Thursday, 3 March 2016

Small Business Interview: The Lily Pink Bakery

Many many moons ago in the depths of the internet in the very very early 2000s I met a group of women who 16 years on are still some of my closest friends. We share everything in our lives, from our achievements to our relationships, we help each other in our lowest moments and celebrate the great things in our lives.  One of these people is Claire who runs a small business called Lily Pink Bakery, a custom cake company in Belfast.  Amongst the cupcake phenomenon's I have seen come and go, Claire's cakes and business has remained steadfast. I have seen her talent (and cakes!) grow before my eyes, so I was desperate to get her involved in the weekly interview.  

Claire regularly makes cakes for places like set of Game of Thrones(!) and this week was asked to do some cupcakes for the cast and crew of The Fall, and more importantly GILLIAN  ANDERSON AKA SCULLY. Claire missed her by minutes, but in an awesome turn of events, Gillian tweeted her thanks here.  FAN GIRLING OVER HERE. 

Charlotte: We met on Live Journal I think? Which is where a lot of my internet friends met, and we all seem to be doing creative things now! I just remember you being a super cool blogger and always having the best boots, can you remember how we met?

Claire: Yes! We met on Livejournal, so many important women in my life come from my LJ days! So many of you make up such a crucial support network for me still, I sometimes wonder where I would be without livejournal. I think we probably met there through mutual followers or possibly off highstreet? I posted a lot on thehighstreet, the photos are still hidden in the depths of my photobucket account somewhere. Lots of thick borders and edgy fonts over them. Not great I will say. 

Charlotte: I know that cake making wasn't what you set out to do, and to be honest I have no idea how you got to that point? How did it all start?

Claire: I have always loved baking though it had always just been a hobby of mine. My Granny Lily used to bake little chocolate using galaxy bars and decorated in Smarties and I loved baking with her. I still swear they're the best buns I have ever eaten and I would love to eat one again now. She died about ten years ago but she was such an influence on my life, I just thought the world of her. We used to sing the song Lily the Pink around her and I named my business after her. 

I graduated with a MA in film studies in 2011, I quickly realised that I was going to be stuck in a job unrelated to my degree to make ends meet and I thought I would rather have it be something I like than sitting in an office all day. I joined a free course run by Belfast City Council geared towards turning your hobby into a business and it all started there! I have never looked back. My skills have come on leaps and bounds since then, I am totally self taught and have been working full time as a baker for almost 4 years now.

Charlotte: When I first started BHC you were the only friend who I spoke to every day (which is funny saying out loud!) who also ran her own business, and we still do talk about it quite a lot, and how isolating it can be sometimes as well as rewarding. I will always come to you when I have big picture problems or ideas or to sound off on things for example.  What are the things you find most challenging about running a business on your own?

Claire: Running your own business is HARD WORK. People will tend to say this then skim over it with all the brilliant points about working for yourself. Yes, it's wonderful and it is super rewarding and I am so grateful to be able to work for myself...but it is still work. It's not all sprinkles and rainbow cakes. It's long hours, it's unpredictable income, it's having nobody to run ideas by, it's having to worry when you get sick that you might not have an income for a while. 

One of my least favourite *-inspirational quotes-* is 'Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life-*. BOLLOCKS TO THAT. I love my job, but sometimes I love lying in bed watching Netflix and surrounding myself with Wotsits and I don't want to work. Self employment is a job like any other and you have to be committed to taking it seriously and making your own success. I love my own company and am happy spending time alone but I do find self employment really isolating and that's why it is so important to me to have a place on social media to share my work and ask for ideas and encouragement. We don't have a boss there to say "you're doing a good job". I think impostor syndrome runs rampant in the creative community and having a great network of followers, other bakers and friends who will give honest and constructive feedback is crucial to keep it at bay. 

Charlotte: Whats the thing you are most surprised you have achieved and accomplished by running your own business?

Claire: Honestly I think it's self confidence. Only in my 4th year of doing this have I actually said to myself I am damn good at this and believed it. I still have self doubt of course, especially for example when it's 10pm on a Friday night and I'm crying over some fondant model past Claire agreed to make. I really am a lot more confident about my skills and far more willing to take on a challenge now as I know I can do a good job if I work hard at it. There's another great side to knowing your skills and it is knowing when to turn down work. Sometimes I get presented with work that just isn't me, it's not on brand for me and it's not something I want to do, for example when customers come to me with very traditional, tiered fondant cakes with ribbon and diamante crystals. I can usually recommend someone who is more fitting for their request and I can spend time creating some multicoloured, tie dye glitter explosion of a cake. 

Charlotte: Do you ever have time to make cakes for you and Ali, and are you making your own wedding cake? 

Claire: I really don't get a lot of time for this any more and it makes me sad. I would love to make more time even for practicing new flavours, methods etc but it's hard to turn the oven back on when you've just finished work late. I have contact dermatitis on my hands from constant washing, contact with water/flour/sugar and it gets very painful so a lot of the time I need to remind myself to take a break. The great thing is that I bake all occasion cakes for my family and friends, and I usually get a slice then! The rule with family cakes is that I will do it for free if I get to do what I want design and flavour wise and this means I get to try new things out then. And yes! I am making my own wedding cake. Half the bakers I know have recommended against it and the other half have told me to go for it. I'm still not sure what I am going to bake but I'm sure I'll change my mind about 100 times between now and the wedding.

Charlotte: Whats the dream for the future, or is it just you and your new cake fridge against the world of weddings for a while? *secretly hoping you will be able to dry ice freeze them and ship them to England* 

Claire: Someday I would really love to have my own tearoom. That's always been the dream. To be able to have space to bake for weddings and birthday cakes as I do now, with a counter for cakes and cupcakes and a small cafe space to serve afternoon tea. Just small, I have never wanted a cupcake empire (much to Ali's dismay). Right now the day to day work keeps me busy, it's so hard to make time to sit down and work on future projects when there's a constant stream of time sensitive work to do now! I'm sure you know all about it. Short term goals for me are to redo my website and to look into having some more promotional material done. I really want a short video to share on my website so I have to get working on that! 

Charlotte: What is your most  favourite cake you have ever made been? 

Claire: This is an impossible question and I curse you for asking it. Realistically my favourite cake was a really plain three tiered white iced cake that had nothing too special about it only that it was the first 3 tier stacked cake I did that came out completely perfect, level and beautiful. It was a really proud moment for me. Design wise the cake I made for my sister's 21st birthday is my favourite. I love playing with pastel colours, lots of sprinkles, sweets and glitter. (for photos it's the one with party rings stuck to it)

Claire: What is your least and most favourite thing about being self employed? 

Charlotte: Not having to answer to anyone is my absolute favourite thing, and working to my own time schedule. If i don't want to get up till 11am I don't have to. Worst thing is being ill because there is no one to cover for you if you are. 


Thanks so much Claire for letting me interview you! If you would like to be interviewed in our new weekly Small Business Interview blog email me at

You can follow Claire and Lily Pink Bakery on the links below, and follow the hashtag #lilypinkbakery


  1. Both of you are inspirational ladies! I love you both!

  2. This is a great place organize an event; they have great staff and great events put on here! I had nothing but great times and great conversations at venues Chicago here. They served slider and shrimp cakes as appetizers with chicken skewers, and eggrolls that had veggies on the inside and some kind of creamy fruit sauce on top.


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