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Jade Ryan from Cake Server

Adam Spencer_Circle Written by Adam Spencer

@welcometodayone

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Today you’re going to hear the story of Cake Server and Jade Ryan.

Jade blew me away. Jade went to university to study structural engineering, became a structural engineer, started and built a side hustle while working full-time, is a mother of two young children and then, while on maternity leave went through the accelerator program ICON offered by Slingshot in partnership with the University of Newcastle and started a company called Cake Server, which you will hear about today. Oh and one more thing, Jade bought her house at 24.

By. Her. Self.

We’ll get deeper into Jade’s and Cake Server’s story. But for now, let’s go back to day one, where this story begins…

Transcript

Jade:

You can be the biggest juiciest plumpest peach and they’ll still be some guy that doesn’t like peaches.

Adam:

Hi, I’m Adam Spencer and welcome to day one, the show that goes back to the very beginning, to share the untold stories of incredible regional startups and entrepreneurs

Today you’re going to hear the story of Cake Server and Jade Ryan.

More

Jade:

I’m Jade Ryan, I’m the CEO of Cake Server.

Adam:

Jade blew me away. Jade went to university to study structural engineering, became a structural engineer, started and built a side hustle while working full-time, is a mother of two young children and then, while on maternity leave went through the accelerator program ICON offered by Slingshot in partnership with the University of Newcastle and started a company called Cake Server, which you will hear about today. Oh and one more thing, Jade bought her house at 24.

By.

Her.

Self.

We’ll get deeper into Jade’s and Cake Server’s story. But for now, let’s go back to day one, where this story begins…

Jade:

So I did engineering and it’s sort of funny that when I was growing up you couldn’t be a girl in my family. It was like considered a bit bad to be a girl. And so that really ground me. So I tried to cut off all things that were girly, anything. And it wasn’t till I sort of grew up and realized that just because I was a girl, it doesn’t mean I’m not accomplished and smart and all this other stuff and liking things like decorating or art or whatever. It wasn’t weak or somehow, you know, you’re in the kitchen with your apron on, it was actually, you know, very rewarding and hard to do, and if everyone could do it, we wouldn’t have cake racks. We’ll nail it. So it wasn’t until I sort of grew up and didn’t try and be things that I wasn’t, then I realized I could be accomplished engineer and also enjoy making cakes.

Jade:

My cake business didn’t start until a couple of years ago.

Adam:

Jade went on a business trip to Perth with her structural engineer hat on for a project with the company she works with. It was to be for a couple of months, which meant leaving her family behind and because of that, Jade found herself with some free time and what else do you do with downtime but sink it into YouTube. And, that is where Jade learnt all about cakers.

Jade:

It’s what we call ourselves, we’re cakers.

Jade:

Caker, this is a cake decorator.

Jade:

And my sister-in-law, her 30th birthday was coming up. So I said, I want to make this cake. So I went out and bought like all this frosting and stuff and I didn’t want to spend the money on an electric mixer. So I got a hand mixer. And then when I was doing the buttercream it’d burnout in like five minutes and like it was smoke everywhere. So I got to hand crank one that I happened to have in my cupboard and my brother and my husband were both like hand cranking this hard butter and I didn’t know what I was doing.

Jade:

So from there I did it and it looked pretty good and I was pretty proud of it. So it just started building from there and then I started getting people going, hey, can you do my birthday cake? When it stopped being friends and started being friends of friends, I’m like, well I’m going to have to be a bit serious about this. And yeah, started doing cakes for people.

Adam:

So, it isn’t hard to imagine that this interest, this love of caking, or cake decorating, would be the seed that would turn into Cake Server. Jade started to get more serious about this, and you know you’re getting serious when you move from birthday cakes for friends… to wedding cakes. Oh boy, that’s a whole other ball game…

Jade:

I was able to do that and makes some wedding cakes and whatnot for the people.

Adam:

But as I mentioned, things were getting serious. Jade had been working full-time as an engineer and growing her side-hustle for…

Jade:

Around five years.

Adam:

Five years? And was it a full-time business?

Jade:

Oh, no. I still worked full time as an engineer.

Adam:

Wow. And did you have kids at this point?

Jade:

Yes.

Adam:

Jade was working her ass off. Where did she find time to do all of this cake decorating?

Jade:

After work. Basically after work until 10 o’clock at night.

Adam:

Really

Jade:

Yeah. You’d rent it out in the afternoon till 10 o’clock at night and then get up early the next morning, you’d then cake through until someone picked up their cake or I had to drop it off.

