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Inside scoop: How this award-winning small business stands out from the crowd


The founder of a much-loved Sydney bakery has shared advice on standing out and staying ahead of the competition.

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Eleven years ago, Anna Eden packed up her London life and moved to Australia with her 6-week-old daughter in tow. With a background in catering but no experience in retail, she made the bold move of launching a bakery business in a suburb she barely knew. Luckily, it paid off.

Fast forward to 2021 and The Classic Cupcake Co. has multiple awards under its belt, more than 20 permanent staff on the books, and it's even emerged from the pandemic in a stronger position than when it went in. Yes, really.

So what's the secret ingredient? (Sorry, couldn't resist.) I caught up with Anna after a busy day of baking to find out what some of her biggest learnings have been over the past decade, and what advice she'd give other entrepreneurs looking to elevate their small businesses. Here's what she said.

Don't do everything yourself

When you're building your small business, it can be hard to let go and trust other people to do a good job. But you're only doing a disservice to yourself and your business if you can't let go.

"If I could give one piece of advice, one golden nugget, to someone starting a business, it would be that you cannot give everything 100% if you're doing it all yourself," says Anna.

Whether you take on freelancers, casual staff or permanent employees, for many small businesses, there'll come a time when you just can't do everything yourself. And that's something to be celebrated, rather than feared.

Trays of cupcakes

Get expert help with the tricky stuff

Anna started her first business in her teens so has picked up countless skills along the way, but she still knows when to call on experts for help.

"For the digital side of things – web-building, digital creation, ecommerce, graphics – anything like that, I typically use freelancers," said Anna.

Anna's preferred freelancing platform is Fiverr, which has become increasingly popular in recent years. In 2020 alone, connected more than 3.5 million users with freelancers.

One of its stand-out features is the Pro Verification, which points businesses towards hand-vetted experts. The aim is to minimise the risk of a disappointing partnership.

"I love what it can offer businesses," Anna told Finder. "It's like opening a can of wonderful worms or a Pandora's box of skills. Anything you can think of, there'll be someone who can do it for you."

Create an experience

From the moment she opened her shop (quite literally), Anna has made sure the entire customer experience is a memorable one.

For the official opening, gold-edged invitations were sent out to local businesses, the media was invited and more than 2,000 attendees turned up to enjoy professional performers, free giveaways and tours of the bakery.

But the customer experience goes beyond a fancy grand opening. Memorable experiences are built into the core of the business.

The shop itself has a large internal glass window so customers can get a peek behind the scenes and see staff hard at work on their beautiful creations. What's more, the bakery also runs in-house classes and parties, letting adults and kids alike learn how to decorate their own cupcakes.

"It's not hard to make a cake, but what's hard is creating the whole package, which is an experience, a memory, a taste, a visual – something for people to talk about and something that gets people to return time and time again," Anna told Finder. "In order for that to happen, it has to have a lasting memory."

People take part in a cupcake making class.

Get a good bookkeeper

Given the year we've had, bookkeepers and accountants have had their work cut out for them. From JobSeeker (and JobKeeper and JobMaker) to government grants and subsidies, your finances have probably been pretty complicated over the last year.

But aren't they always? Managing your finances can be a huge time drain as well as being incredibly confusing. It's why Anna urges businesses of any size to get a good bookkeeper.

"I found a freelance one-woman band and she's been with me ever since," said Anna. "At first, it only cost about $150 a month, and even now it's only around $600 a month."

Never stop learning

You might know your business like the back of your hand, but there will always be room to learn more and expand your skill set.

For example, when Anna hired a Fiverr freelancer to build The Classic Cupcake Co.'s Shopify site, she got more out of it than just a finished product.

"He did all the back end stuff, but then he's shown me bits and pieces so I can do more myself," she told Finder. "I hired the right person to do the job and I've learned from them as well. I always want to be taught how to fish, rather than just being given a fish."
A tray of cupcakes being taken out of the oven.

Look for opportunities

When Australia first went into lockdown, Anna considered closing the bakery temporarily, but ultimately saw opportunity in a bit of a bleak spot.

Instead of shutting the doors, she used the time to get everyone together and come up with a new line of products that could be launched once it was all over.

"It gave us and our staff a new focus, it kept people's minds churning, and we used the time to really market the fact that we were baking people happy," she said.

Of course, this mindset applies beyond global pandemics. Anna encourages other business leaders to look for potential opportunities in any challenge – no matter how big of a setback it seems at first.

"There are two different ways one can view a situation like that. Either you look at it like it's the beginning of the end, or you see it as the beginning of the change."

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