7 Things I’ve Learnt to Grow My Wedding Business

29 October 2020
Vaani Wadman | Sugar Plum Bakes | Wedding mentor | Buttercream Cakes | Rebecca Carpenter Photography

There are so many factors that come into running a wedding business. The practical areas which are fundamental to the operation of any business but what I’ve learned is that there are key things that I had to do to get myself and my cakes noticed in the wedding industry. There wasn’t just one surefire thing, but a multi-pronged strategy to work on lots of things simultaneously, working on the building blocks of my business to establish a strong foundation from which I could achieve anything. I know some of the areas I work on might not be the obvious ones but they’ve really helped me through this challenging year. I believe they’ve helped me to stay visible and keep my business strong so that I’m well positioned for the coming years.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

I know this is a big subject to open with but tackling my imposter syndrome issue was key to getting my business growing. When I started my business, this was the hurdle I had to really overcome to get myself seen. Before I started making wedding cakes, I was working as a Chemical Engineer but I’d always had this creative pull within me. After my children were born, I was baking like crazy and everyone was telling me how delicious and how pretty my cakes were – so I decided to throw myself in the deep end and commit to selling cakes for a living. Although I had the courage to put myself out there, what I didn’t have, in this new line of work, was self belief in my abilities. I would question myself as to why anyone would want to order anything from me, I felt inexperienced, I was still establishing myself so I was under-charging for my work – I was yet to see myself as an artist offering something unique. I knew there was an inner voice that I had to face. To overcome it, I had to lean into the people who were supporting me, the people who were my champions. Listening to the positive voices and uplifting words helped to drown out that negative inner voice. I’d started my business with a purpose and a reason, and actually it felt like a calling for me – I had to keep reminding myself why I wanted to do this. Remind myself of my passions for starting my business and why it was so important to me to be providing this service. I think when you’re a creative, that inner voice is always there, but it’s about making a choice to NOT let a negative voice control who you are. If I’m ever feeling a little uncertain, I go back to a list of kind words and messages that I keep, to remind myself that I am good enough. I’ve even got a few voice notes saved from lovely people who’ve praised me and my work. That collection of positivity all fuels a little fire inside of me to keep me going. 

Nurturing my Website

Ok, so everyone pretty much knows that in order to have a successful business, you need a website. So when I started up, the first things I did were to set up a website and print business cards. I sat back and waited for the business to come. I’d talk to people about my new venture, hand out business cards so I did get orders through word of mouth, but my website was getting virtually no traffic. I came to realise that my website is my most powerful tool for attracting clients. I learnt that how I used my website could determine the type of client that would find me. I changed up the images of my work and wrote a few different types of blog posts and with practice, I found my voice, I figured out what I wanted to say. I know there are keywords you can use in your copy, but I’ve always chosen to write from my heart. I write about what makes me passionate for my business, about the processes I believe in, the things that excite me, the people that I admire and aspire to be like. And then those authentic words resonate with an audience who value what I do it results in connections with clients that are really strong. For the work I do, because it’s so closely woven around love – the love of couples, the celebration of love, I believe being genuine is crucial. My website is the one place where I am in control, I’m not subject to rules of social media platforms. On my website I can share the images I’m proudest of, I can get my personality across through my copy and I can write about what matters to me. By constantly working on my website, I’m adding fresh content and building up its authority. My blogging style has changed over the years, as me and my business have evolved – but the key is that I have always been blogging. The main driver to my website is search engine traffic which means I’m not relying on advertising or social media platforms or wedding directories. 

Niching my brand 

When I first started up my business, I was pre-occupied with the day to day running of the business, the practical side of baking and decorating cakes and I was happy to receive for any kind of commission. I’d do a little dance for each and every order but then it dawned on me that not all of those orders were actually fulfilling and satisfying work. I was being asked to make all sorts of cakes and there were some orders that made my heart sink and others that filled me with joy.  I realised that I needed to market my business in a much more considered way, with the purpose of reaching an audience, and more importantly reach MY audience. To attract people who really connected with the cakes I loved to make, to attract clients who resonated with my ethos, my voice, my work. I know niching gets talked about a lot but it definitely is effective. As I became focused on a very specific kind of aesthetic and medium (buttercream cakes as you may well know) I was also listening to myself more. I think being self-aware about your offering when running a creative business is so important because if you’re unhappy about the work you’re carrying out, it will show. Rather than trying to doing everything and being master of all, narrowing down your offering means you can focus on something that you’re passionate about and that passion will come through positively in everything that you do.

