(Small Business Superstar) Taking your business online!

This week’s Small Business Superstar is Caroline from Hunkington House Kitchen.

A little bit about Caroline’s amazing business…

Hunkington House Kitchen is based in Shrewsbury offering wedding cakes/sweet treats, and more recently online classes via Zoom for keen bakers. Caroline had to adapt her business after the pandemic affected her wedding cake business and has now started to offer online classes to those who want to bake!

What one marketing thing made a difference to their business? 

Get online! Caroline has expanded her offering by giving her audience a chance to bake along with her via Zoom. Caroline designs and distributes kits and then joins keen bakers online to create their masterpieces. Classes so far have included Christmas Cake, Mince Pies and Christmas Cookies.

What difference did it make to them and their business? 

Caroline has sold out two lots of Christmas Cake classes and sold out the Christmas Cookies class so has added a new date! The online classes have meant that Caroline can reach a much wider audience and be more accessible to those who are not in the local area. Not only has this been a huge boost for Caroline in terms of love and passion, but it has also meant her business has been able to survive this year.

Where you can find Caroline


Facebook: @Hunkingtonhouse

Instagram: @Hunkingtonhousekitchen


Transcript below


Hello and welcome to this week's Thursday episode of the podcast. How the devil are you? I hope you're having a good week. So this week I have on the podcast, the very lovely Caroline from Hunkington House Kitchen. Caroline welcome to the podcast.


Caroline: Hi Teresa. How are you?


Teresa: I am good. Really good. I think I've just realized I've got lipstick on my, uh, on my face, but other than that, I'm good. So very professional here at, uh, Teresa Heath-Wareing Limited. Um, Caroline, please tell my audience who you are, what you do and how you got to doing the business that you do today.


Caroline: Okay. So first of all, thank you so much for having me. I am so excited.


Teresa: It's my pleasure. My pleasure.


Caroline: So, um, I'm Caroline. I live on the outskirts of shoe spray and say, I'm very proud owner of Huntington House Kitchen. I started this business full-time last March. So March, 2019, after taking redundancy from a very high-level HR job. Uh, we moved to Hunkington house in 2018. And I've always got a vision of, um, doing classes and wanted to do wedding cakes. And a kitchen is just phenomenal. So, because I wanted to do, um, uh, classes and I wanted to, um, do more than just cakes. I wanted it to be Hunkington house kitchen, um, and just think it. It works on a side.


I'm just absolutely loving it.


Teresa: So did you, cause you said you came from HR, so were you good at baking? cooking? Was it like how, how did that, was it always a thing that you were going to do that? Or how did that come about?


Caroline: I suppose it was a dream. If I'm totally honest. Loved, I've always loved baking. Um, if, uh, ever I had to go see anybody or go to work, it's always cupcakes.


Just cupcakes are my thing. Um, but yeah, always spoke with my Nan. My mum used to do wedding catering when we were little. So I used to watch her. Um, my nephews will kill me for saying it, but they always used to make fairy cakes with me. Um, they're in their twenties now and I can't, they weren't doing that, but yeah, just absolutely loved it.


But I've been for years being on classes of baked, you know, with people like John Whaite from the Bake Off. Um, I baked with him and I had to go back again cause I loved it so much, but I've been on loads and loads of classes, um, applied for bake-off and got through fine final 70 a few years ago. It was awesome.


But yeah. And now I do this for a living I'm not allowed to apply anymore, even though I do think I'd be awesome. Yeah.


Teresa: What happened? Just because it's your business?


Caroline: Yeah. Yeah.


Teresa: Like home bakers.


Caroline: Yes. Yeah. But I've been on saying loads and loads of classes, but just self-taught I suppose. And I own an obscene amount of cookery books, so really, really do.


Teresa: Feel like a guilty pleasure. I do love book.


Caroline: Yeah, they do. Yeah, they are.


Teresa: So you started off doing wedding cakes with the dream of wanting to do classes and the wedding cakes were going well.


Caroline: Were again brilliantly. I was jus to have a fantastic year. This year, I had over 40 weddings booked, which was a very, very busy time.


