Nicola and Anna Ward

CakeDrop Ltd

Nicola and Anna Ward

UK

Recognise your own achievements, no matter how small they are. And regularly check in on those.

Questions & Answers

Praveen

Please give a little background about yourself and CakeDrop?

Anna Ward

I'm Anna. Nicola and I are not only co-founders but sisters. We both have had pretty separate careers and backgrounds up until now; it’s not like we grew up wanting to start a business together or anything. 

So, I studied marketing at a university in Bournemouth, had a placement year out at Hewlett Packard and worked in the marketing team of this large corporation. I then left university and went to work in London in an advertising company for three years, before setting up CakeDrop. 

Nicola Ward

I studied philosophy at university, then psychology, and then went on to work in communications. I never really had a desire to start a business; I just had a few business ideas. I'd say Anna is definitely more of the entrepreneurial one out of the two of us. One day she just listened to one of the ideas I had and said, “Yes we need to do that one.” And then for about two years, she kept prodding me until we actually did it.

Praveen

What was the Eureka moment?

Anna Ward

I think the seed idea was Nicola sharing the experience of how awkward office birthdays can be. When you find out at 8.55am that it’s a colleague’s birthday, then someone runs out to a local supermarket  to geta really rubbish cake. Everyone knows it’s a last-minute panic and it looks like an obvious afterthought. Nicola came up with this idea for a company that allows offices to schedule all it’s employees birthdays, and then cakes would just turn up. It would just save all those trips out of the office and embarrassing moments when you realise a birthday has been forgotten. I think it wasn't a business idea, but more of like a “Wouldn't it be cool if this existed” kind of idea. Then the more we spoke about it, I guess it grew. 

When we looked into potential cake suppliers, we learned about all the amazing independent bakeries in London that weren't tapping into the corporate market due to various logistical reasons. We realised that if we went ahead with the idea we could also create a new route to market for those businesses. That was even more of an incentive. 

Nicola Ward

Yeah, then it got to a point where we couldn't stop thinking about the idea. So we just decided to bite the bullet and go ahead and do it. 

Anna Ward

I think it was a feeling of: if we don't do this, someone else is going to do this very soon. And it's going to be painful for us to see someone else do it.

Praveen Joshi

What was the main fear you had before converting this idea to a business?

Anna Ward

I think our answers will be really different because I don't think I understood the challenges we were going to face. To be honest, I think that was a good thing. I suppose  money was the biggest worry. We didn't have lots of capital behind us. I had enough savings to last me nine months without a salary. The reality is, you never take that salary after nine months because you want to keep investing in growth. It was probably three years until I took a salary. What about you, Nicola? 

Nicola Ward

When I left my job, I had a mortgage and I also have a child so the stakes of leaving a secure job felt very high. When push came to shove, I had to think I either believe in this or I don't believe in it. And if I do believe in it, then I need to leave my job. And if I don't believe in it, why are we doing it? I had that conversation with myself and, interestingly, as soon as I handed in my notice, all my worries lifted. It just felt like the right decision immediately after I made it. The little voice of doubt in your head is always going to be there until you take the plunge.

Praveen Joshi

We have all been eating cakes for ages. What did CakeDrop bring as a USP to disrupt this industry?

Nicola Ward

I think it was the technology and the ability to schedule in advance. It's time-saving and convenient for offices and also enables independent bakeries to service this market. It was also the quality. We were really going to upgrade offices from supermarket cake to freshly-baked artisan cakes. 

Anna Ward

If you think about the reason that artisan cake isn't getting into offices, it is because bakers tend to need one to two days’ notice on cake orders. Off the shelf options are limited which is why offices tend to head to the supermarket where they can guarantee they’ll be able to pick one up. That's why CakeDrop’s scheduling function is so important in bridging the gap between the corporate market and bakeries.

Praveen Joshi

You got an ecofriendly way of delivery on the bicycle. So where did that come from? And does that work?

Nicola Ward

It’s just impossible to drive and park around London, isn't it? We knew it wouldn’t be an efficient or environmentally friendly way to deliver cakes so we needed to develop a way, either by foot or on a bike. 

Anna Ward

The first thing we did was get a trike, which had a box on the front for the cake. Then we got an e-bike and developed a backpack which was secure enough to deliver cake without damaging it. So yeah, it just came out of necessity and trial and error.

Praveen Joshi

How do you plan to scale CakeDrop?

Nicola Ward

London works amazingly because of its high penetration of offices in quite small spaces, in proximity to lots of bakeries. We are planning to expand into other cities and already have demand from customers with offices elsewhere around the country. The logistics may be different however. 

We've also got a postal range now. So although the delivery of whole cakes is just within London at the moment, postal treats can be delivered nationwide. We're also hoping to diversify our product offering beyond cake.

