Today I welcome Sibel Suleyman to YHP.
Can you give me a bit of background to yourself?
After graduating from Brunel University with a politics and history degree, like most graduates, I entered the world of the 9 to 5. It seemed like the natural course to take, although it went against how I really saw my life unfolding. I worked in various positions for a few years, from local government to the recruitment industry, but could not ignore the fact that I wanted to start my own business. I felt that the longer I spent working for somebody else, the longer I cheated myself out of doing what I had dreamed about for so many years.
What did you take from your experience of working the normal 9-5 when starting your own business?
I definitely took away the discipline element of things as starting your own business requires a very high level of discipline and time keeping. So in the same way that I used to complete tasks on time for my managers, I now had to complete tasks on time for myself.
Tell me about The Velvet Couture Bakery:
The Velvet Couture Bakery was the first time I ventured out alone in business – daunting if I must say so myself! The concept behind The Velvet Couture Bakery was to create cakes inspired by seasonal fashion trends, therefore creating fresh and eye-catching options for the customer. I wanted to create cupcakes that had that extra touch of detail and dessert tables that fit themed events. After attending a day course, I then taught myself how to bake and decorate through reading books, watching YouTube videos and general experimentation - It was challenging but worth the trial and error.
What was the inspiration behind the business?
My inspiration came from wanting to enter the saturated cupcake industry with a new concept. It would have been easy to follow the popular concepts, but I wanted to stand out and create something with an innovative edge. So, I started to think about how I could approach the business from a fresh angle. After brainstorming and researching, I came up with the concept of cupcake collections based on the hottest fashion trends of the season. I thought this would not only give the customer more than just a cupcake, but also designs that would be revived along with fashion trends.
Who is your customer?
My customers ranged from wedding/event planners, fashion labels to private parties, baby showers, birthdays and christenings. Some of my biggest clients included Dr Martens and the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners.
How did you go about getting your first few customers?
My first few customers were acquired through trading at markets in order to spread the word and gain confidence in my product. It was one of the best ways to help me modify my product to suit my customers needs and in turn gradually gain a bigger customer base.
How did you fund the business initially?
I was initially able to fund the business with my own capital due to the relatively low start up costs of my business model.
What has been the biggest challenge you faced when starting your business?
The biggest challenge I faced when starting off was maintaining motivation and confidence. A positive mental state and belief in yourself is one of the most important things required when starting a business, especially if you are starting off alone. It was definitely learning process and something that I needed to spend time working on. During my start up phase, I was lucky enough to have a coach who helped me understand what motivated me and how I worked best. This was key to my progression at the early stages of the bakery.
Did you always want to start your own business?
Definitely! I was exposed to business from a young age, as my dad owned a building and property development company, so starting my own business was always something that I saw as the norm. The business world was definitely something that fascinated me from a young age.
What advice would you give any aspiring entrepreneurs?
One thing I would advise budding entrepreneurs is to make sure you highlight your strengths when starting any project in order to figure out where you fit best in your business. It is very easy to end up thinking that you must work in every area - this is not the case and sometimes physically impossible and overwhelming. This is something I learned the hard way!
As your business expands, don’t be afraid of delegating or employ people who are great in the required areas otherwise you may burn out. Identify the areas lacking on your team and employ those who will help your business flourish – with a great team, anything is possible!
It’s true, you always need a great team around you, but how have you ensured that you hire the right people for your company?
Hiring is initially one of the hardest things and learning how to chose the most suitable candidates may be trial and error. It is important that you know the position yourself in order to complete a job description that covers all the key areas of strength required. Make sure you have evidence of past work experience and that you clearly understand how it relates to the position you are hiring for, this will allow you to chose the most suitable candidates.