Um, but considering. So last, um, last year was my first full year doing it. Um, so yeah, it was supposed to, it's supposed to be such a, such a good year. And I know when, when lockdown started, I spent weeks crying.


Oh, What on earth. What do I do? I invested so much into this and yeah, I've just, yeah, it was totally and utterly deflated, but also sad for all the people that weren't able to.


Yeah, go ahead. So yeah, wedding cakes would go really, really well.


Teresa: Yeah. And, and that's like, it's funny enough. Uh, when I interviewed Toria, we talked about the fact of when lockdown first, she got a bit depressed and I was like, but we're allowed to, we're allowed to go, Oh, my actual goodness, you know, this has happened.


And literally there's nothing else I can do about it. I can't. These weddings are not going to go ahead. Also, even if they did, did go ahead, which they couldn't during locked down, but then after a locked down they could have been. They couldn't, they weren't the weddings that they were going to be. So no one was going to have a huge, massive three tier amazing wedding cake because they wouldn't have had that many guests at the wedding.


So. At that point. What, what did you think you were going to do? What, what did you think was going to happen with the business?


Caroline: Um, I had the dread that I would have to get another job, but say, I think I put so much into this and I went on a zoom training course. Um, and it was quite early on in lockdown and I think I was on a zoom training course with yourself, which is where I first met you. And I know you'd said to me, Oh, you should get yourself online. And I wasn't, I wasn't ready. I just was absolutely petrified of trying to do anything on, on zoom. And then another lady who I'd met on a course said to me, “I heard you what you're saying?”


Cause I'd introduced myself as a wedding cake designer with no weddings. And um, she said, “Would you do a cream tea for a baby shower?” And I said, well, I don't, but I can. Um, and I spent the whole summer making cream teas and I spent a lot of money on online marketing and being in lots of paid adverts in magazines, but it was the local community that found me and just kept me going.


So I literally just worked and worked more doing cream teas at that point. And wasn't brave enough to do anything online. Really.


Teresa: But you still find a business opportunity, which, you know, you've got to take your hat off to that. You've got to go. “I, I was doing this. And then I had to pivot a bit to, to find a new way.”


And you were busy and you were bringing in money and your name was almost getting out there more than because you would probably known in the wedding industry, but now suddenly a whole new audience are finding you.


Caroline: Yeah, I'd say most of them were just, just up the road and say, even though I wasn't very competent on social media, I think at that point, um, it was the Facebook groups locally and people finding it in the recommendations. And I, in December, 2018, I'd advertised some classes that in the kitchen. So you would come and you would decorate a Christmas cake with me. And I had one person that came just one that's my old boss. Um, and I didn't appreciate back then and that no light contrast.


Teresa: Yeah.


Caroline: And it's. I, I just didn't get it. I thought, “Well, I've got a really, really good products.” I'm


Teresa: yeah.


Caroline: Right I think nobody came. Um, but it's. It's say that the know like, and trust and people recommending. And I did a cream tea the other day for somebody that recommended me in June. So it is, you know, I, I get it now. I, I, it's not just spiel. I do. I get it.


Teresa: Tell me, because obviously when we, when I set up this podcast, it was like, what was that one thing that you did?


What was kind of the. The thing in marketing that you did that then ended up in a result that actually you were like, this is brilliant. So, so tell us where you were at that point then.


Caroline: So, so for me, this is what you said actually two months ago before you really knew me. Um, I, I, I started, um, doing online classes. So that online bake along zoom classes and I put together the kits. And then you, um, say you, you book on a class, I put together a kit of all the ingredients you need and there'll be extra tools say, um, for instance, the, the Christmas cake one, which you've worked on, you've done it. And you've got, you know, the 10 and you got the extra cutters.


And some other bits that I think are brilliant when you cake decorating. And I advertise them on Facebook and the first Christmas cake was sold out. I did another one last Saturday with six on, which is a lovely number. Um, but I've been doing, um, uh, I did. Yes. Yeah. Yesterday the kids festive cookies. Oh, my God.