 

Praveen Joshi

You are currently raising funds in a seed round. Please tell us about it.

 Anna Ward

Yeah, we’ve just completed our first equity crowdfunding round for £100,000 pounds.. We’ve bootstrapped the business until now and have kept it really, really lean. These funds will help accelerate our growth. 

It's always a challenge. You've got to have a strategy behind crowdfunding, you can't just go live on the site. You've got to have your network prepped and deliver an ongoing communications campaign alongside it. I think our challenge is that we've done it in a pandemic, which has made it harder. Investors at the moment are thinking, “Are people in offices? Are people going back to offices?” We've had to prove ourselves way more than we probably would have had to last year. 

I think we underestimated how hard it was going to be. And I think most of that is down to the context that we're in at the moment with Coronavirus.

Praveen Joshi

How do you plan to use these funds?

Nicola Ward

Our priority will be to further develop the marketing, tech and team. We want to keep developing our tech, because as we said, that is a competitive advantage for us. Marketing is a huge untapped opportunity as we’ve not invested much in this so far. We're also planning on taking on another team member to help us manage increased orders.

Praveen Joshi

How did COVID impact CakeDrop?

Anna Ward

Offices closed in London overnight. We went from a week with a full schedule of cake orders, to the next week with nothing. And the hardest thing for us was not knowing how long this was going to be - a month or three months. I mean, it's turned out so much worse than we thought. I Originally thought, “Well if it's only going to be a month, we can use this time to update the website and catch up on things we never have time to do.” 

And Nicola said to me, “No, we need to plan as if this situation is long term and could really hit our revenue.” So within two days of lockdown, we launched the “Postal Treats” range, which was not only to maintain our revenues, but also continue supporting the bakers who also were suffering with no footfall to cafes and events being cancelled. 

Nicola Ward

We had low expectations at first and thought “If we can get 100 postal orders this week, that would be amazing”. And then we sold out within the first hour of launching the new range. We've managed to maintain our pre-COVID revenues and we've had 100% growth in the first half of this year. So we've done all right.

Anna Ward

Ingredient supply was a massive challenge at first. Our bakers were having trouble with their supply chains and were relying on the supermarkets. And with everyone  baking at home during lockdown, there was no flour and eggs in the shops. So we were getting all these orders but then the bakers were low on ingredients. We were going to a farm ourselves to get eggs and dropping them to our bakers. It's just one of those scenarios where we did anything we had to. It was just a crazy time really.

Praveen Joshi

What would you call a success for CakeDrop?

Anna Ward

I used to say it would feel like a success when I was in London and saw a CakeDrop rider go past me. Now I feel like it's probably numbers-based. We've got targets for how many offices we want on-board and how many cakes we want to deliver. What about you, Nicola? 

Nicola Ward

I think for me it would be being the recognised leader in the corporate cake market.

Praveen Joshi

What would be your advice then to somebody who just wants to start a business?

Anna Ward

I think something that helps me and has helped me since day one is reading books. I go in for reading books and listening to podcasts. If I'm having a down day now, I listen to the founder of Airbnb or the founder of Vita Coco. And I just realise that my experience is so normal. And there are all these days of doubt where I'm like, “Am I just completely deluded and no one wants to tell me,” and then I think “No, I'm just as deluded as Airbnb were, and I'm just as deluded as Uber were.” 

Nicola Ward

Networking with people, I think that's pretty important. That's probably why Business Mocha is going to be so great. Anna and I have each other and I can't imagine having those down days and not having someone to pick me back up who completely understands our business and knows the right things to say. So if you're a solo founder, just networking with people and creating a support system is important. Also, be aware that your startup is not going to be a great success from the start. It doesn’t mean you are failing, it just means there is more work to be done. 

Anna Ward

Another thing I find really useful and share with Nicola at the end of the month is, “What good happened this month.” It makes you reflect on the good. 

Again, here, you might see friends and family and they say, “Oh, it's so amazing what you're doing, well done. You're so brave.” It doesn't matter what anyone says to you, if you're not feeling it within. You can't really get your validation from other people. It doesn't matter how amazing other people think you are; you've got to think it yourself. Recognise your own achievements, no matter how small they are. And regularly check in on those.

Praveen Joshi

Interesting! Who came up with the name?

 Anna Ward

That was Nicola, and I think there was never a discussion on the name. We just always referred to it as CakeDrop. 

Nicola Ward

It’s self-explanatory but does limit us if we want to diversify our portfolio. We might have to rebrand at some point.

 

Praveen

Thanks Nicola and Anna for joining this conversation with Business Mocha. Talking about cake for this long is really making me crave some now! You clearly have a wonderful startup, and I wish you all the best with CakeDrop! 

To find out more about CakeDrop – please visit: https://cakedrop.london/