Adam:

So, Jade has been doing this for sometime. Over 5 years in fact and in startup land people talk about domain experience or expertise, that is understanding the market you operate in, and Jade had developed that overtime and had become acutely aware, through her own experience too, of a problem that needed a solution in the industry.

Jade:

The Idea had come from … So when I was doing my Clever Girl Cakes, people were having trouble with the costings. And a lot of people have trouble with the price shock of like, how much is this going to cost me? So I was trying to work out a way of without having to explain to every customer like the prices of cake, And they’d ask me a lot of questions and I’d come back to them with different prices, which is fair enough, everyone knows. But they started feeling a little uncomfortable, and I was spending a lot of time quoting and re-quoting and that’s just where profits go to die because I don’t get to charge for the redrawing up of designs and stuff, that’s all just nowhere money.

Jade:

And I think it’s a problem that a lot of cakers have, is that they do a lot of quoting online and people hear the price and then they disappear. And it’s still taking them time to do that and to interact with that, and that’s just part of life. It’s like everyone that does a quote in business, part of life, but it’s also the part life that just, you know, how many quotes do I have to do before I get actual jobs out of it.

Adam:

The idea or problem is now firmly in Jade’s head and her husband, Greg Ryan, who is also one of the co-founders of Cake Server. The idea is there, now it’s time for the fun part. The fuzzy part, the ideation phase, figuring out what the solution is and is it even possible to build a business out of this?

Jade:

So I was actually on a trip down to Cooma where my in-laws live, and we were driving along trying to keep each other awake. Me and my husband were talking about ways of being able to automate it and get it online and sort of started with an excel spreadsheet that I could just change things. And then my husband’s like, oh, we could automate it and we can do it all online and we can use 3D technology, and he was really keen on the layout. Dude, I’m doing like three cakes max a week, you can’t do it all, this is going to cost thousands and thousands of dollars, we can’t do this. He’s like, no, no, it’ll be all right, we can do this. And I am like, oh, I really think this is a lot more into it than you think. And, you know, it might’ve just been driving for six hours that had got us to this point.

Jade:

But about a week later, I turned around to him and said, what if we did it for everybody? He’s like, what do you mean? I said, what if instead of just for me, we set it up so everyone, all the cakers could use this and we could set it up and that way maybe for spending that money, it could help, you know, I mean, how long would it take before it repays itself? For me it would take years, but if we had everybody, it would start being useful almost straight away.

Adam:

They’re on to something good here, but neither Jade or Greg have the technical expertise to build the platform that they had begun to envision…

Jade:

We got all of our information together, and we went to Ben, our friend, and we pitched to him because we knew that we were going to need someone who knew how to do websites.

Adam:

Introducing Ben Norman, Cake Servers’ technical co-founder.

Jade:

Ben is our IT guy. He works in creative industries. He’s won awards for app design and stuff. So we were like, well, we’ve been friends with him for 10 years. So we pitched to him and come up with the idea and he made some cupcakes, got it all, you know, did a proper pitch with the slide show and everything and he came back to us a week later and said, okay, well let’s have a look at a co-founder agreement. Yeah. His sister’s a lawyer, so she had to look at it and we all agreed and moved forward.

Adam:

The A-team is now together. Jade, Greg & Ben. Things were moving steadily along, but perhaps not as fast as the founders would have liked. Greg, who works for the University of Newcastle, had  heard about this thing called Slingshot, but before that chapter in this story begins, something much more important happened, the team who were just taking it nice a slowly got an injection of support from their friends at Newcastle University’s Integrated Innovation Network, Siobhan Curran & Richard Berry.

Jade:

Oh, yeah, it lit a firecracker up our ass.

Jade:

I guess we were sort of taking it slow, you know, getting things as we were going. And we plan on doing a let’s get this completely as we wanted, and when we were there they were like, sometimes you just need to get it close enough and go forward and get things out there because you don’t build word of mouth by just talking about it, some people, you need to see it to believe it. And yeah, so that really sort of pushed us forward, and we weren’t expecting to get where we were for another six months.

Adam:

With the support from the team at the i2n, the Cake Server team pushed onward with their idea and the next step was giving their ‘to be’ business another boost, initially Greg was only looking for funding opportunities, and that’s where Slingshot enters the picture.

Jade:

I think Greg was looking up around ways of us to get funding. And he was just looking at different ideas. He’d also heard about it the year before. So it was something he knew about from the year before. So we thought we’d have a go.

Jade:

This is Grayson, my eight month old baby he joined me in I2N when we were doing the Slingshot program.

Adam:

That’s perfect. He said hi.

Jade:

He knows when he’s being talked about.

