you can. The advice, contacts and ideas I have gleaned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc have helped put my business on the map. I have been able to swap services, get things done much more cheaply than usual, and made some great friends. So many people will help you, the support is there.
Speak to your local council too, as most offer some sort of business support. Contact women’s groups, and also ask other business owners if they can mentor you.
If you are on a low income you can usually get a business start up grant. Just research, research, research!
You can learn more about Christina’s cake business and see more of her talented creations on her website.