Thursday, 2 March 2017

Introducing Jugglist Massive member, Claire Owen Cakes

Today’s Jugglist shoutout goes to the wonderful Claire Owen, from the aptly-titled Claire Owen Cakes, who is mum to Flo, 7, and Rory, 5. Trained as a sculptor, she now makes stunning wedding cakes - and you can definitely see this influence in her incredible designs. In between being a supermum and a very talented lady she also found the time to make us a cake for the Jugglist Massive photoshoot…just LOOK at that intricate embellishment! Heart eyes everywhere. Let’s see what pearls (hehe, get it) of wisdom she has about being a Jugglist girl boss and momma to boot...

Claire Owen Cakes' amazing creation for the Jugglist Massive photoshoot
Photography by MATILDA DELVES

When did you set up the Business? Four years ago

When did you have your babies? 2009 and 2011

What do you feel the challenges are of running your own wedding business alongside motherhood? I can never switch off. I have to force myself to move my phone to another room and be disciplined about not answering every email or call instantly (not always successfully). And if you have a deadline that means work overruns into kid time; entertaining two small children whilst adding the finishing touches to a four tier wedding cake can be a huge challenge!  Plus my work is in my home, in our family kitchen so it can be very hard to draw the line.  It’s also hard to have weekends taken up with delivering wedding cakes, but on the plus side, my seven year old has now become my ‘assistant’ and often comes with me, which she LOVES - she has her own apron and gets to dust down the cakes with a little brush when they’re set up. (editor's note: I would ADORE this to be my job. If you need another assistant ever, just holler at ya gal...)

What are the positives? I feel like I have the perfect family-friendly job.  My time truly is my own. I can choose when I work. My family definitely comes first, but I am my own (girl)boss – and the structure of my work makes it easy to be there for all the kids activities, go on school trips, run them to clubs, host playdates and other stuff that I know can be really hard for Mums to manage work around.  Plus my children actually do think I have a cool job!  And for me it’s so important to be a role model for both my daughter and my son – that women can do fulfilling work and be a good (I hope) parent.

How on earth do you make it work? My main coping strategy is to have cakey bribes on hand at all times! I have also learnt that I need to plan out my week in advance, section up when I need to bake, when I do my admin, when I decorate, when I need to stop and take 5minutes to breathe.  And lists.  Lots and lots of lists.

My main tip is don’t rush. I started out the first two years making one or two cakes a month.  Now with more time, I make up to five a week.  I have had the luxury of being at home with my children and letting my business evolve at a pace that has suited our lives, I realised early on that a bursting bank balance isn’t the only measure of a successful business. 

Claire and the gorgeous Flo, 7

Describe a day in the life of you and your business. On a busy week I’ve been known to have cakes baked before breakfast, but usually it’s a typical school-rush morning – once they have been cajoled into eating and dressing - I walk my kids to school for 9am and then come straight home to bake for the day.  I know that I have a full six hours a day to work before I pick them up at 3.15 which feels like a lifetime compared to when they were tiny and I had to snatch the odd hour here and there.  We try and keep life after school simple. We go swimming, play at home, see friends and eat together. My husband is amazing and I couldn’t manage to fit as much work in without his support, he makes breakfast for us all every day before he goes to work and walks through the door in the evening to put the children to bed whilst I get back to work for a few hours.

What time do you usually throw in the towel? Mornings are my best time – I can see the whole length of the day stretching before me and feel as though anything is possible.  But before my kids were school age, nap times and evenings were the only times I could work so it felt much more piecemeal.  I can often be found in my kitchen beyond midnight…
What have you learnt the hard way since having your children and running a business simultaneously I’ve learnt that it is easy to be mentally absent – preoccupied with work whilst physically sitting next to your children. And that they really do notice if you’re not actually ‘with’ them. I have to work hard to switch off, take off my apron, put my phone away and properly spend time with them. I am not very good at saying no (either to prospective customers or my own children!) – but it’s essential if you want to stay on top of your workload and manage the juggle.

Let us know your most stressed out/most jugglist/most frustrating/most challenging moment so far? Well the cake / small child combo is pretty primed for a few predictable scenarios!  I came down one morning after a late night to find a huge hole in a finished cake.  My then-three year old daughter had decided to ‘test’ it for me…the whole cake had to be re-made. I have also had a major wedding cake topple / crush in transportation which someone else kindly delivered for me whilst I had to be at home with my children, they did an amazing repair job, but it was a very stressful few hours for us both – and frustratingly out of my control.

We assume these weren't the same faces that they held the morning of Flo's taste test

Do you think there is enough support for mothers running their own business? For mothers running their own businesses… personally I have always felt hugely supported - but the support has come from the encouragement and belief of family, wonderful friends providing ad-hoc childcare and an amazing local community who loyally bought my cakes when I started out – and continue to do so.  They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it has pretty much also taken one to start a cake business.

I also think a lot of employers miss a trick in not being more encouraging to women returning to work after having children. I felt like my productivity quadrupled after I had a baby because I understood for the first time the meaning of multi-tasking and could achieve more in two days than I had in a week pre-children. 

Do you find the industry supportive? The industry is amazingly supportive.  Weddings are joyous events so attract joyful people with a great positive attitude.  There are so many parents in the industry that you never feel like it would be inappropriate to bring your child with you if you needed to and there is an implicit understanding of the demands of motherhood on your work life.

Ohhhh Claire. Your words have warmed our cockles and your gorgeous cakes have filled our bellies - thank you! We can't wait for Claire to exhibit at our London fair - TICKETS are still available but are going fast - in the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for some more Jugglist mamma exhibitors!
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