Last updated Jul 05, 2024 and written by Lauren Felstead

Startup Story with Anna Ward from CakeDrop

It’s often said that you should love what you do. Well, it’s safe to say that Anna Ward loves what she does – after all she gets to work with cake every day, and who doesn’t love cake?! Anna launched CakeDrop – a cake delivery service for offices –  in July 2017 (still fresh!) and she certainly knows what it takes to get started. Here Anna talks to us about her inspiration for the delicious idea and how life has changed since launching. Enjoy…

Tell us about CakeDrop

CakeDrop launched in July of this year. We provide a cake delivery service for offices in London. It’s designed to combat Colin the Caterpillar culture and connect office workers with the scores of incredible independent bakeries around London. We allow offices to schedule CakeDrops in advance via an online platform so no work celebration is ever forgotten. We then deliver freshly baked cakes from our partner bakeries direct to workplaces across the city.

Describe the ‘lightbulb moment’

The lightbulb moment came from working in offices and simply recognising the need. No matter how often birthdays come around, they never seem to be well organised – some birthdays are only just remembered and others forgot altogether. Then there’s the awkward last minute dash to the supermarket which typically results in rubbish, overpriced, mass-produced cake. It’s crazy when you think London is home to some of the best bakeries and cake shops in the world. That sparked the idea to give offices the alternative to be more organised and connect them with the best cakes our city has to offer.

What’s your typical day?

I am usually at the hub by 8am to accept morning cake deliveries, pack the CakeTrike and plan my route around London. Then off I go on deliveries – that’s the best part. Everyone is so excited when a cake arrives in the office. It’s a great reminder of why we launched the business in the first place.

Once all offices have their CakeDrops I take care of admin back at our hub in Islington, before heading home to recover from the cycling. I’ll often spend evenings brainstorming new ideas for marketing, then on days with fewer deliveries we can really focus on driving these forward. I really make the most of these days because the logistical side of the business can be very time-consuming.

Were there any pain points when starting up?

Building a website was really difficult. It’s so technical and describing exactly what you want to developers when you have little technical knowledge yourself is tough. I’ve never considered myself a perfectionist but before launching the site we spent days going through it meticulously, making every possible customer journey and checking every link. It felt like it would never end!

What’s been the high point so far?

It’s hard to pinpoint the highest point because there have been so many peaks in our journey, from finally launching the website and making our first sale, to being shortlisted for London’s Hottest Food Entrepreneur. Every day there is something to celebrate, no matter how small it may be. Sometimes overcoming a niggling business challenge can feel like the biggest victory.

And what about a low point?

Definitely. In the early stages of getting suppliers on board, one of the bakeries we reached out to didn’t understand the concept at all and really laid into us. It was a huge knock to our confidence, despite the fact that we’d had so many positive and supportive conversations with other suppliers prior to that. Luckily we were able to reassure ourselves that you are always going to encounter difficult and negative people in business. In fact, that was a lesson to never treat others that way as behind every small business is a real person who has put their heart and soul into making it work.

A needless rude comment on our Facebook page is another example. As insignificant as they seem, these things really get to you. It feels personal because your entire life is invested in it.

Did you get any support along the way?

We have sought help from all sorts of people, and although it feels difficult asking people to share their time, skills and knowledge, it is so necessary. People are willing to help and they enjoy it, it’s really important to recognise the things you do not know, or you’re not good at… and make the most of the people who do.

It can be hard for the people around you to fully understand the trials and tribulations you go through as an entrepreneur. Finding like-minded people on a similar journey is a great support. I got chatting to an old friend who has recently launched ‘Liberty Creamery’ a homemade ice cream business – we’ve spent hours sharing experiences, sometimes the most boring things like email domains and business insurance. We have now set up a supper club as a forum to get people together sharing advice, experiences, and woes.

What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

Being full of fun and creative ideas, and knowing that you can run with every single one of them without having to consult anyone else. Every decision my partner and I make for CakeDrop we can implement that day. We can try it, watch it succeed and, if it fails, try something else.

Did you find any information or resources that weren’t so readily available to entrepreneurs and businesses?

It would be great if there was a website where business owners could discuss the cost of things. When you’re having to purchase things you don’t know about, such as design work, business insurance, accounting services etc., it would be useful to know what you should be paying. Maybe that could be my next business…

How has your life changed since starting your own business?

I suppose aspects of my life have changed. I never thought I’d even cycle a bike around London let alone a trike full of cakes. I miss being in an office environment with lots of people, I don’t think I realised how much that added to my life socially. I’ve also discovered that you can live on very little money, and it’s actually quite fun… if you find wondering how to pay your rent fun, that is.

Have you always been involved in the business industry?

Prior to setting up CakeDrop, I worked in marketing. However, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I’ve loved every job I’ve had but there has always been something inside me bursting to do everything myself.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a business?

If you have a great idea or think you can do something better than anyone else, you really should go for it. You just need to take that first step – it is hard, but it is thrilling. Equally, think really carefully about what you are prepared to sacrifice. You may be walking away from 9-5 but about to start 5-9.

I think entrepreneurship can look like freedom and unlimited holidays on Instagram, the reality for me is having to get the bus because it’s £2 cheaper than the tube. If you can enjoy the sacrifices that come with entrepreneurship, for the love of what you’re doing, then it only makes the journey more fun!

Finally, read as many books as you can. Read the stories of entrepreneurs, the stories behind the companies which are massive and successful today. Even if you only learn one thing from each book you read, you will help yourself. I personally recommended ‘What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School’ by Mark McCormack, ‘Dear Female Founder’ which is a collection of letters of advice edited by Lu Li and finally ‘Jo Malone – My Story’ just because it gives us all hope!

What are your plans for the future?

We currently deliver to all postcodes in London Zone 1, as orders increase we hope to be able to service the whole of London, increase our fleet of CakeTrikes and set up multiple hubs around London. We hope one day we can extend CakeDrop outside of London… there are plenty of offices in need of cake!

What advice do you wish you were given at the beginning?

Not to pay people to do things you can teach yourself!

What do you think is important to know when running your own business?

Reflection is probably one of the most important things. If something goes well, don’t just accept it – ask yourself why it went well, and how you can make it even better. Similarly, if things go badly, try to understand why, don’t just shrug it off as a bad day. Mistakes feel awful, but you’ve got to view them as progress.

What qualities are needed to run your own business?

Belief and energy. I have to do things almost every day that freak me out a bit. I have met so many new people, and really had to put myself out there to get CakeDrop known. What keeps me going is the certainty that CakeDrop is amazing, London needs us, and we will be as successful as we hope! There was doubt in the early days, but now I rarely entertain it.

I don’t think anyone needs a certain set of qualities to be an entrepreneur, and I wouldn’t like to think anyone was put off because they didn’t fit a criteria. If you are doing something you love and feel great about, that will naturally shine through and your energy will fuel the brand. There are too many people out there with amazing ideas, who just don’t see themselves as the “right” person. If you think you lack vital qualities, find a business partner who makes up for it.

What helps you wind down in your spare time?

I work a part time job at the weekend. I know it sounds like more work but doing something different and being in a totally different environment gives me thinking time away from CakeDrop. When I’m not there, I read, cook, play tennis and spend time with my baby niece Sydney.

A big thank you to Anna for sharing her business experience with us!

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