It's amazing. I felt so full of parents. I must've. Yeah, but so if you include my two children, there was 21 kids and, um, the only two I couldn't control or weren't listening were my own. Um, my, I had some amazing feedback and the class lasted two hours. So they have the cutters, they have the fab festive sprinkles.


Um, but the, the kids were when we finished it in two hour, the two hour stage parents messaged me after to say that their kids carried on decorating because there's so many cookies they can make and they loved it. And it took me back to say, when I was used to do stuff with my mom, I was really pleased.


I didn't use my brand new laptop for it because baked and her flour everywhere. But no, it's just to sync them all. And I think it's all because it's zoom and because they can ask questions, it was just amazing. Um, Early on in lockdown. I was listening to lots of audio books and I listened to the big leap from Gay Hendricks.


You know, when he says this about your zone of genius. And I would say I found it, but I think I said to you last week, I also think I found my sparkle and I just it's something I wish in one sense, I had started it sooner. I really, really do.


Teresa: So. So tell me why you didn't. And what changed.


Caroline: So what why I didn't is because I didn't think I was good enough to do it. I, I, you know, that self doubt thing w when, um, I think I was worried about, yeah. What if, what if it fails? Um, and what if I couldn't do it, and actually I've worked out, I. I've been able to show people all different things. Um, technology's probably not my forte. However it's working. What changed is that realizing that what's the worst case scenario?


Yes, I advertise it and then nobody books, but they have, um, um, It's just that self-belief Teresa that I can do this and I love it. And I, yeah, I just, I truly wish that maybe I had started it sooner, but if I had, maybe I wouldn't have been in the, I needed to be in the right place. And I think.


Teresa: I couldn't agree with that more like seriously for me, what I think about when I hear your story and, and the journey you've been through one creating all those cream teas, we're giving you the exposure and the marketing that you needed. And also, I think you did need that confidence. And I think right at the beginning, you know, although the idea was there.


I don't think. Cause I remember when you came onto a course and you said “I've done it, I've just done it. I've just said, I'm going to do it.” And like, and it was this kind of like just defiance of “That's it I've done it.” And it was like almost to the point where got no choice. Now I'm just going to give it a go.


And then we talked through how you could do it and how you could like, you know, advertise it, various things. But the point was you done it and, and the other stuff comes later, like, You know, that was the stuff that is the easy bit, really, because the hard bit is actually just go in, “Hey, everyone, I'm going to do this thing.”


But like, so you sold out two lots of Christmas cake classes. You sold out the kids' classes. Have you?


Caroline: So I've got one place left this weekend. So I've added on another class now just before Christmas.


Teresa: Amazing Amazing.


Caroline: So, yeah. And sold yesterday. Yup. Sold out. That was awesome.


Teresa: And we've got all these ideas for next year of other things that you want to be doing. And if, and when. We get back, not if. When we get back to a normal life and we can come and visit your kitchen and do a class. Do you see these being hand in hand? Do you see still a presence of both?


Caroline: I think so. I think certainly for the children, because I had a couple of parents contact me yesterday and say, if you do anymore, you know, my children absolutely loved it.


So I think it. That would work because again, in one sense, you're still baking with mum or you're still baking with dad. There was some dads there, um, but you still baking with your parents in your house, but I'd love to carry them on. But I would also love people in here in my kitchen because I want I've, I've had the privilege of being on classes with other people and I've seen them do be done well.


And you know, it's the whole hospitality and the getting together with people. It's it's obviously, yes, I, I'd still love to do these, because it gets you a bigger audience or what accessible.


Teresa: Exactly. Because there are going to be people who are listening to this, that in the States that would love to do Christmas cookie decorating or cook alone goes on or whatever, which obviously for people to come to you where you are, that is incredibly difficult.


Caroline: Yeah.


Teresa: Anybody that isn't. Within a fairly, you know, a couple of hours. Can you, I guess,


Caroline: yeah,


Teresa: but, but you could open this up to further that now, obviously we've just, we've just done the UK at the moment. You know, whether you could open it further again, you'd have to work that out. But like, for me, it's, it's the fact of you you've given the best of both worlds.


