The importance of saying yes: Zara Cakes

Zara Neild runs her own cake-making business in Manchester - Zara Cakescreating incredibly detailed cakes for special occasions and cupcakes that take your breath away. She's also one of our Virgin StartUp ambassadors. Here, in her first blog for us, she talks about the importance of saying yes, and about a very special meeting with a fellow cake-maker.

When you’re exhausted, you’ve worked for 15 hours & not had a day off for around 3 weeks, you then get asked to showcase your business at a networking event, what do you do? You say YES!

The most valuable lesson I’ve learnt as an entrepreneur is to always say yes. In life you create your own luck - opportunities will not just land at your feet. You have to make yourself known and grab every opportunity with both hands. I’m Zara Neild, the founder of Zara Cakes Manchester. Saying yes had lead me to many amazing opportunities, saying yes has lead me to success - and I’m now confident that this is just the beginning.

Two years ago I applied for a Virgin StartUp loan. At this point I didn’t have any idea how to open or run a business. I didn’t have money, I didn’t have a rich family, I didn’t qualify for a bank loan and I didn’t really have any clue!  I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, I still don’t, but I was ambitious & determined to make it happen. They then said YES! If Marvel made companies, they'd have made Virgin StartUp! I was accepted for a £9000 loan and given a mentor. Real-life superheroes!

When I first started baking cakes I bought a book called “Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery”. As I baked away in my tiny little kitchen with two kids attached to my hip, flour everywhere and many failed attempts coming out of the oven, did I think I would ever meet Martha, the book's author? No, I didn’t.

Meeting Martha was refreshing,  as she is in a position where I want to be. Two shops in London, three cookbooks, an app and a really cool cupcake van. Before meeting Martha I was nervous and a little out of my comfort zone. I had only read about her business and I didn't know anything about her personally. We met at her first store in Primrose Hill, a beautiful, perfectly-designed cupcakery. There we had coffee and chatted about work, life, kids, success and making mistakes. I was shown around her building and introduced to her lovely daughter and staff. What an inspiration - she’s such a lovely down to earth lady.

When we talked about success, Martha said that for her “Success is when I see a queue out of my front door.” Success isn’t based on just profit; when a customer collects a cake and they have a huge smile on their face, that's when I feel successful.

I’m thirty years old, I'm an ambassador for Virgin StartUp, and I've had lunch with Sir Richard Branson. I’ve met Martha Swift, the author of a book I read five years ago when I started baking. This has happened because I stepped out of what I knew and said "Yes."

Entrepreneurial life is hard work - you have to adapt your life around your business. You work long hours and you miss out on a lot of things. But you are your own boss, you meet remarkable people, and it gives you a massive sense of achievement.


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