Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Cupcaker has been featured in Legalweek

Hi Cupcake Lovers

We have been absolutely frantic this week, however we managed to have a break with a cup of tea in order to read the Cupcaker's story in Legalweek!

It was great to actually see the story in print; it made us very proud!!

Have a read:

The Cupcaker x

Crumble beginnings - the corporate lawyer who quit the City to make cupcakes
Author: Harpreet Baura
22 Feb 2011 | 07:41 | 

After two years at a City law firm, Harpreet Baura traded corporate law for chocolate icing. Here, she describes her journey from lawyer to cupcaker

Prior to March 2009, I could be found behind a desk at one of London's premier law firms. But baking had always been one of my passions, and it was at this point that I decided to leave the City behind and pursue my dream of establishing a cupcake company.
It was time to say goodbye to soft offers, mergers and corporate law and hello to soft sponge, margarine and cocoa powder. No longer strutting down the corridors in a suit and stilettos, I can now be found wearing an apron, usually with a smear or two of icing sugar on my face. Meetings are now called tastings and conference calls still remain, but what could possibly be more fun than discussing wedding cupcake towers with a bride and groom-to-be?

I read economics at University College of London, after which I did the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course at BPP Law School. I then joined Linklaters as a trainee in March 2007. Upon qualifying, I decided to set up a web-based cupcake company called Crumbs! Couture Cupcakes. Since I started the company, we have been lucky enough to provide cupcakes for a high-profile celebrity wedding and be featured in numerous glossy magazines.

I am from a family of professionals, so there was never a consideration of not going to university and entering a professional career path. I left school wanting to go into investment banking. During my summer vacation while reading economics, I did an eight-week internship at HSBC Investment and decided banking wasn't the right fit for me. I then considered a career in law, applied to law school and secured a place. It was not until I left law school that I obtained a training contract at Linklaters. They reimbursed my law school fees and allowed me to start my training contract six months later.

Leaving law

During my second seat at Linklaters, my personal life took a tumble and I found myself in quite a severe depression. By no means am I saying that life as a lawyer led to my clinical depression, but it certainly wasn't the environment in which to recover. During my final seat I made the decision to take a break from law in order to get my health back on track.

I had interviewed at some firms, hoping to return to the law after six months, and was offered a role as an associate at a US firm, which was due to start six months after leaving Linklaters. In the interim, I decided to set up the cupcake company as I had always loved baking - but I had every intention of returning to law after a little break. What happened next was totally beyond my predictions.

Setting up shop
Upon finding a property, I then had to turn it into a kitchen fit to produce the prettiest cupcakes in London. The fact that we were in a recession at the time actually helped, as the economic climate meant that I received much more competitive quotes for the work to get the premises ready. The friends and contacts I had made at Linklaters helped me to build up business, as their orders and reviews were invaluable for Crumbs! in its early stages. My first retailing took place from a stall at Brick Lane's Sunday Upmarket, where I sold cupcakes one weekend a month. Even from these humble beginnings, Crumbs! secured a following on Twitter and Facebook.

Among the highlights since setting up the company are being featured in Vogue as well as being asked to provide cupcakes to be taken to India for Katy Perry and Russell Brand's wedding. It is also so satisfying when we provide cupcakes for charity events, with the proceeds from sales going to the help the cause. We have done charity cupcakes for Help a London Child, Cancer Research UK and
The Prince's Trust.

I faced a lot of criticism when I left what was seen as a prestigious job in order to spend my days in the kitchen. Many people couldn't get their head around what I was doing. I had people speculating behind my back about the possibility that I had been sacked or that I couldn't get a job after qualifying. It was all fairly ignorant but, given that I hadn't ever advertised the fact that I had been depressed, many people didn't understand why I had left.

I often deliver cupcakes in the City to offices and banks, and it does make me very nostalgic. I do miss the buzz of life in the financial world, but then I remind myself of how much I prefer the actual work I do now to the work of a lawyer, and I am placated.

Lessons from the City

Running my own business has meant that I have had to learn a huge amount very quickly. My legal background has helped me in terms of copyright with my website as well as being able to stand my ground when suppliers have breached contracts. I was lucky enough to have some money saved while I was working at Linklaters and so this meant that I didn't have to take out any loans when starting up Crumbs!
My job can still be very stressful and it still involves long hours. There are huge nerves and a lot of stress involved in doing exhibitions such as the National Wedding Show. And we have also had to work through the night preparing cupcakes for photoshoots. There are often weekends at the peak of the wedding season where we have to prepare and set up about 800 cupcakes in one weekend. Law does teach you how to deal with stressful deadlines and pressure, which prepares you well for the discipline required to run your own business.

The joy of cupcakes

Being able to wake up and spend the day doing something so creative is perfect for me. I have always been an artistic person and I think I prefer the fact that a day's work can now be shown with something tangible.

I got married in 2010 and it was a bit of an extravaganza, as many Indian weddings can be. We had three months to plan a wedding that incorporated six events and, had I still been a lawyer, this would have been extremely tough. As a result of running my own business, I was able to juggle my day so that I could visit potential venues and go for dress fittings, and we managed to pull the wedding off in time. Before you ask, the answer is yes, I did make my own wedding cupcake tower.

The cake industry is very dynamic; it's great fun to be constantly developing new products or seeing what the new trends are. We have recently launched a product called The Cake Pop, and last year's big trend, the Whoopie Pie, is still going strong.

Advice to others

The best advice I can offer is to be realistic about how long it will take for your new venture to be profitable and make sure you have a large cash buffer to keep you afloat until you are well in the black. If your new venture will mean that you will spend a lot more time alone, think through whether you will be able to cope with that.

Life is too short to not follow your dreams, but be sure that your dream is sustainable when you introduce it to your real life.

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