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Making Your Business Work with Your Kids

Birthday cakes in Bradford

I'm sitting in the dining room, frantically painting royal icing drips gold while my kids watch a film in the next room.

I'm in my car while my toddler naps, sketching cake designs on my lap for a client in the precious few minutes before she wakes up.

I'm frantically tidying up the downstairs of the house before someone comes to pick their cake up, in vain because soon as they arrive the kids spill out of the living room, yelling and showering crumbs all over the vicinity.

I'm making ganache when my daughter starts screaming in bed, meaning I rush upstairs and when I come back down it's ruined.

A lot of the time people ask me how I manage to run a business, look after my kids and do all the other stuff in life. The answer is complicated but today I want to talk about a few things I've learnt about how to run my business around my family... because I (mostly!) don't do any of the things above any more.

1) One thing at a time

First, I aim and for the most part succeed in only being in one role at once. I don't try and be a mum while I'm trying to be a baker or businesswoman. That means not icing cakes when the kids get home from school, not replying to messages and emails on my phone while they're doing their homework, and not decorating cupcakes while they're all waiting for me to get them a snack. I try and have a clear boundary between my time as parent and time at work, just like I would with any other job. Working from home means the lines are blurred, which can be an asset as well as a challenge, but it does mean you have to be pretty strict about separating things. I find I'm a terrible mum and terrible businesswoman when I'm trying to do both at once. I make mistakes, I'm short with my daughters and I don't do anything wholeheartedly. When I make myself do one thing at a time, I'm fully present for each role.

2) Work FAST and smart

"Work expands to fill the time you give it". This is very true. If you give me 3 hours to bake X number of cakes, I'd do it. If you gave me 4 hours, I'd get the same amount done. I learnt early on to wring every ounce of productivity from each minute I have. I used to drop my youngest at playgroup (she went for 2 x 2 hours per week), rush home, bake my socks off then rush back to get her. That is how I ran my business for nearly the first year! I worked a lot of evenings and weekends, but I got a lot done in those 4 hours! And sadly, a lot done while the kids watched telly, played, bathed, etc... Nowadays it's astounding how much I can get done in a short space of time. This doesn't just depend on speed; it means forward planning and good systems. I'm pretty organised so I can batch bake each week, don't run out of ingredients while I'm baking and can double up on fillings and coverings. BONUS: time is money, so the faster I work, the more profit I turn.

3) Learn to say NO

Wedding cakes in Ilkley

This is the one I'm still the worst at. I have recently overworked myself pretty badly due to my children all being at school for the first time, and me saying yes to more orders than I used to because I have double the time. But saying yes to too much is a recipe for disaster. I think I am better than I used to be.... maybe ask my husband on that one!

4) Have a minimum order and charge the right price

When you don't have much time, it's important to be sensible about what work you take on. It's tempting to say yes to every little thing because you don't want to let anyone down, but then you actually end up losing money if you take on certain types of work. I have minimum orders in place, and limited flavour options if an order is small, so that I can make sure I work it into a batch bake I'm doing anyway, and it's still going to be worth my while. The worst feeling is that you've spent ages on some work only to realise you lost money on it (or made a pittance) AND you lost that time with your family. It's only worth doing if it's worth doing.

6) Kill two birds with one stone!

Recently, every weekend I've had cakes to deliver or set up somewhere. Instead of going off and doing this on my own, we've thought of a fun day out we can have nearby, taken a picnic and after we've dropped the cake off, we've had a really good time together as a family. This is just one way to make the two things work with each other. Another is asking my kids to help me put cupcake boxes together or cut ribbon, letting them play with scraps of fondant and make their own decorations, etc. Sometimes you don't have to do either/or, as long as you are present for both roles.

7) Balance is a myth

I don't believe there's any such thing as balance. You can't have a week where you've equally spent time on your family and your work. Some weeks your job will demand more time, other weeks it's important to focus on your children or spouse or others in your life. I think it's ok to realise that you can't give equal amounts of time and energy to everything at once. The important thing is to have your priorities straight over all.

It's still a work in progress in our home, but I feel like I've learnt so much and we are all a lot happier than we used to be with the way we do things. Although there are challenges with working at home, there are also a lot of benefits to it as well.

I'd love to hear about any of your tips on working around your family!

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