Jade:

No we didn’t think we’d get into Slingshot to be honest. It was sort of a suck it and see situation. We thought, you know what, it’s an idea, let’s go for it. And yeah, we went in, Siobhan actually held Gray while we went in and did the pitch, because he was only seven weeks old at that stage. And we went in and Greg got up and did the pitch and yeah, two weeks later we’re in with Slingshot.

Adam:

What was that experience like for you?

Jade:

Intense. So very, very intense.

Jade:

A 10 week program. We got lucky this year. They decided to squish it all into 10 weeks instead of 12.

Jade:

I really feel like it crammed probably a year or two of us learning on our own into that 10 weeks. It was a really supportive group and just being with other like startups, we sort of see the good things they were doing and also the bad things they were doing and were able to either, you know, sort of have a look at investing in some of the things that they were doing.

Jade:

It was a big push for the end because we wanted to be on demo night. We wanted to be able to show people what we could do.

Adam:

Cake Server is live now, the website is up. But there is still a lot of work to do. It is really early days for the Cake Server team.

Jade:

It’s only been up since like the 18th of December.

Jade:

We are getting a lot of people using our site. So people are coming and people are using it. They’re wanting to check our prices. I’ve gotten a few people interested to do quotes, and I’ve gone out to my people to send out the quotes. And a lot of the time that I’ve gotten, you know, it’s fallen through or they’ve gone with someone we knew or, which is fine that happens. So I think it’s just building up that trust that we’re going to do the right thing by them.

Jade:

I really think it is trust and that we are doing the right thing by our bakers, we’re doing the right thing by our customers and that we know what we’re doing, I guess. It’s sort of a bit of a pitfall whenever you go automated, people forget that there’s a person on the other side of it. But that’s also good for … I’ve talked to other people that bought cakes where they’ve gotten the price and they’ve gone, oh, I feel bad about saying no even though I really can’t afford it. And so I’m giving them that option to be able to change their mind. It’s important that they are able to see the cost of it. There is a very good chance that we’re being cost compared because of it and good, if we start being the place that people go to see what a cake will cost, to then like be used as a standard, It’d be better if they were using our site, but if it starts this way, then we’re still building that level of standard. We are becoming the cake service standard, and then it goes from there.

Adam:

Jade just alluded to the larger mission Cake Server has and the bigger ‘why’. The reason they exist beyond providing the specific service their platform offers, which gives them a power that a lot of businesses miss the mark on.

Adam:

So basically you’re saying that all of these people that are on your platform need to have all of these things. It’s almost like, you know, it’s the cake server seal of approval. So consumers, you know, there’s more trust there between the consumer and the-

Jade:

That’s what we’re trying to develop and I guess I got put very well by someone. We’re trying to professionalize a cottage industry.

Jade:

We’re trying to make this industry where there’s all these small players, everyone’s, like they’re usually sole traders, they’ve got their own business, it’s their little baby. If you think wedding cakes or birthday cakes, there’s no one that sort of, like in America you’ve got your Bake Boss and whatnot. But in Australia there’s not too many, this is the person to go to or there’s not a big chain that you say, yes, that’s where I get my birthday cake from. It’s actually all very small suppliers and people, even on the other side of things, the consumers, they are wondering, who do I go to get a good cake? Am I getting ripped off because, you know, I didn’t know how much cakes cost until I started making them. You’re like, oh jeez, you know, why does this cost too much? Are they trying to rip me off? And they don’t know that.

Jade:

But I feel that we are currently doing a survey, so we put it out to people in Australia. A the cakers to help us with cake pricing. So we’re finding there’s a lot of divide between regional and the city pricings. So we’ve sent it out and we’re still collecting data now to just basically try and make sure that we’re on the right path for the cost of cakes. I know that for Newcastle I’m like within 5% of costing. But the difference between that and Sydney and Tamworth is crazy. So we’re basically geo pricing to make sure that we know what people who are professional are charging, to give the consumer a bit more confidence that we’re not just, here’s a number out of thin air, there’s actually a basis for what we’ve done.

Adam:

Cake Server is on the right track, but they have come up against some push back from the industry, which could be just another sign that they are on the right track.

Jade:

Well, there’s some misgivings about it. Some people think, because I’m putting an estimate price up there, so with cakers you’ve got everyone from self-taught home bakers to people who have gone to France and done pastry cheffing and have been, you know, professionally taught. So you’ve got a range, and the people that have, you know, made their entire career, and they’re a five star chef and everything, they have a reputation and a name to be able to charge a lot more. And they should, people come to them and ask them to make cakes.

