Sunday 25 March 2018

Let's Be Cheerleaders!

Hello, and welcome to Amelie’s House. It been a while since I posted here - this is the place where my cake career initially began, as an enjoyable hobby to scratch a creative itch while I was on maternity leave. If you have followed my progress since then, you will have seen I have been lucky enough to have that hobby become a full-time career (or, as you other professionals will probably recognise, a more than full-time career that eats into all my spare time as well). As you have maybe seen, my work now takes up so much time that my blogging has been sadly discarded: I do really miss it, but for now I have to concentrate on other things.

Why write a post now? Well, I want to talk about a few things that have happened recently, and perhaps share some of my perspective. For those that don’t know, I’m lucky enough to be a supplier to well-known store, and over the weekend one of the cakes that I supply to them was featured on some social media querying the pricing. In certain quarters the price shown became a bit of a sensation, and I’ve had a lot of attention as result, so I want to write a few things about it – some facts, and some feelings.

So the first fact about ‘Unicorngate’ - I can confirm the pricing shown was incorrect, by a large amount. To me that seemed obvious, but I didn’t immediately say so because of the second fact, which is that I don’t set the final pricing. That’s just not how a supplier relationship works. I negotiate a price to create and deliver a cake, and whoever then sells it in their store gets to set the price they charge to the customer. It isn’t up to me, which is why I didn’t just come out and say I thought it was incorrect: that’s not my call to make. And I’m very loyal to the stores I supply, so I’m not going to correct or contradict or even discuss their pricing without talking to them first. (I’ve spoken to them since, and they agree it was mislabelled, but I haven’t checked if it has changed).

Contrary to some of the wilder ideas I read on social media, what I make from designing, making, selling and delivering a cake (yes, I drive each one into London myself) is a fair price. I’m not prepared to discuss my pricing policies in more detail, nor how I justify the cost of my work - I don’t feel the need to justify myself at all to anyone but my clients, friends and family, who are tremendously supportive and proud of my achievements. And I am not going to be an apologist for any retailer I work with, the one in question is a fabulous store, and the staff who I work with are totally professional and incredibly helpful. I am honoured to be one of their suppliers, to the extent that when I see my products in their store I have an out-of-body experience and am convinced it is just a dream.

Alright, enough facts: the price shown for the cake was wrong, I believe what I charge is fair, and even if the store goes on sell a thousand of these cakes I will not be retiring to a villa with a huge stack of profits.

Now, I want to write about feelings.

I’m writing this with some sadness in my heart, but I need to express my disappointment at the response by a majority of the cake community towards this issue. I have not seen all, or even many, of the posts and comments as I do not belong to any of these groups, and how glad I am of that. I uninstalled Facebook and Twitter from my phone for Lent, and it has been a mental relief, and after this situation I very much doubt if I will be installing them again soon.
I am quite a private person, I don’t share many personal photos of myself and family, I am not interested in being a ‘celebrity’. My consuming drive is to create, to paint, to be an artist. So I have struggled all week about whether I should respond at all because I know that I am opening myself up to more criticism. However, I belong to a book club full of fabulous supportive women, and this month we have been reading ‘Women and Power’ by Mary Beard. It speaks on how women’s voices have been silenced throughout time, and I found it both saddening and inspiring. So, I wondered, should I maintain a dignified silence, or should I express my (strong) feelings on this subject? Well obviously I have plumped for the second option, and if I was right to, I guess only time will tell. Will my thoughts make a difference? I doubt it - if people are prepared to behave in the way which they have behaved it seem unlikely one blog post will change that.

I do apologise for being so negative about this, but I am disappointed in some members of the cake community with their response and I feel that the unwarranted criticism I have received over this has gone beyond the actual issue. I am a person (see the picture on the left), I am not a big corporation or a nameless face, I am one woman working from my tiny kitchen at home trying to produce magnificent cakes, just like the majority of you reading this. When you make negative comments or criticisms about a product it’s easy to forget that there is a person who has worked hard to create it. I have not had my feelings hurt by these comments, but then I am lucky enough to have strong support from my circle of friends and family. Others may not be so fortunate. This has been an interesting and difficult week for me, and I feel that an achievement I was proud of has been a little dirtied by a lot of uninformed and maybe unpleasant commentary from a community I thought I was welcome in. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener…

But I will, at this point, take a moment to say thank you to my cake ‘sisterhood’, the cheerleaders, the fabulous creatives who have championed my cause and defended my corner. As I mentioned previously I haven’t seen all of these posts, and I won’t mention anyone by name to spare their blushes, but the support I have had from these people has been terrific. One lady in particular is the most amazing, inspiring business woman I know. She actively supports and encourages other business women, and spends a lot of her time educating women to be more successful in business. I am privileged to count her as a friend.

And this is the nub of my post/essay/rant, why are we not all living like her?

Why aren’t we holding each other up, encouraging, supporting and honouring each other? Being a small business owner is, as I’m sure you all know, a difficult and challenging role. You work long hours, often for little pay (despite what some may believe). Surely the least, the very least we can do for each other is to be kind, generous, tolerant and caring, and not to rush to judgement.

So in conclusion, let’s be cheerleaders for each other, let’s celebrate each other’s good fortune and talent. In fact let’s create a world full of fabulous rainbow, mermaid and unicorn cakes. And if you are lucky enough to ever get to sell those cakes at the kind of margins that people seem to think I can, then all you’ll ever hear from me is praise: more power to you, and well done.