Happy New Year! So far this series, we've chatted with our bakers, chefs and frontliners to give you an insight into the world behind the cuckoo clock. This month, we're kicking off 2016 with a trip to the heart of the business. Vidya, one half of the creative duo that started Cuckoo's Bakery, talks business secrets, disco dinner parties and proudest moments...
What's it like to be one half of Cuckoo's?
Its positively Cuckoo of course! Graham and I are both very hands-on so our day is spent doing all manner of things. The reality is very different to what people imagine but it can be fun, challenging and demanding. Starting the business and keeping it going has taught me a lot and I'm grateful for that. I think about what I was doing before this (office job in central London) and I wouldn't change anything for a second.
Describe a typical working week.
There's plenty of admin, stock ordering and big customer orders that I tend to, there's nothing better than the personal touch. I look after all my little Cuckoos' payroll and HR demands - there are about 20 of us so it takes up a lot of time making sure they are ok. Graham and I can't be everywhere, so it's very important that they understand what being part of the team is and what is expected of them. I also sort out the operational side of the business. I'm mostly based at our Dundas Street shop and get to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere there. You can find me doing all manner of jobs from making milkshakes, fixing challenges with deliveries, having meetings with suppliers and other companies, to developing and working on new projects. Ultimately, I do a bit of everything although I do none of the social media stuff as I take awful pictures!
What's on your list to see and do in 2016?
Well now there's a question as I hate making plans, but lists are OK so let's add to my to do list: see and do more in Edinburgh! I must remember that I live in a thriving city and I need to get out more and enjoy it. I haven't been to any gigs in ages so I'll do that. Work-wise, I want to grow the Cuckoo empire but that doesn't necessarily mean more shops. There's so much both Graham and I want for the business and we need to make time to develop it.
Top 3 proudest moments at Cuckoo's?
Winning Scottish Baker of the Year Award for best individual cake in Scotland twice in a row has been amazing.
The referendum cupcake poll was the most unexpected fun and knocked us all for six with all that media coverage. We were spotted in the most random newspaper articles in the farthest away places imaginable, I think we were featured in the Buenos Aires Times or something like that. And finally opening Cuckoo's Bakery shop 2 in Bruntsfield - the reason I'm proud of that is because Graham and I talked so much about doing it, then when we finally went for it we were so focused and driven and before we knew it we had a beautiful little shop in a new neighbourhood!
What 3 things could you not do without on a working day.
Easy peasy question: My morning latte, music and some banter and jokes with my team and customers.
Who inspires you in business?
Anyone who's set up something on their own as I know how hard and scary it is. Bit of a cliche but I love watching 'The Apprentice' and 'Dragon's Den'. There's always something to learn from those who've made it. It shows you can come from any walk of life - as long as you have ambition and determination you can do it.
Have you ever been starstruck?
Not really. I used to work in the theatre industry in London and was always spotting random famous people out and about (mostly getting drunk in bars) and getting a right eyeful of them. Believe me, once you've seen that happen a few times you don't get starstruck!
What's the equation for success as an independent business? Any tips for aspiring business owners?
Multiply determination by 100, then add that to realistic goals and a good solid vision of the business and that should equal success, but it takes hard work. You need a good support network they will keep you sane. My motto while Graham and I were starting out at the very beginning when it was super scary was "Failure is not an option". It works. When you have everything to lose, you make sure that what you are doing is water-tight. I would also say to others starting up: remember you can't do everything at once, things can get added in later. I remember telling Graham: Let's just get those doors open and start selling the cakes then we can worry about the fancy take away cups! Also, having a business partner who is complete opposite to you helps! Yin and Yang and Chalk and Cheese can make a good team!
You have an unexpected day off - where do you head to?
The shops for some retail therapy then the spa for some pampering, I'll have some bubbles too to finish off the day of extravagance!
Who would you invite round the table of your dream dinner party? What's on the menu and what's on the stereo?
Stevie Nicks, she is a living legend. Imagine the stories she could tell! I'm a big John Waters fan so he will have to be there, and Vivienne Westwood. Vin Diesel can be my bar man making us Mojitos. On the stereo will be disco music - yes, this a raucous dinner party! On the menu is a Guyanese classic dish called Pepperpot. My mum will have to make it though as she is the only one that can perfect this national dish. She can join us too, although I think Viv might freak her out a bit.
Dream location for a Cuckoo's Bakery anywhere in the world?
The Big Apple - I love it there, but we would be lost in the crowd of other bakeries and cupcake shops. Alternatively, Amsterdam - outside of the cliched tourist part it's the most amazing chilled out and beautiful city with so much to do. Lovely just to potter around all the little streets discovering things.
Your friends and family thought you were "cuckoo" to start a cupcake bakery. Do they still think you're a bit bonkers?
Ha, no! They're all a bit amazed by how well its gone so the joke is on them! In all seriousness though, they have been and continue to be my other inspiration. When things get tough they are the ones that give me that pep talk, then a kick up the butt.
And finally, have you kept your New Year's resolutions so far?
I don't make any - those things put too much pressure on people I think. I do have goals and I am determined so I know I can reach them - but in my own time.
We hope you enjoyed learning more from behind the scenes at Cuckoo's! Our next Blog will follow soon. In the meantime, pop in to one of our shops soon or order cakes online at our website! We will be announcing our 2016 Valentine's range very soon indeed!