Meet Cynthia Akinsanya

Cake Designer
Delights by Cynthia

Delights by Cynthia create bespoke cakes for celebrations, weddings, special events, gifts, corporate events and personal indulgence.

Founded in Islington, London in 2006 by cake designer Cynthia Akinsanya, the company’s signature styles use the finest, fresh ingredients including free-range eggs, fairtrade, organic chocolate and fruit.

Delights by Cynthia’s unique commissions regularly generate press coverage across national magazines and newspapers, attracting a celebrity clientele.

Cynthia baked her first celebration cake in 1977 when she was eight years old for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and cakes have been her consuming passion ever since.

Why did you decide to start your company?
I have always loved to bake for family and friends. After a while, you cannot ignore it when people believe you should do this on a professional basis.

I kept putting it off, but the desire to bake and to start my own business was not going away, so I decided to take the plunge and have not looked back since.

What was your career path prior to starting Delights by Cynthia?
Many moons ago I went to art college. The two things my tutors kept commenting on was the fact that I had an eye for colour and a good business mind.

From art college I went on to do business studies. I combined the two areas by working in a fashion buying office for a major retail outlet. While working in the buying office, I started writing – short stories and articles, some of them were even published in magazines.

I took a leap of faith and handed in my notice and did some freelance writing for a year before landing a job as a feature writer for Black Hair magazine, when it was first launched. I was made redundant in 2000 and it was during this time I began baking again.

I took a job at a five-star hotel to learn some business basics about the hospitality industry. I then went on to work for a national charity, organising events and some marketing and promotion.

Delights by Cynthia is a great opportunity to pool together my creativity, business sense, skills and experience to do something I am passionate about.

Did you always know that you would start your own business?
Most definitely, for me it was not a matter of if I was going to start a business, but when. I have always had that entrepreneurial spirit.

I’ve always wanted to be my own boss and I enjoy the fact that I get to build up my business instead of someone else’s. I enjoy the independence and the opportunity to be creative without limits, I’m working to my house-style, my standards and my limits and not someone else’s limitations.

What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am in the process of launching a new website. This means lots of chats and emails to the web developers about what I need done and what is required of me.

I’m also working on photographing a collection of cakes for the new website and for future press work.

Can you describe your typical working day?
There is no such thing as a typical working day for me. It can range from baking a batch of cakes, starting out as early as 5am in the morning, to answering email enquiries and preparing quotes.

I carve out some time to do some social networking, so I update my followers on Twitter about what is happening in the Delights Kitchen, or add new cake pictures to the Facebook page or write a blog post.

I tend to do the creative stuff, decorating the cakes, in the evening when it is peaceful and quiet. During wedding season I also have to make time for wedding cake consultations.

What has been your favourite commission so far?
My favourite commission so far has got to be the post box cake. I received an email from a man who asked if I could make a cake shaped like a post box. At first I thought this would be the iconic London post box, but from the image he sent to me, it was an American style post-box, which people have outside their homes. The only message he wanted on the cake was “you’ve got mail.”

I made the post box cake, added a few sugar letters on the board and included the “you’ve got mail” message on the board. Being the curious type, when the man came to collect the cake, I asked him who the cake was for and for the story behind the cake.

The cake was for his homesick girlfriend, who was studying in London and was missing her family in Cyprus. He wrote to her family and friends and asked them all to write to her and send the letters to him. That evening, he was going to take her out for dinner and present the cake with all the letters from her loved ones.

Now that is what I call romantic. He collected the cake and I asked him to let me know how he got on. A few days later I received a wonderful email. That makes it all worth while. I love doing what I do!

What have been the highlights of running your own business?
I think the highlights for me so far have been the press coverage I have received. Bearing in mind that I am a small business and not a household name yet, I have generated press coverage in OK! magazine, The Mirror, various blogs, wedding magazines and local press.

I have also made some celebrity cakes, including a birthday cake for Vanessa Feltz and a wedding cake for Big Brother contestant Spencer Smith, and received excellent feedback.

What is the hardest part of running your own business?
At the moment, the hardest part of running your own business is the fact that I do everything for the business.

Sometimes being a one-woman band is hard, so it’s important to prioritise on a daily basis and learn to say no to some things and yes to the right things.

What has been the proudest moment so far?
I believe that you are only as good as your last testimonial. My latest testimonial, for wedding cake I created last week, thanked me for producing an excellent wedding cake and stated my professionalism is a credit to me.

Do you have a favourite business book?
I have two business books I always recommend to women thinking of starting a business.

The first is The SEED Handbook by Lynne Franks: This book is a useful tool when you are starting out in business. The strapline to the book is ‘the feminine way to create business.’ Women are wired differently, so we behave differently in business. Some of the greatest business women, including Lynne Franks, started their businesses from their kitchen table. This book takes you through the journey of how to put your plans and dreams into action.

The second book is Spirit Driven Success by Dani Johnson. This book touches on practical and spiritual principles to create and generate business. This book has helped me and continues to help me take things up a notch.

What, or who inspires and motivates you?
I couldn’t do what I do without the love, support and encouragement from my family. On the nights when I’m baking or decorating a cake, my husband does the bedtime duty with our daughters. Or he entertains the girls on a Saturday morning while I’m setting up a wedding cake at a venue.

Because my family believe in me, it motivates me to continue making the business better.

If you could turn back the clock would you do anything differently?
I would go back and get to grips with the figures and accounting principles from the word go. I have shied away from the financial side of the business for too long.

If you don’t get to grips with the finances then you don’t know if you are making a profit or how much you are spending each month. Also, you can’t plan or forecast for the future.

What advice would you give someone who is considering starting a cake business?
If you love baking and making cakes, have a good long think about whether you want to be a ‘mum who makes cakes’ or a business person. There is a fine line between the two, but between that fine line there are factors like professionalism, marketing, legal requirements and good customer service to consider.

Fast forward five years, where do you see your business will be in 2016?
In five years from now I see the business continuing to thrive, grow and be successful. For me, it’s not just about baking cakes. In the next five years Delights by Cynthia will be an established brand in Britain.

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For more information visit www.delightsbycynthia.com or call 020 7278 6872. You can also find Delights by Cynthia on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook.

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Cynthia Akinsanya was interviewed by Octavia Goredema, founder of the Twenty Ten Club.

The Twenty Ten Club is an award-winning social enterprise designed to connect, inspire and
support Black female entrepreneurs. You can also find Twenty Ten Club on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Do you have a question for Cynthia? If so, please feel free to post a comment below:

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