Investing in myself

Coming from an engineering background, I had to learn many new things about running my own business. I took online courses and joined membership groups. Through different channels and different experts, I gleaned as much information as I could. I learnt about how to master my social media presence, how to improve my cake decorating skills, how to utilise branding to my advantage, improve my photography and got to connect with fellow wedding suppliers. I also recognised that outsourcing work that you feel isn’t your forte allows you to focus on the things you do well. This is an indirect way of investing in yourself as it can give you additional time that you can use to really hone your business and work on the areas that you excel at. I recently chose to work with a coach – this was one of the best investments I’ve made in myself. For so long, I’ve worked on things alone. Being part of a membership group is helpful as you can bounce ideas off people, but it’s not the same as having someone fully tuned in to what you’re doing. Someone who is invested in you. I realised that I could complete things faster because my coach kept me focused and on a path. In the past, I’d gone down side avenues because I wasn’t running my business with purpose – having a goal and a target is really important. My coach has certainly taught me that and helped me to grow more quickly.

Collaborate with wedding suppliers

In the wedding industry, there are many collaborative styled shoots happening, and even more so in the absence of weddings this year. Putting myself out there and getting involved with like-minded suppliers really helped to grow the footprint of my wedding business. As collaborative work like this is often done for free, and in exchange for images, it’s really important to be selective about the styled shoots you get involved in. I’ve used these opportunities to showcase my work, the kind of work that will attract the kind of people that I want to work with. By working with established suppliers and higher end suppliers, it has helped to elevate my own work. If I’m approached to work with a team, I always ask a lot of questions about the style, the vision, the aspiration, which wedding blog they are aiming to get featured on – this all helps in finding out if this shoot will re-inforce my own business or enable me to get into a part of the wedding industry that I want to work in. It’s about remembering your niche and whether the shoot will enhance the positioning of your business within that niche.

Maintaining self-care

A big reason of why I’d started my business was to be able to work on my terms. I wanted to be there for my children, to be able to do the school run and be present when they were home. It meant working on my business when they were at school or after they’d gone to bed. I worked like that for a few years but I was seriously neglecting my own well-being. We have a dog and I do get out regularly for beautiful walks in Richmond Park but I was squeezing in exercise only when I could. When I turned 44, I realised that I needed to make some positive changes for my health. I started eating more healthily and regularly, I committed to swimming 3 times a week (40 lengths at a time minimum) and also took up yoga. I was adding more things into my day, but actually all of those things have made me stronger mentally and physically. Now when I work, I am more efficient and focused. And I’ve also noticed that by looking after myself it has had a knock-on effect on my mindset and my attitude. I’ve always been a positive person, but having these strong routines in place that nurture my mind, my body and my soul has allowed me to keep a positive approach this year despite the adversities that Covid-19 has brought. I feel like I have strengthened my roots and so I can withstand anything that gets thrown at me. I’m looking to the future and taking actions to keep my business growing, I keep nurturing my website and this all has kept the enquiries coming in for 2021 and 2022.

Being innovative

When I chose to niche into buttercream wedding cakes I was finding that there were pre-conceptions about what a buttercream cake is like. This made me determined to showcase the beauty and the artistry that’s possible in this particular medium. I have never followed trends as I prefer to be led by what inspires me. I believe this is what keeps my work looking unique and original and has helped me stand out in a busy industry. By not replicating other people’s work and endeavouring to create artworks that are individual to me has helped to carve out a place for me and my business within weddings. Naturally there are trends each year within the wedding industry that will be popular with couples, but I think your business will always be stronger if you try to be a leader rather than a follower.

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