Canadian entrepreneur Mellissa Morgan launched Ms. Cupcake from the kitchen of her Brixton home back in 2010 when she was making the transition from vegetarian to vegan.
During this period she started sourcing vegan foods that she could infuse into her new diet and noticed a gap in the market for entirely vegan cakes, which she couldn’t find anywhere.
“Hailing originally from Canada, I was used to finding them dotted around all major cities,” Mellissa told BQ. “I was shocked to discover there wasn’t a single one anywhere in the UK – let alone London!
“I realised there was a major gap in what was set to be a massively growing market. I taught myself to bake and create vegan recipes and started a market stall back in 2010.
“Our first shop opened in 2011. Having previously worked in the theatre industry and education; this was my first time running a business.”
Like many other aspiring entrepreneurs at that time, Mellissa struggled to source funding to support her business venture and had to go it alone.
“As for funding and investment, it was essentially non-existent in the beginning. I had saved up a couple of thousand pounds of personal funds and invested that in getting initial equipment for the market stall and some assistance with design and branding.
“After that I managed to keep my overheads minimal for over a year by baking from home and working 18 hour days, seven days per week.
“As soon as I would make any money I would pump it right back in the business and by the end of that first year I had pulled enough money together to open our shop (on a shoestring mind you!) We often joke that the shop was ‘built on cupcakes’ – which is entirely true!”
With veganism becoming ever more popular, word of Ms. Cupcakes started to spread and people from across the UK started enquiring about its cakes, which boast a 5050 icing to cake ratio!
And the company hadn’t just caught the eye of sweet toothed hungry vegans; it also caught the eye of leading wholesalers such as Whole Foods Markets who were keen to stock its produce.
“Our turnover has grown quite dramatically over the last year due to working with wholesale clients like Whole Foods Markets and by streamlining our processes and improving productivity.
“We are now aiming to move further into wholesale distribution of our products, so are opening a separate manufacturing site to support that growth.
“We currently employ about 15 members of staff, but this is set to more than double over the next 18 months.”
Like many other successful food entrepreneurs, Mellissa has also moved into writing and has released a series of Ms. Cupcake recipe books to help further grow the brands reach.
She said: “I now spend some of my time travelling the world doing cookery demos and giving talks about baking and veganism in places I never imagined I would visit.
“Each time I see my cookbook in one of these places – having been translated into a different language – I feel quite proud of what myself and my team have achieved in a few short years.
“We will be following up our first cookbook (Ms. Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town – published by Random House in 2013) with a second cookbook. We are also planning to open a number of new retail outlets!”
Quite keen to get to the bottom of not only the recipe of her delicious vegan cupcakes, but also the recipe of her success, we asked her what advice she had for entrepreneurs looking to follow in her footsteps.
Mellissa said: “Entrepreneurs should really consider the fact it might be three years (or longer) before you start earning a proper wage.
“I believe this is why so many businesses fail in that first year – business owners not realising how long it will take to start being profitable.
“For whatever reason start-ups seem to think that they won’t be a statistic – they are convinced that their business will buck the trend and they will be earning loads of money from the get-go. Sadly this just isn’t the case in most circumstances.”
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