Homebaked Startup

Jessica Williams, 26, founded The BritPop Bakery, the first organic cake pop company, in late 2011 and runs it from her flat in London Bridge. Follow them on Twitter: @BritPopBakery

Jessica at home in London Bridge

Firstly, I have to ask – what are Cake Pops and is it crazy that I don’t know?

No, not at all! Cake Pops are a relatively new phenomenon, and are simply bites of cake on a lollipop stick. They originated in the US and were popularised by bloggers such as Bakerella, and have just begun to take off in a big way here.
They are really appealing for lots of reasons: their small size and lack of mess make them great for children to eat; they can be customised in a myriad of amazing ways, they are much easier to transport and are less sickly than cupcakes, and they are a novelty that actually taste good!
However, I totally disagree with the accepted US (and increasingly, British) method of making them. In the US and by most companies here, cake pops are made by mixing cake with cream cheese frosting and then coating in a substance called ‘Candy Coating’, or ‘Candy Melts’. This is a very versatile product that is used widely throughout the confectionery world because it is easy to work with and much cheaper than good-quality chocolate.
However, it’s honestly horrible stuff: it’s full of artificial colourings, and other off-putting ingredients such as partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil and titanium dioxide. The final straw was when I found out that, once heated, Candy Coating has to be continuously thinned with vegetable oil to maintain the smooth consistency. As a food lover I found this concept utterly revolting and so we decided to see if we could make them with proper cake, coated with organic chocolate, using ingredients that you wouldn’t be scared to feed your kids.

How does this fit in with your copywriting job?

The copywriting I do is for my boyfriend’s family business, The Village Coconut Island, so it’s more of a labour of love really. I’m not going to lie – it involves a lot of late nights. For example, I’m typing this at 12.30am and I still have at least an hour of work to do before my colleagues in Thailand wake up in the morning. However, thanks to the wonders of the internet and the ability to work from home, it is possible to fit it all in.

I see you do all the baking yourself. What are the plans for the future? Is expansion on the cards?

The baking is primarily done by myself, and we have a few talented baker friends who help us out when we have large orders, such as the wonderful Helena and Lizzie. I would love to expand one day – we shall just have to keep working our socks off and see what happens!

What was the biggest challenge about starting up your own business?

The debilitating fear of failure! I was – and still am – terrified that I am not good enough to do this, and that it will all go wrong. It’s when you get other people involved that you really think, “What am I doing? I can’t do this!” But you have to try to just keep working hard and believing in yourself. As my mother used to say when I was little: all you can do is try your hardest. My boyfriend’s father is a big inspiration to me. He is one of the hardest working people I have ever met and has built up his company completely from scratch. When I look at what he has achieved through sheer hard work and determination, I know it is possible.

And finally, we ask everyone ‘is this generation startup?’ Lots of young people are starting their own businesses at the moment and we are wondering if this will be seen as a generation known for its startups. Do you feel part of a young entrepreneurial community?

Definitely! There is such a great feeling of opportunity in the air at the moment. I haven’t felt anything like it before. You only have to look at the huge number of fantastic start-ups on Twitter and Facebook and the extraordinary level of support and encouragement that they give each other to see that this is something special.
Previous generations, to a certain extent, knew what they needed to do to guarantee a good career: work hard at school, get good grades, get a good degree at university and work your way up from a graduate position from there. That was tough, but now, it’s tougher. The huge lack of jobs coupled with increasing numbers of recent graduates mean that many of my contemporaries have had to be really creative and entrepreneurial just to find ways to support themselves – and many of these are men and women with fantastic degrees from really good universities.
The whole landscape and dynamic of the business world is changing, and we are in the middle of it. I think it’s all hugely exciting, and if we are prepared to work truly hard and embrace that change, then I honestly believe that ‘Generation Startup’ really can do anything.