Your Business: Dream alive from Primrose Hill to Hillsborough

By Gill South

Karla Goodwin makes up to 400 cupcakes a week, as well as layer and celebration cakes, cookies, slices and fudge. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Karla Goodwin makes up to 400 cupcakes a week, as well as layer and celebration cakes, cookies, slices and fudge. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The jobs we do on our OE can inspire us for the businesses we set up on our return home.

Delivering afternoon tea to Jamie Oliver's house in London was a key moment when Karla Goodwin knew that having her own "cakery" was her dream job.

Goodwin left New Zealand in her mid-20s, with a fine arts degree, and although initially working as a model agency booker, it was the cake shops that caught her eye on her travels in Europe.

"I decided I needed to work in the industry," she says.

She took a job at the Primrose Bakery in London's Primrose Hill, run by Kiwi Lisa Thomas, and Martha Swift. She worked there for a year, learning their baking and decorating techniques and returned home to Auckland in late 2010, starting up Bluebells Cakery in February last year.

Initially, working from a registered kitchen, she did all her marketing and selling through Facebook and Twitter.

"Then came a point where I decided this is not enough. I knew La Cigale was the market to be in," she says.

Starting at the Sunday market, she now has a stall on both weekend days.

"I wouldn't be where I am now without La Cigale," Goodwin says.

The baker moved to her own premises at 161A Hillsborough Rd in February this year. Initially planning to use it just for its kitchen, it was such a good space that the Bluebells Cakery shop has been open on Friday and Saturdays since April.

She has also has just started offering coffee, and the bakery will now operate from Wednesdays to Saturdays.

"The shop is a reflection of my style of baking, with old vintage tins and jars, pastel shelving. I always wanted it to be about the experience.

"People walk in, and it's like walking in on a domestic goddess."

All of Bluebells' creations are freshly made to order using high quality ingredients, with no preservatives, additives or artificial flavourings.

Goodwin's style is simple elegance.

She makes up to 400 cupcakes a week.

"I always said I didn't want to just do cupcakes, I do layer cakes, celebration cakes, cookies, slices and fudge."

The baker's boyfriend, Michael James, who works at another cafe, Little & Friday, has helped her with PR and social media.

Goodwin has 1500 followers on Facebook.

"I might have a section on my website for a blog where I put up a recipe that I trial each week and sell the product the week after," Goodwin says.

With the cakery plus La Cigale, Bluebells is on track for a $150,000 annual turnover this year.

Goodwin hopes with selling coffee and being open extra days, that will increase.

The entrepreneur is in talks with Grey Lynn cafe Kokako about wholesaling some of her baking. She also offers a $32.50 a head mobile high tea service with Amanda Fergus from The Vintage Table providing the table settings.

"I would like eventually a big bakery/cafe," she says. "I love the idea of being on site so that when people walk into the shop, they can smell home-baked cookies in the oven."

Goodwin says she would like a business partner who could help finance a larger store in the future.

For now it's about putting in the hours and building up her customer base.

"On Saturday morning I am at the store at 6am and I won't leave til 6 or 7pm," she says. But she's living her dream.

"People have come into the bakery and said, 'This is exactly what I want to do'."

- NZ Herald

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