Down to Business: Good Cake Day

Jenessa Williams

We spoke with Chinelo Awa, founder of Good Cake Day, an independent bakehouse of brownies, celebration cakes and online masterclasses.

Reader's Digest: How did Good Cake Day get started, and how would you best summarise what you offer?

Chinelo: My cousin and a good friend of mine both had their own businesses, so I felt inspired to start my own. I wanted to do something that would allow me to help people feel special and loved. I’ve always loved a good cake and reconciling that with knowing how special we feel on our birthdays, I decided to start a cake business. After spending two years learning how to make cakes online, I registered Good Cake Day at Companies house on 21 December 2016. 

Four years later, I help people feel connected to their loved ones, glamming up their special occasions with unique buttercream cakes and luxury brownies. I call this my BLUSH Manifesto: Beautiful, Loved, Unique, Special and Human. 

Chinelo 

RD: How have previous roles helped you in what you do now?

Chinelo: I have four degrees in Law and International Business and always dreamed of being a commercial lawyer at an international law firm in London. On my rebellious days, I dreamt of being a business consultant. My LinkedIn profile reads like this: law firm, law firm, law firm, construction company, construction company, owner of a cake company! 

It seems unlikely, but my corporate background has given me the soft skills needed to run my business. From attention to detail to a knack for research, I keep finding myself using skills I learnt in law firms and construction companies in my business. For example, creating trackers on excel, reviewing legal documents and something as "simple" as knowing my way around a printer. I also think my legal and business background also helps with knowing how to structure my business. 

 

RD: How does your work compliment your personality?

Chinelo: I love engaging with people on a personal level. Having a business dedicated to helping people feel special definitely compliments my personality. I also love the flexibility of choosing my working hours and fitting my work around my lifestyle.

I was the art prefect in junior school and love that I can finally apply my creativity to my work! 

brownies

RD: Letterbox gifting has seen a real boom over lockdown—how does it feel to know you’re playing a part in spreading small instances of joy?

Chinelo: It feels absolutely fantastic! I love knowing I can brighten someone's day with a beautifully presented box of delicious brownies and a wax-sealed handwritten note. I've had customers say they felt like royalty when they unboxed their brownies and that makes all the long hours worth it. 

Writing out my BLUSH cards, I read so many personal messages. Some of my favourites were at the peak of lockdown when customers would send brownies to their loved ones to let them know they were thinking of them and looking forward to seeing them. I remember one particularly lovely message: “Thank you for being the sister I never had, for all your help and support during tough times. Thank you for being proud of me when I achieve and being genuinely happy for me in my happiness. Love you to the moon and back".

 

RD: Cake decoration has really taken on a whole new modern aesthetic, especially in the Instagram age. What designs of yours are you finding most popular?

Chinelo: Oh yes, the modern aesthetic is very in and I'm here for it! "Esmerelda" (below) is really popular. I've made her quite a few times and in two colours.

I think there is a new appreciation and expectation of cake as an artistic centrepiece not just food to be eaten. As you say, with Instagram and Pinterest being such visual platforms, aesthetically pleasing cakes are great for sharing and promoting your business.

Chinelo's Esmerelda cake, large and pink for a 60th birthday
The Esmerelda cake

RD: Where do you look for inspiration when developing a new product?

Chinelo: I rarely set out to develop a new product. I tend to get inspired by things I observe or conversations I have and then design products based on that. For instance, I was recently thinking about how people typically order cakes from a cake maker and then have to shop for party accessories like candles, cake toppers and balloons elsewhere. Typically, two or three other shops. 

I started to think about how simple it would be to have it all in one place. That was the inspiration for my Build Your Party Box. You can buy your cake, matching cupcakes, brownies, party hats, confetti balloons, stylish long gold candles, banner, Prosecco, non-alcoholic drink and so much more in one place! It’ll hopefully make the whole process a lot easier for people to celebrate.

 

RD: What does a typical workday look like for you? How has the business adapted for lockdown?

Chinelo: I typically start my day by checking emails and Instagram for urgent messages and updating my to-do list and/or shopping list. The rest of my day varies depending on whether I have upcoming cake orders. If I do, I'll spend the bulk of my day baking, planning my decorations and subsequently decorating the cakes. 

Wednesdays are my brownies prep days so I'm typically writing BLUSH cards (handwritten personal messages), making brownies, clarifying orders with customers (if need be) and preparing my packaging. Thursdays are my brownies boxing and dispatch day.

On days when I don't have upcoming cake orders, I update my website, draft social media copy, take pictures of new products, complete training courses, networking, research, catching up on finance admin, drafting reports and engaging with my online community on social media…there’s a lot to do! 

Like many during the lockdown, I pivoted my business from making large celebration cakes and in-person cake decorating classes to focusing on brownies and creating online classes. If someone had told me brownies would become a core part of my business, I would have laughed out loud. Before lockdown, I was selling three brownies every two-three weeks. I now average 25 per week and over 250 the week of Christmas. 

 chocolate brownies with mini eggs on top

RD: What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job?

Chinelo: My favourite part of my job is definitely seeing my customers' reactions when they receive their cakes and/or brownies. There's something really thrilling about seeing people appreciate things you think of in your head.

My least favourite part of my job is definitely admin! It takes me a lot of discipline to get admin done. 

 

RD: What do you like to do to switch off?

Chinelo: A good mani-pedi followed by a full body massage and brunch! I'm very much looking forward to June... 

 

RD: What has been the most valuable business lesson you’ve learnt so far? And what has been your most tangible achievement?

Chinelo: Success takes time! 

My most tangible achievement to date has been landing Google as a client over Christmas. 154 tins of brownies individually delivered to all members of a team, it was brilliant.

I'm also particularly proud of my media mentions since lockdown; from Reader's Digest calling my brownies "the most delicious brownies known to man" to BBC Good Food naming my brownies the best for a glam gift, it’s been really flattering.  

 Three tier white wedding cake with gold leaf decor
Good Cake Day's "Nneoma" wedding cake

RD: In five years time, where would you like to see the business?

Chinelo: On course to being established as a leading provider of unique buttercream cakes in London and UK postal brownies. I would love to have a reputation for being an accessible luxury cake brand-friendly, committed to making our customers feel special and being a wonderful place for employees to work. Think the Selfridges of the cake world! A US presence would also be amazing.

 

RD: Lastly, a very important question—at a celebration for you, what flavour and design would be your ultimate personal cake? 

Chinelo: Oh, I love this question! My vanilla sponge with mango, passionfruit and yuzu coulis with white chocolate buttercream.

I have a flamboyant design with edible ruffles, pearls and lace in pastel colours. It's soooo yummy! 

 

To learn more about Chinelo and her business, visit goodcakeday.com

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