Jade:

People that are sort of, you know, just sort of starting out. A lot of people have trouble justifying their prices, especially when you can go to like supermarket and be like, oh I can buy a $7 cake. And I have said before to someone who’s like, oh I can get it from, it’s like I don’t care what it is. I’m like, well then you know, I can just go to the boards and pick you up something and he’s like, no, no, no, you know, I’d like it to be something nice. It’s like, okay, so you do care what it is, okay, cool. And I thought that was, might’ve been a bit cheeky, but it was like people do care what they’re getting, and they do want a quality product. They don’t want to go to a big chain, especially for something special like their wedding.

Jade:

So the reason why people get upset about it is because they’re worried that by me putting a price up there, people will underbid and try and cut each other out and basically make everyone work for nothing. So with the way I’ve done is we’ve made it so that way people can’t under price less than 20%. We’ve done it based on a livable wage. All my pricing is basically done on a livable wage.

Adam:

What does the future look like for Cake Server?

Jade:

Oh, the future. Well, first of all, we’re putting unicorn cakes up there. So, from that[inaudible 00:50:07], the kids really love it. I’m sort of looking at going into birthday cakes, and just to sort of tap into that market that basically people might be willing to try for birthday cake before they try for their wedding cake.

Jade:

Yeah, introduction. But this sort of technology, once we get it up and running, we can apply it to so many different things, build it online and get it built. Now there are people that are doing the 3D printing, not this building, more of you have your own stuff and sort of do it. But we really want to just sort of do that, go into 3D printing and also advanced manufacturing. So we have talked to some people in the advanced manufacturing industry regarding, sort of a little dip a toe situation, where you’ve got cake toppers. So you get like words and everything scribed out in an acrylic.

Adam:

I asked Jade, what advice would she have given past Jade knowing what she knows now.

Jade:

Should’ve come up with this idea before you decided to have a second kid. I guess what I would say is in [inaudible 00:53:33], spend more on daycare. And we don’t have a lot of family up this way, so, Gray was with me the whole time and Rory was with me every other day. So we end up getting one day in daycare just so I could do all the things that we needed to do and still somewhat get some sleep. But I’d probably look at getting more daycare and asking for more help.

Adam:

And just to finish off this episode, at the beginning of the show, Jade shared a quote about plump peaches. I absolutely loved the quote, so here is the full audio grab for you… I think we, as founders, really need to remember this, basically, that you can’t win every battle and not everyone is going to believe in you and your idea. That doesn’t mean give up though. That means, find another way.

Jade:

Yes, it’s actually by Dita Von Teese, it’s you can be the biggest juiciest plumpest peach and they’ll still be some guy that doesn’t want peaches, that doesn’t like peaches. So with CakeServer a lot of people have been, cake as a theme, really adamant that they don’t like the idea. And some of them, yes. It’s like we are not going to appeal to everyone and we’ve got to accept that and it’s not a dig at us, It’s just not for everybody. You got to sort of hold on to that because you can sometimes get disheartened when people don’t like your idea or don’t like anything about you, and you’re like, okay, well that happens sometimes.

Adam:

Thank you for listening to the story of Cake Server and Jade Ryan. I hope you enjoyed it. Everything that was mentioned in the episode today is on the show notes page on welcometodayone.com.

Adam:

Next time on welcome to day one, Andrew Mears from SwitcDin.

Andrew:

We’re absolutely going to have a much more decentralised energy service. In the past we’ve had these large power stations. These are gigawatt scale. Now what we’re seeing is a growth of many many smaller systems.

Adam:

Ratings & reviews help to keep us going and they help more people discover our stories. You can rate the show on most podcast platforms by going to ratedayone.com. That’s ratedayone.com to leave a rating on the podcast.

And, Thank you for giving this episode of Welcome to Day One your attention. This episode was created by me, Adam Spencer.

Interviews conducted by me, Adam Spencer.

A big thank you to Jade Ryan from Cake Server for taking the time to be involved and a thank you to Newcastle University’s Integrated Innovation Network for partnering with Welcome to Day One to bring you this story. Without partners like these, our small team wouldn’t be able to continue creating these episodes.

The script was written by me, Adam Spencer.

Music by Lee Rosevere, full attribution on our website welcometodayone.com

This episode was produced by me, Adam Spencer and edited by Natalie Holland.

Thank you and see you next time!

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Resources mentioned

Credits

Thank you Jade Ryan for taking the time to sit down with Welcome to Day One and share your story and a big thank you to Newcastle University’s Integrated Innovation Network for partnering with Welcome to Day One to bring you this story.

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Music Credits

Music by Lee Rosevere.

Title: Let’s Start at the Beginning

Source: Let’s Start at the Beginning 

Licence: CC BY 4.0

 

Thanks for listening! Catch you next time.

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