• Ali

The way small business has changed (& what it means for gluten-free cake)

Updated: Apr 16


It'll come as no surprise to you that I did A level Business Studies at school. After all, someone who runs their own business has to have start somewhere, right?

It was all pen and paper in those days (sigh).

But that was nearly 30 years ago and business has changed a lot since then. I mean, who could have anticipated the major change the internet has had on the way we buy and sell? Practically everyone now is their own business person (and I don't mean this lightly - look at how many of us regularly sell on places like eBay and Gumtree).

Businesses have changed considerably because of the internet. Not only do I not need to leave the house, I don't even have to pick up the phone anymore if I want something. Even a chiropractic appointment can be made via an online booking system.

And if anyone wants to get major headline news, they can make it happen by posting a YouTube video or writing a blog. We don't solely rely on newspapers, television programmes and magazines anymore.

So what has this meant for my business? It's meant I was able to start it from home 7 years ago and get people to know about it. I didn't have to have a shop front or take out a regular advertisement in a cake magazine. I was able to shout about it online.

It wasn't long before I became number 1 for "gluten-free cake" on Google (within Bristol, that is - type this in if you need a local baker in Australia and it won't be so useful if I come up first!). I've been able to build a following on Facebook and Twitter, which is invaluable for having advice from customers & industry experts (such as changes they'd like within the gluten-free industry).

But what would it have been like if the internet hadn't existed?

Firstly, I reckon I'd have had to have had a shop, and that's a huge investment when you don't yet know whether anyone will be interested in your products. I looked at one on Whiteladies Road once. It was £45,000 in rent for one year. FORTY-FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS! (I know what you're thinking: bargain.)

(It wasn't this one, but it did look something like it, without the green tiles.)

I'd also have had to rely on a lot of magazine advertising and going to trade fairs. Again, this is a massive investment when you're just starting up.

So the thing I'm most grateful for is I was able to start my business back in 2012 with a pitch that cost me £19. It was on the harbourside and I was gifted the most glorious sunshine. I'd slaved for 3 days over the different cupcakes, jams, fudges and frostings and then spent 6 hours straight getting passers by to take interest. (If you're wondering, I sold all but two cupcakes, which was the best outcome I could have hoped for - if I'd sold out, I'd have wished I'd baked more, and the other possibility is an obvious no-no.)

My 1st stall - just look how excited I am!

And when I reflected on this recently, it occurred to me to write to my former Business Studies teacher to tell him about it (yes, he's still working at the same school, which either means he was very young back in 1992 or is quite close to getting a letter from the Queen).

I'm not quite sure why I wrote the letter. Perhaps I thought he'd wonder every now and then what happened to his students over the years. So maybe it'll be a nice surprise that (at least) one of them has gone into business. I certainly like to think so!

Where do you think the future of small business lies? Share your thoughts below and I'll reply!


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