By N. L. Bowen
Cake Central, a new multifaceted business is not the average cake store. It offers novelty cakes, which are the company’s signature items, cake supplies and classes in cake decorating. The store is located in Bridgetown and it is experiencing a tremendous growth in business. I had the pleasure of meeting Allysen Layne, co owner of Cake Central. Due to her dedication and desire for continuous learning, Allysen ensures that her business remains relevant and competitive.
This ambitious, vibrant and very creative 28 year old, details her journey from student to entrepreneur, and she believes that if she can operate her own business anyone else can.
Who is Allysen Layne and what is your post at Cake central?
I am the co owner of Cake Central and the company’s ‘decorator extraordinaire’. I co- own it with my mother, who does the baking and administrative side of the business, so I consider us as the ‘perfect team’. I love to work with my hands and love the art of cake decorating. I have been decorating cakes for about 7 years.
What event in your life led to the creation of the business and when was it established?
I love food and when I was in secondary school I wanted to go overseas to culinary school, but my father suggested that I study at UWI rather than overseas, because of the high cost of studying there – about $300,000! I therefore studied Psycholgy & Literature at the UWI, but about a year or two into university I got bored and wanted something to do with my hands.
I started looking around for cooking classes, and I found that there were more baking classes than there were cooking. I knew a lady who did a cake decorating class and she told me that she did it at Israel Lovell Foundation for $50! So I went there and it gave me an introduction in decorating. From there I moved on to Joan’s Sugar Craft and Pastry Centre and I learned to do the flowers, etc.
However, when I left UWI I could not get a job, and as a result I was ‘bored out of my mind’. I therefore tried baking and started a home business (Edible Expressions). I later taught at the Deighton Griffith School ‘off and on’ and worked at a friend’s cupcake store while she was on maternity leave. I however had to quit that job because of the stress of teaching and managing that business.
About a year later, my mother told me that she wanted to work doing something different, and we thought about a hand bag or jewellery store. Since I know the cake supply business and the art of cake decorating, I suggested cake supplies. The business at first was therefore a cake supply store, but to get extra income I started baking cup cakes, so it then morphed into what it is now. Cake Central was established about two and half years ago.
Besides support from your mother, what other support did you receive from family?
In addition to my mother’s support as an accountant, I received lots of help from my father who did most of the renovations… he also built the cupboards for the store. My sister is a graphic designer/ animator, and she assisted with branding and advertising. She also gave me a few tips in photography.
What challenges did you encounter in the initial stages?
I dealt with financial struggles (barely breaking even) because business was slow. The biggest challenge was employees stealing from the company!!! Hence the decision to be present at the business so that we could monitor trends.
How do you balance the business and your personal time?
Right now there is no such thing as personal time. There is business time and UWI time and honestly I don’t have time to sleep. Sometimes I go to sleep at three in the morning and by six I am up, but I try to balance everything. I am also pursuing my Master’s in Literature and trying to develop myself.
What advice would you give to those seeking to establish their own business?
– Be cautious and make wise financial decisions. Don’t over spend, especially on buying things that are not for the business.
– Invest in the business and in your skill set.
– Do your market research because you would not want to put all of your time and effort into something that may not work.
– Test the market first to find out what people want and what they are willing to pay.
– Finally you have to truly love what you do, if not you are going to burnout.
– Due to her style of dress (jeans and t-shirt), Allysen considers herself to be ‘one of the most homely looking people walking around’. She admits that within about 20 minutes of arriving at work she is covered in corn starch!
– Loves to read and is a self proclaimed ‘Romance Junkie’, but she also loves suspense novels.