Ladies, for part 2 we thought it was a good idea to bring you someone who is at the beginning of their entrepreneurial game. As you know OY is about the holistic approach in all areas and as such for this segment of Boss Lady, we are proud to present to you… Venessa of The 21st Cakery.
A former student of accountancy, Venessa has gone from filling columns to filling bellies and in doing so has turned her personal tragedy to triumph. Venessa’s story is filled with the strength, fortitude and determination it takes, to grow the entrepreneurial spirit needed to surpass the first year of a new business.
OY: Tell us a little bit about your background
V: My name’s Venessa, I’m Jamaican born and came to the UK when I was about three. I went through school and did alright. I went to university to do accounting and then I left that because it just wasn’t for me. Now I’m back at university and I’m studying nursing, I want to go onto Midwifery once I’ve finished my degree.
Last year I got pregnant, everything was fine and dandy until one day I woke up and I was bleeding. I called emergency services and then went into hospital. It turned out, I was going into early labour at 23 weeks. My son Amir was born, he lived for about 50 minutes and then he passed away. Despite the fact that it was an extremely sad situation I will forever remember the level of care I was given. Everyone tried their best and I would like to do that for someone, I’m a believer of “be the change you want to see”. Wherever you want to see yourself and you don’t see yourself, you need to go in and be that change.
OY: What made you decide to start your own business & how did you get started?
V: To be honest, when I was pregnant, I wasn’t working as much as I do now, and I was bored. I wanted to be the mum that would have the best cakes at the cake sale or when your birthday’s coming round you're like ‘oh yeah I’m going for the cake’ I wanted to be that mum, so decided to myself ‘yeah let me start baking’ and that’s how I started. After having my baby I stopped baking but to get through my grief, I decided to start baking again. I made my friend a cheesecake and she said she would actually buy it from me and I was like ‘why?’ She said ‘No, we need to do something here.” And she encouraged me to start my own business. I had some doubts, but after doing my research, I made a start.
OY: Was your industry welcoming?
V: Yes definitely, along the way there’s been quite a few bumps in the road or things I’ve struggled to get my head around and I’ve always had a lot of people I could reach out to. I have friends who are bakers and I even meet people through work. A woman come in the other day who was buying a bunch of butter and flour and so I asked her if she was a baker and this led to a really lovely conversation about baking, I meet people like that all the time. Really lovely people who are always ready to give advice.
OY: What tools do you use when things get tough?
V: When things go wrong, which they have a million and one times its tough. Like on my Instagram page you can see I made blondies, they took me months, I mean absolute months to perfect. They’re literally the devil of baking and every single time I’d make them I would throw them away. I’d make four batches in a row and had to throw them all away, but I’m still making them. So, I guess you could say that a tool that I use, although it’s not a physical thing, is determination.
The first time I got them blondies right I could’ve died, I was sooo happy, I can’t explain the happiness I felt! It’s just determination really. I don’t only want people to say something tastes nice, I want the presentation to be on point too, as we eat with your eyes right!
OY: What’s the best thing about owning your own business?
V: The creativity, the creative side of it. Especially with baking, it gives you the opportunity to really put your mind to work. When I do an Instagram post I have to plan it from the day before, what shots I want, how I want it, am I going to accompany my baking with a drink, what video am I going to take. It’s hard, it takes hours. My followers see the little pictures on Instagram, the finished product but hours of work had gone into it. It’s hard, but it’s that creative side that I love. But you can plan it all out and then sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but when it’s up and you’ve posted it you just feel so proud of it. I love that! It’s great to see your own achievements come to life.
OY: What 3 things have you learnt that you wish you knew earlier?
V: First thing is, this is hard. Seriously it’s hard, it’s hard work. You’re going to be disappointed; you’re going to cry. It’s going to work sometimes, sometimes not. It’s going to not work, more than it does. You know you can go into some things thinking it’s fool proof, there’s a market, people love sweet things etc. that’s not how it works. Really and truly if you don’t have tough skin or a sturdy back that s**t will knock you out because it is hard.
I feel like social media spend a lot of time glorifying being an entrepreneur, they don’t express the reality of it to an extent where they almost demonise the 9-5 but they don’t tell you what it takes to be an entrepreneur. You don’t go into entrepreneurship and be like ‘yep this is me’ and all of a sudden, you’re successful. It doesn’t work like that, it takes a lot. Be aware of the fact that the truth is there are times when you’re broke, there’s times when you’re going to be crying. Secondly, it’s a great thing if you’ve got a passion, then do it but know your why. Thirdly your why is what’s going to pull you through those hard days, your why is what’s going to pick you up when you get knocked down, so know your why!
OY: Who, if anyone, has inspired you, mentored you or have you aspired to be like?
V: Amir is my inspiration every single day, he, my son, is my why. I haven’t had anyone mentor me, not yet, there are certain people who I would love to have as a mentor, but it’s not happened yet. Who I would aspire to be like, well there are so many, but the Finch Sisters that own Finch bakery, I love them. They’re so themselves, some people when its business try to be all professional all the time but these lot show their personalities through their social media, and they show their ups and downs. which is honest. They’re making moves, they started out as two sisters who were baking now, they have a shop and they’ve just released a book.
OY: What advice would you give our sistas wanting to start a business?
V: If you’re passionate about it and it’s what you want to do then just do it. A lot of times people put things off because they don’t have equipment or money or whatever and they spend too much time focusing on what they don’t have rather than what they do. So just work with what you’ve got, what you’ve got is enough. Just start!
OY: What will you be doing next?
V: I’m hoping to go to the London Dessert Festival next year (April 2022). It’s going to be an amazing event and an amazing opportunity to meet people in the industry, consumers, and get myself out there. Also, I hope to have a certain level of consistency when it comes to the business with regular orders and regular customers.
OY: Where can we find you?
V: Instagram and Facebook are the best bet. I’m excited to share this to my Instagram because I normally talk about the baking, but this has been personal and helped me to come out the other side and make the decision to stay in the industry.
OY: Just so grateful to have had Venessa’s insight of her journey. Starting anything new is not only intimidating and nerve-wracking but as Venessa said…hard. However, Venessa has shown how her level of determination and perseverance has grown her and her business whilst still being grounded throughout. Her why has picked her up whilst her fortitude has kept her going. Ladies, this young lady approached our zoom meeting in a suit, with a smile and came ready to be open up her business doors to your eyes. Take this opportunity to peak in further and check out her socials IG: @the21stcakery or FB: @the21stcakery.
Venessa, Onyx Yayas would like to congratulate you on your first year in business and we wish you all the best with The 21st Cakery.