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2 Aug 2023

Business Love Stories – Occasion Cakes

Welcome to Occasion Cakes, Boltons premier destination for celebration cakes.

Since 1985, they have been taking pride in ensuring every creation is nothing short of perfection. Believing that a celebration isn’t complete without a delectable centerpiece, their extensive range features an array of enchanting cakes to make your special day truly unforgettable turning your dreams into reality with personalised designs reflecting your individual style that bring a slice of happiness to any joyful occasion.

Join us as Steve takes us on a delightful journey through the world of sweetness and artistry and discover the magic of Occasion Cakes.

What made you set up on your own?

“It all started when my wife, drawing from her experience working for a chain of shops in the northwest, recognised a significant gap in the market for special occasion cakes. Then in 1985, she entered the 'Birth of a Business' competition which she subsequently won. Coincidentally, during that period, I was working as a journalist at the Bolton Evening News when I came across an article about the competition and this encounter would shape the course of our lives, ultimately leading to a true business love story.”

Can you remember the moment you decided?

“During her time in her previous role, the brilliant idea for Occasion Cakes came about as she felt there was a gap in the market waiting to be filled. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, as it was around this time she entered 'Birth of a Business' competition, and to her amazement and delight, won, securing not only the title but also a substantial cash prize that would serve as the steppingstone towards fulfilling her dream of working for herself. Winning the competition was the ultimate validation of her talent, giving her the boost of confidence, she needed to take that leap into running a small business.”

How would you describe your relationship with your business right now?

“After years of dedication and efforts, my wife has finally reached a point where she can embrace a more flexible work schedule, devoting her time to the business for three or four days a week. Thanks to the remarkable team of ten talented and dedicated staff members and manager, she is able to adopt a less hands-on approach while still effectively running the business. This shift allows her to strike a healthier work-life balance, nurturing not only the business but also her personal well-being. Of course, there is always room for improvement.”

When was it at its worst? What was happening for you then?

“Unfortunately, our journey has had its share of challenges. A few years ago, we were struck by a devastating theft incident that had a significant impact on our business. It was an incredibly trying time for us, both emotionally and financially. However, more recently Covid-19 brought its challenges as it did for everyone. With strict lockdown measures in place, gatherings were prohibited, resulting in a sudden decline in demand for cakes for weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations. Fortunately, during this difficult period, the government introduced financial assistance schemes to support businesses like ours. These lifelines provided much-needed relief, allowing us to access the necessary funds to stay afloat. In compliance with lockdown rules, we made the difficult decision to temporarily close our doors and furlough our valued staff. While it was a challenging time, the government support enabled us to meet our financial obligations and weather the storm.”

What advice would you give to another owner who’s feeling disillusioned?

“Being in business for many years, you inevitably encounter different challenges and experiences. However, nothing could have prepared us for the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As time goes on and your business matures, reaching a position where you can enjoy the security of valuable assets, adds an extra layer of stability and freedom to your business.”

What keeps you connected to why you started your business in the first place?

“It’s a bit like a unicycle, once you are on it you must maintain your balance and keep going. This analogy holds true for us as we manage a team of 9 exceptional staff members, integral to our operations, and who we have responsibilities for. Moreover, our business has become established and renowned in the Northwest of England over the years and through our longevity and commitment, we have formed deep connections with the local community.”

Would you say you love your business?

“Continuing with the unicycle analogy, there comes a moment when you realise the importance of consistently pedaling forward. In our case, as a business, we find ourselves creating up to 180 cakes per week. Cakes are a happy product, integral to celebrating special occasions. This happiness is evident in both our satisfied customers and the overall success of our business.”

What do you love about working for yourself?

“Having the flexibility to spend time with our grandchildren is incredibly valuable to us. Running a business can be quite stressful, balancing various responsibilities and multitasking as the ultimate responsibility rests on our shoulders and therefore, it becomes crucial to take time for ourselves, recharge, and enjoy moments with our loved ones.”

How seasonal is our business?

“The seasonality of our business has changed over time, previously, we experienced a concentration of weddings during specific periods, however, there has been a noticeable shift, and now weddings are more evenly spread throughout the year with November tending to be quieter as people save for Christmas and January sees a lull as people recover from their holiday expenses. However, an increasing number of couples choose to have their wedding ceremonies abroad, followed by a reception back home.”

We’re living in interesting times; what steps are you taking to ensure your future?

“Looking at ways to make cost savings, which includes reviewing our suppliers and utility suppliers plays a crucial role in our business. Also, we have diversified and expanded our offering with the introduction of online Gingerbreads tailored for special occasions like graduations and birthdays, enabling us to cater to a wider audience and where customers can conveniently place their orders, and we promptly deliver them.”

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