Indie Oxford Interview: Happy Cakes turns 15!

 In Indie Oxford Interviews

When I found out that Happy Cakes had a big business anniversary coming up, I jumped at the chance to speak to Julia. Read on to find out about her milestone moments, and the indie journey Happy Cakes has been on in Oxford. >>

Happy Cakes Christmas donation

How does it feel to be celebrating such a big milestone? 15 years is a big deal!

I’m really delighted, and I almost can’t believe it’s been 15 years of Happy Cakes. Though this interview has prompted me to actually think of somehow celebrating it!

What do your kids think of you and your business?

My kids are now young adults, and all they’ve ever known is me and this business really. I was cake making when they were little, but not in an official capacity. But they loved to sit around and watch me bake and decorate. I have a really fond memory of one of them, at around 7 years old, icing digestive biscuits while I iced my cakes.

At the end of the day, now they’re older, it’s more that they’re just really grateful for the offcuts!

What’s been a standout moment for you? Any crazy celeb stories you can share?

Oh, I’ve got a few! When I started the business it was with a close friend. We were approached by the team behind Bicester Village. We couldn’t believe it. They approached us and were interested in our little business. 

So we got to work – mocked up images of a trading trike, got it agreed with the BV team, and finalised the whole thing.

Six weeks later, we had a bespoke ice cream bike sat outside Gucci! Little us, in the designer world, as we first launched. What a dream come true.

“I’m a devout celebrity cake stalker. One year, we were asked to take cakes to Kiefer Sutherland at the O2 Academy on Cowley Road. He was very lovely, and we got a photo with him and the cakes too.”

Happy Cakes Kiefer Sutherland

What advice do you have for others?

Do the stuff you love. Say politely no to things that you don’t want to do. For example, I find wedding cakes really stressful. So I learned to politely decline by saying I was fully booked and I’d recommend other people.

It takes a long time to realise what you can make money out of. I love supplying cafes, but there’s not a lot of profit in it. 

So my advice is to be aware of what is the most profitable and focus on that. Do fun things too!

We’re obsessed with your cakes, what’s your favourite flavour?

In all honesty, I’m a crisps person. I eat a lot of crisps, pickled onion especially. Couldn’t be further from the cakes I make!

But with cakes, you just can’t beat the classics. I find it really amusing when new companies have 30 different flavours. I really like using seasonal fruit, and it sells really nice. At the end of the day, it’s got to be a victoria sponge for the win. Some places nowadays, you can’t just get a simple flavour cake. 

Happy Cakes jubilee

How has being an Indie Oxford member helped you and your business?

I’ve been a member pretty much since the beginning when Rosie and Anna launched Independent Oxford. It’s been a massive help, there is such a wonderful community feel to the group.

Rosie in particular is fantastically connected, which has been incredibly helpful to me. In the last few years, she’s had additional help which means the resources behind Indie Oxford are unstoppable. There are not many places in the country that have this level of support.

Rosie also has exactly the right tone – not pushy, very bubbly, super supportive and so dedicated. After Anna left, Indie Oxford could have gone the other way. But Rosie made it bigger and better. 

I’ve been thinking about my Indie Oxford collaborations over the last decade and probably the biggest and most significant one is that we donate 100 pieces of cake every week to Waste2Taste for the OX4 Free Food Crew meals for those in need. We’ve been doing this for a few years now and I’ve donated over 30,000 pieces of cake. I can’t believe how time has flown, and how much cake has been donated!

Happy Cakes Endeavour

Favourite collab with another member?

Definitely my very first break, which was with Jericho Café. When my kids were small, I used to head to the playground with Ruth (owner) and her kids. Naturally, I would bring my cakes for the group to enjoy and one day, Ruth asked me if I could supply the café.

Not only did this big break give me huge amounts of confidence in my business, but it also introduced me to other clients, customers and businesses.

Even now, I still supply them for special events. 

I’d also love to give a shout out to Ronni Allen Photography. We have a long lasting and deep collaboration, for which I’m truly grateful.

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