Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Meet Ayo Cakes and Bakes and their delicious baked goods! Check out our interview with founder Leah Ayo-Ola.
How did Ayo's Cakes and Bakes come to be?
The seed for Ayo’s Cakes and Bakes was planted whilst studying at university. I was applying for summer / part time jobs I didn’t really want and thought wouldn’t it be so much better if I could work for myself and monetise a skill/ passion. Ayo’s Cakes and Bakes has gone from an idea, to a blog as our first online home/ monetising a hobby, to growing and developing a passion into a sustainable business. When I think about my journey so far, I’m grateful for the people I’ve met as a result of Ayo’s Cakes and Bakes and I am excited for what’s to come.
Inspiration behind the name?
Coming up with a name for my business was quite easy. Ayo- Ola (Ayo for short) is the first of my Yoruba names. Including my name tells everyone who is behind the brand, as the service/products I provide are a way of sharing my passion with my customers. “Cakes”- because this was the start of my baking journey and is my core product, “and bakes” signifying that the plan was also to cover a range of other baked and foodie inspired goods/treats.
What makes your sweets different from other bakers?
In terms of my range as a whole, the products/services Ayo’s Cakes and Bakes offer cover a range of different baking/ dessert needs. We can bake for you, you can use our mixes to simplify your baking process at home, or purchase foodie/ foodie inspired gifts for your loved ones. There’s also the Yoruba / Nigerian inspired element which you’ll see more of as our range increases.
All of my cupcakes have a Yoruba name, which is a theme that will continue as our range grows. Our signature Africa Sugar Cookies have the option of being personalised with a range of common/popular slogans; alternatively, our customers can write their own. I'll also be introducing some new items inspired by popular Nigerian foods.
What does it mean to you to be Black owned business?
To me, owning a business means you can build, set your own standard and make your mark in a way you feel appropriate. The beauty of having a business is you get to set the rules and can include as much or as little as you see fit. Most of us have more than one passion/ interest and having something I own and have control over means that I can choose the direction/ what is included without having to ask permission from someone else.
I read your interview with Amari Shea and I really love what George said. Every other community/ nationality has businesses and they are classed as just that - businesses. They circulate money, support and hire themselves; its second nature and there’s no backlash or Whiny Wendy’s complaining that they feel sad or excluded because something doesn’t revolve around them. It is what it is; they specialise in a skill, product or service and establish something for themselves and/or their community. We’re not saying other communities can’t purchase from us, it just means we are using it as one means of empowering and building for ourselves in the same way other communities have.
With recent events we’ve seen more people actively trying to look within the Black community first when making a purchase. It’s great to see and I hope that it continues. There are so many Black owned businesses in the UK covering a range of different industries. If you’re looking for an easy way to support a Black owned business, one option could be to try and swap out at least one item from your weekly purchases.
Greatest accomplishments and challenges as a business so far?
Even though it hasn’t launched yet, I’m going to pick my Ebook. It’s the labour of love and something I’ve wanted to write for a long time. I’m proud of my progress. Any step you take towards your goal no matter how “small” it may seem, adds up in the long run. [On] challenges, I’m focusing on how I can ensure Ayo’s Cakes and Bakes is sustainable in the long term. There’s also another element to my brand that I would like to include that is very important to me, so I’m also keen to incorporate this once I’ve got what is necessary in place.
How are you adapting your business to COVID-19 environment?
I’ve been using lock down to work on some neglected projects for Ayo’s Cakes and Bakes. I am currently working on my first E-book, have launched two baking mixes, will be adding a new gift item to the website and more pre-designed items for customers to purchase directly online. I was doing a weekly pop up alongside CND Drinks every Saturday at Afropop which is currently on hold, but I’m still taking enquiries via my website or email. We’ve bulked out our pop up combos so you can still get hold of our cake/drink bundles whilst our pop up is on hiatus. Ayo’s Cakes and Bakes is not my sole source of income, and in my other job I am able to work from home. Thankfully, as a result my income has not been adversely affected by COVID-19.
One thing I have always thought about as a business owner is how can I diversify my income? An example, events were cancelled as a result of COVID-19 and the subsequent lock down/social distancing measures, so if this is your only stream of income as a business owner you don’t have anything else to fall back on. Our current climate is not something anyone would have expected or planned and has forced so many businesses to have to adapt incredibly quickly in such a short space of time. Fi from Lime Hut London wrote an article on Beauty Stack with some survival tips she used to navigate during the pandemic.
How businesses have adapted has varied based on their activities; so for some it was setting up a website as a means of transferring their sales, I’ve seen a number of virtual markets happening on Instagram, and some businesses started off by offering gift vouchers that could be redeemed once we’re able to resume semi-normally again. As we’re completing this interview, lock down measures are being eased in the UK. I would encourage everyone to shop small and Black owned where they can. You’ve probably heard it a few times, but small businesses are the backbone of the economy and now more than ever they need support/custom if they are to survive during this period.
Any advice for Black creatives or entrepreneurs?
I have two pieces of advice. The first is take action! When you have a business idea/ project etc you’re excited about- take action. There have been a few things I have thought about launching but for one reason or another I’ve not done so. Roll on a few years later, and I’ve seen people doing similar things to what I have envisioned. The only difference between us being they took action and worked on whatever it is they wanted to establish. Do your research, plan what you need to etc and run with it! It’s better for you to have tried your best and failed than to be disappointed that you never started. The time will pass anyway, so what do you have to lose? If you find yourself in a position where there is something you’ve wanted to do for ages but haven’t done so- start now. There’s a proverb that says the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now. It doesn’t matter if it’s “being done already”; look how many different types of bread there are on a supermarket shelf. There will be something you bring that differs slightly to the other business operating in that space.
The second is to go at your own pace. It’s very easy to look at someone else’s end result or their highlight reel and start playing the comparison game. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Think about all the people you’re inspired by or who are at the top of a particular field and work backwards through their achievements. They didn’t begin where they are now. I remember having a conversation with my aunt who also has a baking business about doubting yourself and your abilities. She said she used to tell herself she wasn’t good / skilled enough and would focus on her weaknesses. She said one day she thought about it and was like I’ll do my best and work on whatever I’m not good at, because if I don’t believe in myself, how can I expect anyone to believe in me? Face your front and do you. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you, if it’s what you’re sure you want- keep going.