And also if this hadn't have happened, if lockdown hadn't have happened, would you have ever had the motivation and push to take something online? Like you have?


Caroline: No, not at all. I just really as I'm shaking my head and realize you can't, it's a podcast. Caroline. They not going to see. Yeah, but no, I wouldn't say it was always there, but I think with the wedding cakes, I realized I was, I was so lucky to be chosen as, you know, the wedding cake designer that I got.


Um, I use that as my comfort blanket. That while I'm so busy with this, I wouldn't even bring the other dream I have into fruition. And I just think it's, it's been an enough year for so many things, but wow. It's also been exciting. And, and I, I had, uh, one of my wedding couples yesterday pick up some cupcakes and I was saying to her about the classes and everything else.


And I said, “I'm adamant my business is going to survive.” I didn't say that, you know, I had my fears started locked down, but there's no way I'm giving up. I'm just not, I've got too much in it, you know, too much love in it, too much money invested in it. Just not going to give up. Um, and yeah, I would just say I don't, I really don't want to, and I don't see why it should beat me anymore.


Teresa: And also. Do you know why I think you now think like that is because exactly what you said before you found your sparkle, you found the thing that you just love and therefore you couldn't imagine the same with me. I could not imagine having to go something and do something else. So I've got to make it a success.


I have no choice because I am not doing anything else ever again, this is the thing I love to do. And therefore, I love the fact that you found that because I don't think there's any, any bigger motivator than loving every minute of it. And just so you know, I did do one of the classes. My daughter is also going to be doing one of the cookie ones.


I made a Christmas cake for my husband, because my husband loves Christmas cakes and has asked me the entire time we've been together. You're gonna make me a Christmas game and they never have. And actually it's also kind of bitter sweet in the same sense. It's all come together interestingly that my mum and my nans used to make Christmas cakes.


And obviously my nanny passed away years ago and my mum passed away this year. So like, and funny enough when I posted it on my story to say that I was doing it, one of my cousins, that is it going to be as nice as you have a nans and I was like, wow, we'll see, we'll see. So yeah, that was just lovely. But I think.


For me bringing me and my daughter together, doing that thing, doing maybe a tradition, like it was just beautiful. And tech is an absolute pain in the backside and that will get easier and no one minded did they Caroline. So all that happens was an issue with zoom where they thought she hadn't signed up for a paid on.


And therefore it was trying to cut you off after like 45 minutes, but we just came off and we went back on again and no one minded that thou.


Caroline: No. And it was, yesterday was sorted. I use the right account. We were on for two hours, but you know, on, um, this weekend on the cookie one, I've got three children from London.


Um, and it's wonderful girl should have had a birthday party. So the fact that she can see her friends online and make cookies together, it is it's it's, it's lovely. It does bring people together. I know one lady said, “I didn't think it would work on zoom.” But it did and say to watch all these children listening to their parents.


So, just a thought my own out.


Teresa: That is brilliant. Caroline, thank you so much for sharing this. I know that people are going to be really loving, hearing what you've said. If they want to find out more about you, how do they find you?


Caroline: So I have got a website and it's Hunkington House Kitchen, and I'm on Instagram as Hunkington House Kitchen and on Facebook as Hunkington House.


Um, so I would love to hear from anybody and obviously Teresa, thank you so much for this opportunity.


Teresa: Honestly,


Caroline: been amazing.


Teresa: my absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for being a guest on the podcast.


Caroline: Thank you.


Teresa: Okay. So as Caroline just said, we're going to put it in the show notes, but go ahead and find her go and give her a, like, give her follow, show us some love, honestly.


And when you see what this woman can make from like, I'm not a Baker, I'm definitely more a cook than a Baker. And when you see the cakes that she's done, they are phenomenal. So do go and give her a follow. I love to see all the support that you listeners are giving all these amazing small businesses. So.


Do they do that and I will see you on the next episode on Monday, have a lovely rest of your week.