Jemma started baking as a hobby while still at school, mastering the art of creating beautiful birthday cakes, cupcakes and munchie boxes from a log cabin in her parents’ garden. Now as a full-time university student and creator of The Cupcake Stop, Jemma is preparing for the exciting opening of her very own shop in Cove, which will serve lots of sweet treats, coffee, sandwiches, soups and of course, cakes!
We got the chance to catch up with Jemma about her exciting new business venture, what it’s like running her own business, and the importance of buying local in Aberdeen.
Why did you start your business?
“It was mainly the people around me giving me more confidence and telling me to just go for it! I was still at school at this point, but my mum would take the cupcakes I had made into her work and her colleagues would pay her 50p, which went straight into my holiday savings for Florida. That’s when I started making some money.
“When I went to university, I started working in a supermarket and quickly realised that it wasn’t for me, so I cut down on my shifts and even dropped out of uni (a couple of times!). It made me realise that I am a really independent person and like having my own freedom, so owning my own business seemed perfect for me. I think it was maybe 2018 when it really became a business instead of just a hobby.”
What was the inspiration behind your business?
“I came up with the name when I was about 15 and making cakes for my mum to take into her work. The logo didn’t come about until 2018 but my idea for that was to make it quite cute and fun and colourful to reflect what I was creating.”
What do you love most about your job?
“The freedom to choose what I enjoy doing. When I started with the munchie boxes that I have been creating every week, I found it fun because I am getting to make new recipes and try so many new things!
“I also really like it when people give me a good review - that’s really satisfying and makes me feel that it’s worth all the hard work. I want people to really enjoy what I make. If I don’t hear from a customer I always wonder if they liked it or not, so getting a review or a message really makes a difference.”
What’s your favourite type of cake to make?
“I think my favourite thing I’ve created would be the cookie dough, because it took me so long to get that right! I was trying out the recipe for months and it either wouldn’t set or it just wasn’t the way I wanted it, and then eventually I finally got it! So I think that’s my favourite just now because I’m pleased that I actually managed to do it.
“I think it depends on the day though. Sometimes the munchie boxes are my favourite things to create because it’s always different, which is fun. But then sometimes when I’m making a birthday cake I’ll get an idea in my head and if it turns out the way I want it to, that’s a bit more satisfying, whereas the munchie boxes are more fun and creative for me”.
Why are you so passionate about what you do?
“I don’t know why I started to love making cakes so much, as I don’t actually like cakes that much myself! I really enjoyed home economics at school and making cakes as a hobby came really easy to me - just like how so many people in lockdown have been making cakes for something to do. When I was younger, that’s what baking was for me, whereas now I really like it because it makes people happy - especially now during lockdown. The munchie boxes are something that my customers say they look forward to, which is really nice.”
What’s been your biggest achievement so far?
“I would say getting the shop! That was always the end goal and it’s happened a lot earlier than I expected. The only reason that has happened is because of lockdown and everyone making more of an effort to support local businesses.
“I’m also going into my third year of International Hospitality Management at RGU, and it’s been really challenging doing that while also starting up my own business. My last assignment I had for uni was due on a Friday, which is always my busiest day for the business with weekend orders - it was really stressful! I was up all night finishing my report and had 60 afternoon teas to prepare! Luckily I passed that unit after all!”
What’s your advice for someone thinking about starting a business in Aberdeen?
“I think being active on social media is obviously really important. If you’re not then it’s a lot harder to get your business out there, especially for people my age. That’s the only way I look for businesses - it’s just the way things are now. So I like to use my social media accounts for family and life updates too, like a blog, because I think people relate to that a lot.
“I would also say just give it a go and if it doesn’t work then it doesn’t work, it won’t be the end of the world. Since I was starting up from home, it wasn’t as big of a risk. With the shop as well, I just decided to go for it because I still live at home with my mum and dad, so if I open up this shop and it goes really badly, what’s the worst that could happen?
“There’s nothing to lose in just trying it. People have said to me ‘is it not a bit risky getting a shop just now with everything that’s happening with lockdown, and although it is risky, it’s also the best time to do it. The shop that I want is there and available.”
Why do you think it’s so important for people to buy local?
“I hope that more people support local businesses and remember how they adapted to help their customers during lockdown. I’m just making cakes which aren’t really essential, but for businesses like mine or your local butcher shops, for example, they’re basically people who live just next door or down the road. People who own big supermarkets don’t live round here or care in the same way that a small local business does. We can’t forget about local businesses because when you buy from them you’re supporting a whole family and a livelihood - there’s actually a person behind it, it’s not like a big corporation.”
What’s been the hardest / scariest part of starting your business?
“I would probably say balancing everything. Before, I was working in a supermarket, going to uni and running my business. It's only been in the last year that I quit my other job and started concentrating more on my own business.
“It’s scary having so much going on at once and being the only person in charge of it all. I started a new order enquiry form last week and got 70 enquiries all at once, which is 70 emails that I need to go through. That’s on top of making the cakes, trying to get the shop organised, keeping up with university and all while trying to keep some sort of social life and time to relax too!
“Since I just work on my own at the moment, my mum and my boyfriend help out when things get a bit too busy for me to manage by myself, which takes a little bit of pressure off.”
What’s been the most exciting or rewarding part of running your own business?
“Probably getting nice feedback from customers. Someone sent me a really lovely message the other day and I cried! I was having a really stressful week and everything that could go wrong, did. The nice feedback made such a difference though.
“There’s no obligation for people to give you feedback, so when they do that’s the nicest part of running a business. Even just a little message, sharing a photo of the cakes or recommending the page to their friends and followers, it all makes a big difference - especially for someone like me who overthinks everything and worries that people won’t like what I’ve made them!”
What are your favourite local businesses right now and why?
“LN Design - “Super helpful and absolutely lovely. They helped with making boxes for me, her stuff is amazing too! She’s very creative.
“ByPlatter - “Their Instagram is amazing to look at, they’re definitely an example of a business who’s doing it right.
“Carnie&Poole - “They’re my new neighbours in Cove and I’m excited to be just next door to another local business.
“Once Upon a Balloon - Debbie is the best lady ever, will go above and beyond, and everything she creates is beautiful.”
What are your top baking tips for people doing this as a hobby?
“My advice would be not to just give up if a recipe hasn’t worked - you’ll never get anywhere doing that! I’ve been trying to teach my mum how to bake during lockdown and she gets really disheartened when something doesn’t work. It happens to me all the time, but I obviously don’t post about it on social media. If you just keep trying, tweak the recipe a little bit or even try exactly the same thing again, it’ll eventually work.”