Karren Brady’s advice to a mum selling cakes at her daughter's new school

APPRENTICE star and West Ham United vice-chair Karren Brady answers your careers questions and meets an inspirational CEO.

She gives career advice to a mum who wants to build a customer base at her daughter's new school despite there being existing competition.

Q) I love baking and recently I’ve been researching setting up a business making cakes for kids’ birthday parties in our local area, especially now that my eldest child has started school.

The problem is, I’ve found out that another mum who has kids in the same school already has a very similar business, though I’ve heard that a few parents have been disappointed with her cakes.

As my daughter and I are new to the school, I don’t want to upset anyone, but obviously it’s a great place for me to build up a customer base.

Should I push ahead and print some flyers to give out in the playground or is this unfair on the other mum?

Emmie, via email

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A) Being your own boss and doing something you love is the best kind of career you can have.

No business would ever launch if people were worried about upsetting their competition – however, there is a respectful way of going about things.

After all, there are enough children and enough birthdays for both of you to be successful.

If you’re nervous about being too brazen by handing out flyers in the playground, find other ways to spread the word.

Create an Instagram profile to upload photos of your bakes and ask to put up posters in local cafes.

You could also invite a few parents and their kids to a play date and serve them some of your delicious cakes – that way, word will soon spread.

If the other mother asks you about your new baking business, be friendly and honest and tell her it’s something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time and now the time is right.

If you are polite and welcoming, she can’t have anything bad to say about you!

Got a careers question for Karren? Email [email protected]fabulousmag.co.uk.

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Bossing It is Fabulous’ series about ordinary women who have launched incredible businesses.

It aims to inspire other women and show that if these ladies can do it, so can you!

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A day in the life of…

Amali de Alwis MBE, 41, is the CEO of Subak, which supports tech start-ups fighting climate change. She lives in west London with her husband Philip, 40, who works for Microsoft.

I get up at… 7.30am, check the news on my phone, and then have a coffee to get me going. 

A normal day involves… A 9am start. I’ll catch up with my teams, have one-to-ones, and then chat with my board to ensure we’re reaching our goals. We’re expanding internationally but I mostly work remotely – partly due to Covid but also to reduce air miles.

I’ll work on strategy, company finances, and ensure our London HQ team of eight are clear about how we can best support start-ups that are working to reduce carbon emissions and global warming.

I always take a lunch break to relax. I can be very productive, but also very lazy. I protect work and relaxation equally! Some afternoons I might have a call with one of my mentees or a climate-change-related virtual conference. In my previous job as CEO of Code First Girls, I’d do 80-100 events a year, but we’re living in different times now!

I was recently telling a cabbie about what I do and he said he couldn’t be bothered with trying to help climate change because we haven’t got a chance of making a difference. But it’s just about doing what we can, and Covid has taught us that we are absolutely able to come together and enact change quickly, en masse, globally. I feel very positive about it.

The best part of my job is… Hearing about the steady wins of the 40+ organisations and individuals we work with – when they’ve influenced climate policy, hired a new team member or raised funding. That shows me the value of the work we’re doing.

And the worst… In start-ups, there are always challenges, like when a team member is going through a difficult time. It’s also tough when one of the companies we support is struggling with funding.

I wind down by… I’m a voracious reader of sci-fi and fantasy, like Terry Pratchett. Philip and I take turns cooking, though we’ll sometimes eat at one of the many brilliant Ethiopian restaurants near us. I’ll potter about until midnight, though that’s a habit I’m trying to change!

  • For more information, visit Climatesubak.org.

Claire Frost & Gemma Calvert  Photography: Mark Hayman.

Karren cannot answer emails personally. Content is intended as general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice

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