Small Business Interview: Victoria Onabolu, Ermioni’s Bake Shop
I'm super excited to be featuring one of my besties on the blog today! Vickii Onabolu is an amazing baker (trust me I know) and owner of Ermioni’s Bake Shop. She is self taught and was inspired to start baking by her grandmother. She's gone from baking treats for friends and family to baking for large events and weddings and is on the path to opening her very own bakery! Vickii shares some inspiring words and some really awesome tips in this interview.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services or products do you offer?
My name is Vickii Onabolu and I have a small baking business. It is called Ermioni’s Bake Shop (after my Greek grandmother who is the original domestic goddess and whom we always used to make plans with of opening a restaurant or shop). We bake cakes, cookies, brownies … all sorts. At the moment I bake to order from home but there are plans of a shop in immediate future. It’s very exciting!
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
Ha! I wish I could say something profound but alas, I chose to become a baker because I LOVE to eat desserts. Really really really love dessert! I started baking because I realized home-made cakes were so much better than shop made and because I would see recipes that I wanted to try. Then I started a baking blog to
motivate me to bake regularly so that I would have content for my blog. It worked.
Soon friends would ask me to bake for occasions like hen parties and engagement parties. At those events, other people would compliment me on my baking and asked me if I did it professionally. I always said “no”. One day I started saying “yes”. And that was that.
At the moment I work full time alongside my business so my biggest transition has been giving up my spare time. Most weekends and some evenings during the week are spent baking. When we open the shop though, I will quit my job to manage it full time. It’ll be scary not having a salaried job but I’m excited about doing this all the time rather than just in my spare time.
Do you have any special training?
I don’t, no. I have learnt through experience. I have learned everything I know from trying out recipes, reading lots of baking blogs and watching the occasional YouTube video. However I still have lots to learn and in the next couple of years, I would love to get some formal pastry chef training.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
Generally, turning one of the things I love the most into a business is probably what I most proud of. Also every time someone tells me how amazing my cakes are. Because that’s what Ermioni’s Bake Shop is all about, making incredible tasting cakes!
I was at a wedding recently where I baked the cake and when they cut it and people started eating it, some people who knew I had baked it came up to me to say how amazing it was but most people didn’t know me and looking round at people’s faces as they mouthed to someone else over a bite “oh my God” or calling over their partners to taste the red velvet or the Oreo cake, it’s moments like that that I love the most. In a year, I hope to tell you that my biggest accomplishment is the shop and in three years, many shops!
What mistake(s) have you made with your business? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
In the beginning, I undervalued what I did. My prices were so low they barely covered the costs and in fact, for a while, I only charged people the costs of the ingredients.
I quickly realized that as with life, if you don’t value yourself and what you do highly, others are going to be in no hurry to do it for you. This is especially true in business where they can benefit from your undervaluing yourself.
I started pricing properly, basing my prices on the quality of my product and standing behind that decision as people still will often try and pay me less or try and negotiate my prices. I get told a lot that I’m so much better than a big American style bakery chain here in London that is more expensive than me. And the same people that tell me that are the same people that will try to negotiate my prices. I’ve learnt to say “no thank you, this is the price” politely but firmly.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful small business?
Passion and hard work. I don’t believe you can be successful without either. Do something you love. Steve Jobs said “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it”. I agree whole-heartedly. You also need to be willing to put in the work and motivate yourself because nobody else will.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
Start doing what you love in some way, shape or form. Just start. No matter how small. Don’t wait till you can see the big picture or you feel you’re ready for the end goal. It is a huge step of faith and at certain points that step will be a leap but don’t worry about that yet, just take the first step. Start.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
Learn as much as you can so that at least in the beginning you can do it all yourself as an accountant is an added expense most small businesses won’t be able to afford. Keep receipts and records of everything!
All of your expenditure and earnings, your method doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be comprehensive and easily accessible. Ask for help when you need it – chances are there are people in your immediate circle with the skills to help.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
At the moment I don’t. As I work full time, I bake in my “life” time. But it works and I am in a place in my life where I am able to make that sacrifice to my personal time.
I suspect that owning your own business means work will always infringe slightly on your time but once I am doing this full time, I intend to make sure that there are boundaries as though I love what I do, I think everyone needs refuge from “what they do” once in a while to make for a well balanced life but also to keep the passion for the work.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I will be working in the baking industry full time. I believe I will have more than one shop – how many though, time will tell!
Please share a fun fact about yourself
I love working out and fitness in general! I’ve run 3 marathons, 6 half-marathons and work out at least 5 times in an average week.
Thank you so much Vickii for a lovely interview!