I Like Cake (Iqaluit, NU)
Many Inuit women dream of starting their own business. Sadie Vincent-Wolfe is one of the few Inuit women close to realizing her dream. Sadie will soon be opening a bakery in Iqaluit, providing unique, handmade cakes for special occasions.
Sadie has been a baker for most of her life, although her interest in starting a formal business has developed over the past few years. Growing up with lots of relatives, there was an endless cycle of birthdays, anniversaries and graduations, with many cakes. Sadie gained experience in the kitchen sharing cooking duties with her father. Dessert was the best part of each meal and always looked forward to – particularly Sadie’s cheesecake.
A few years ago, Sadie was out of work, pregnant and looking for a way to bring in extra income. Friends and family aware of her talent began asking her to bake cakes for special occasions. As baking a specialty cake takes time and effort, baking one at home is too much work for many parents. Sadie is confident that her products will attract clients with quality, uniqueness and freshness. Currently, Sadie receives 4-6 orders a week. Increasingly from people who have learned about her cakes by word-of-mouth.
Early on, Sadie took steps to increase her business’ chance of success. All the money made from selling cakes has been saved and used for buying new baking equipment and an upright freezer. A new system for scanning pictures onto cakes has been very useful, saving her time and maintaining a high product quality. Sadie needs a few more things of course, but she is well on the way to having a good supply of baking equipment.
Sadie’s savings will help her in other ways as well. When she approaches a funding agency to help finance her business, she will already have some equity (money invested) in the business. This will make it easier for her to access additional funds if she needs, for expansion, new equipment or hiring staff. Funding agencies like to see that the owner has put some of their own money and resources into the business.
The market for Sadie’s products is a mix of people wanting cakes for special occasions. This includes the legislative assembly and the many organizations and government agencies with frequent meetings in the territorial capital. Sadie is confident that this market will be able to afford her products. Many Iqaluit residents are fortunate to have good paying jobs, providing them with significant disposable income. As Iqaluit expands rapidly, Sadie’s business seems well placed to grow with the city’s prosperity.
On top of this, there are no real competitors for her business. While there are other retail operations in town, they only offer products that are made in the south, usually frozen and limited in terms of design and flavours. The high quality, uniqueness and homemade aspect of her cakes allow her to charge a premium for her products.
One of Sadie’s key strengths is the support of her family and friends. Her husband works in a hardware store and can help with any store renovations that may be needed. He has been very supportive of her dream for a business. The support of one’s partner is a critical component of success for many businesses, particularly when there are children at home. As well, her sister may work in the store while the business is starting out.
Another advantage Sadie has is her knowledge of the business support agencies in Iqaluit. She is aware of the programs and services offered by Kakivak Association and the Baffin Business Development Centre. Knowing about these supports and accessing them is an important part of setting up a new business and maintaining an existing business.
Sadie has also attended a workshop for Inuit women interested in starting a business. Hosted by Pauktuutit, she found the workshop to be very useful and liked connecting with other women with the same interests. She was able to better define her ideas for business, become more confident about writing a business plan and learn important information such as business licensing requirements for the city and pricing strategies.
Sadie is lucky – she knows what kind of business she wants, she has some savings and equipment of her own, she’s confident and she has a good idea of the market for her products. Equally important, she knows some of the basics of running a business and she has strong support from family and friends. These are all essential ingredients that go into the mix of a successful business.
It’s all starting to pay off for Sadie. She was recently asked to provide a cake for the Order of Nunavut ceremony in Iqaluit. Currently, Sadie is seeking out a location for her business. She is keen to attract walk-by business and maximize the exposure of her products. While her dream of opening a business is on its way to becoming a reality, Sadie is well aware there will be more challenges. As she puts it:
“Always know that you are going to face hurdles in your business. At times you may not think that you have the strength and resources you need to overcome those hurdles, but you do and you will.”