Baking hobby turns business

If you’ve been to a few celebrations on the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula in recent years, chances are you’ve seen or eaten the work of Goolwa cake maker and decorator Jessica Leslie.

Jessica LeslieAnd, if you’re a Facebook user, chances are you’ve seen her name pop up countless times as a recommendation when someone is seeking a cake for a function, no matter how big or small, or what the occasion might be.

Jessica’s interest in cooking and making cakes began when she was a child.

“I enjoyed baking with Mum from a young age and working at Port Elliot Bakery throughout high school,” she recalls.

“I started making my own birthday cakes very young and loved it.

“As soon as I moved to Adelaide to study teaching at uni, I was able to begin classes at night as a hobby and interest.”

This included taking formal classes over a four-year period alongside Adelaide’s best cake decorators

“I am a formally trained award-winning (state level) cake decorator,” she says proudly.

Having gained her teaching qualifications Jessica returned to the South Coast to teach at Investigator College, all the time continuing to grow her interest in cooking, making and decorating cakes for close friends and family.

But it wasn’t until she became a mother that her interest became more than just a hobby.

“When I stopped teaching to have children the business grew, changing from a hobby to a business,” she said.

The transition from hobby to business was not without its challenges.

“One of my biggest challenges was being able to run a professional business from home without making huge changes to our kitchen, as this would have eaten into my profit margin at the start,” she says.

“This was achieved with careful planning and being very organised with my baking schedule.”

Jessica’s Designer Cakes has grown into a successful business that produces up to seven decorated cakes and many café style products for The Boulevard Café at Encounter Bay each week, as well as countless orders from the public for birthday, anniversary, wedding and other celebratory cakes and treats.

As well, Jessica runs cake decorating classes and helps to organise the growing cake decorating section at the Port Elliot Show.  It was a proud moment for Jessica to see some of her students become award winners at the show in October.

At this time of the year Jessica is also busy putting together special Christmas treats, including gingerbread house kits.  She is also conducting gingerbread house making classes … all the while also carrying out her marketing, mainly through Facebook.

Despite her busy kitchen and busy life (with two children and about to embark on building their own home), Jessica still gets a great deal of satisfaction from baking.

“One of the best moments is when a client sees their cake after you have spent hours creating it and they absolutely love it.

“This is honestly the best feeling.”

But, as we all can appreciate, sometimes things don’t always go to plan – there are cakes that don’t work out, accidents that happen or weather conditions that aren’t quite right.

“When things don’t go to plan, I sit down, have a coffee and carefully think through how I can still meet the deadline,” she said.

“I plan out the cakes, and what needs to be done, and then I keep working until that delivery takes place.

“You can honestly achieve anything if you set your mind to it, and always leave time for unplanned events.”

And like most of us in business, Jessica also has to face some fussy customers.

“I have customers come to me as they have heard about how I am particular and that I’m known for my attention to detail.

“I treat clients the way I like to be treated, and I take true pride in my work.

“As a result I now have a very large client base that keeps me busy all year around.”

Apart from word of mouth advertising and Facebook, Jessica also attributes some of her success to getting a foot in the door at local cafes.

“After I introduced my products to local cafes, this has proven an excellent stage for me for people trying my products and then ordering cakes.”

And don’t think Jessica is happy just resting on her laurels with her home baking business.

“We’re aiming to introduce macarons and 3D moving cakes to the range in the near future,” Jessica said.

Lessons to share:

•When disaster strikes – Take a moment to sit down and carefully think through a plan of how to get the job done.
•Planning – Take time to carefully plan your time.
•Don’t overspend – Look at ways you can save money by not over capitalising.