What started as a cake baking side gig for local structural engineer Jade Ryan has rapidly risen into a government-backed startup called CakeServer.
Jade, her partner Greg Ryan - an engineer who went into legal services, and their friend and software developer Ben Norman have pooled their talents to create a cake designing and cake quoting website called CakeServer. All three also have day jobs. On maternity leave, Jade also balances CakeServer work with raising two young boys.
For six years Jade was decorating cakes for family and friends as a hobby, and the business began to take off. This year she started Clever Girl Cakes. As she learnt to manage the business, she saw an opportunity for CakeServer.
“On a long trip to Cooma, my husband and I came up with an idea to do a design platform to solve some of the problems I was having with communicating with customers,” Jade says.
One client wanted a circus cake and sent her example cake photos with elephants on them. She spent time drawing designs with elephants, but the client came back and said it didn’t believe in animal cruelty and didn’t want elephants.
“No animals were harmed in my drawing,” Jade jokes. “I had spent a lot of design time based on the info they’d given me, and I’d misunderstood what they wanted.”
She’s spent lots of time on cake baking forums reading about others’ cake-related struggles. She’s thought about the miscommunication in the early stages of the cake making, particularly when talking on the phone without visuals. For example, words like “rustic” mean different things to different people.
“You can spend 20 hours making a cake, and there’s nothing more disappointing than seeing someone who spent good money on a cake be disappointed in it. It breaks your heart. They paid good money and I put in a lot of effort,” she says.
In true engineering fashion, Jade, Greg and Ben have collaborated to fix the problem for customers and bakers.
Greg is the business guy in this endeavor. He knew about grant opportunities, and he and Ben were in a Dungeons and Dragon group together.
“We’re supernerds,” Ben says.
Prior to CakeServer, Ben was chatting with Greg about startup ideas, so the Ryans knew that Ben might be interested in joining. Ben wanted a new challenge and they needed help.
Ben explained the way the website will work when in launches next year.
“Consumers can select what kind of cakes they want, how many tiers and how many servings,” Ben says. “Consumers build and customise the cake, and CakeServer creates a 3D model which consumers can add flowers and stencils to.”
After the customer designs and determines the model of the cake, their request will go out to bakers in the area.
The trio has calculated that there are approximately 50 local bakers are servicing the Newcastle and Hunter Region.
Bakers can then bid, reply and communicate with clients. They can respond with, for example, ‘roses aren’t in season for your requested date, would you like a more affordable alternative?’
“I thought maybe this could help both the customer and the bakers. With the design driven by the client allowing them to make the cake both to their tastes and their budget, they can focus on the aspects most important to them - right down to the correct shade of dusky pink,” Jade says.
Now, the three are hurrying to work out the logistics of their idea including the 3D renderings of the cakes.
Theirs was one of 150 startups to apply for Slingshot’s ICON Accelerator program for regional businesses. CakeServer and five other startups were each awarded a $25,000 seed investment and a 10-week access to tailored training and mentoring.
On December 19, they’re pitching to Slingshot again, asking for more money. If succcessful, the trio will plan to build a 3D manufacturing business.
They’ll need dedication and optimism going into 2019.
Ryan will soon return to her paid job, while running CakeServer and raising a family. The self-proclaimed mad scientist said she does bring elements of her engineering background into her cake work.
Once CakeServer is running, she might jump back into the actual cake baking. “It’s always fun to push yourself to the edge of your sanity,” she says.
Other startups in Slingshot’s 2018 regional ICON Accelerator are:
- AgDraft An online employment platform for agriculture matching farm employers with reviewed and rated jobseekers
- AutoResume An AI-driven resume and cover letter builder, automatically generating tailored job application to each job requirement for job seekers in minutes
- BlockSmart Capital Australia’s smartest point for blockchain investment and asset class education
- EquiKey Enables senior homeowners to leverage the value of their home for better living whilst also giving investors access to the property market for less
- Helpful Love A community of caring vendors who offer practical, useful alternatives