On highlights and challenges behind The Caker

Jordan Rondel

October 18, 2019

It has been 9 years since you started The Caker as a blog and now it is one of the most known cake bakeries / boutiques in Auckland. How did your day to day work change from then to now?

When I founded The Caker in 2010 I was a one-man-band. Youthful and energetic me performed every single aspect of operating the business entirely myself - from baking to cleaning to marketing and accounting. Later, in 2013, orders had tripled and I had employed a couple of bakers, but I was still doing almost everything. 14 hour days were a breeze - 18 hour days were a bit more tricky.

Fast forward to today, I have a team of 13 behind me and I now co-own the business with my sister Anouk. I actually hardly ever bake anymore because I’m mostly glued to my laptop organising brand collaborations, creating draft recipes or scouring the P&L (profit & loss), but when it’s a busy Friday and I have the nerve to push my emails and spreadsheets aside, I offer to help in the kitchen and I LOVE every minute of being back in there.

I love having chocolate on my forearms for no apparent reason, most likely some icing on my face, the dull foot-ache that comes from running around the kitchen in Dr Martens. Those Fridays when I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with my team and acknowledging that the cakes I’m icing are the ones that customers have actually gone out of their way to purchase is when I’m truly my happiest.

Now I’m in LA setting up The Caker and I really feel like I’m back to grassroots. I’m starting from what feels like day dot and experiencing more pressure than I’ve felt in years! But now there’s a very clear goal in mind and after 9 years of being in this biz, I have the confidence to know I’ll get there.

What were some of the challenges of running a small business when you started and how have these challenges evolve over time?

In the beginning, I didn't know how to cope with stress very well, and I didn’t sleep properly for a couple of years. I wasn’t the best at delegating or handing over any control, so even though people had offered to help, I wanted to keep doing it all myself. But I began to burn out. Now, having realised the necessity for help, the challenges I face are more along the lines of trying to be a good, inspirational leader. Being a boss doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve hired a group of people who have all become my close friends, and I owe it to all of them for making it easy to be their boss. Anouk and I have created quite a unique working environment, where there is no hierarchy because that was all we knew how to do. But it works.

What do you think made your brand so different from the rest and what factors contributed to its success?

I think I owe a lot to timing. Back in 2010, I remember there were not very many options for quality made-to-order cakes, let alone interesting flavours, or an absence of food colouring or fondant. So I entered the market with these cakes which used fresh herbs, ground almonds, miso paste and saffron, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 21-year-old, and with the help of a few noteworthy contacts up my sleeve, people took to me immediately. I had my first wedding order within a couple of weeks and without me even really realising, a cult following was building.

The other thing I owe a lot to is, of course, Instagram. This platform was and still is absolutely crucial to building my brand and showing people what my business is all about. So, timing and the advent of Instagram have been a massive boost to my success, but ultimately the relentlessly hard work behind it all is what has brought The Caker to where it is today. If there’s one thing being a business owner has taught me, is that without dedication and perseverance you won’t get far.

The Caker Instagram feed from:  https://www.instagram.com/thecaker/
The Caker Instagram feed from: https://www.instagram.com/thecaker/

If you didn’t have The Caker, what would alternative universe Jordan be doing now?

I’ve always been really interested in interior design, so if I didn’t have The Caker hopefully I’d be an interior designer working in LA or New York. My dad formed his career around this so maybe that’s where I get it from.

Social media can provide immense value but it also exacerbates our feeling of not good enoughness. We read interviews of people who started companies or who get written about a lot and we compare ourselves. We don’t always see full pictures and get to connect to people online on a personal level. Could you please share some of the personal or professional challenges that you have experienced?

Wow - a loaded question! The truth is, I still feel like a rookie, and 10000%, of course, I compare myself to others and their success. But you know what? I think this is the attitude that makes one want to be successful. If you were ever just content or felt like you’d achieved enough, or didn’t think anyone else was doing better than you, then you wouldn’t keep striving, would you?

I think it’s healthy to feel like ‘I’m not doing enough’ sometimes - I feed off feeling like I need to do more. Of course, there are people in my industry doing far better than I am, but for me that’s exciting, that’s something I can look up to. That being said, I completely agree that often Instagram only shows this glistening gleaming side of life, but when I have spoken out in posts and been honest about certain hardships or struggles, the response has been phenomenal, and it has shown me that people really appreciate this kind of honesty and have for the most part offered support. So I think that we should all try to look right through Instagram and all its flaws, and use it to our advantage as much as we can (while we still can).

What are you passionate about outside of baking?  

I love to cook and I love ‘home-making’ in general.

Jordan Rondel in the kitchen, source:  https://www.facebook.com/thecakernz/

What resources or people supported you on your journey?

I’m very lucky to have incredibly supportive parents who have stood behind me every step of the way. I met my boyfriend in the same year I started The Caker, 9 years ago, and we are still going strong. He’s also a business owner, so he just gets it and throughout this journey has known when to give me both the space to grow and the nurturing to flourish.

Any particularly quirky or weird / funny experiences at The Caker? Any particular projects that stood out for you?

Back in 2017, there came a time when our power kept cutting out because we were overloading the system with one to many ovens or fridges, and my electrician told me we needed to upgrade to 3-phase power. This meant, with the aim of preventing an electrical fire, we had to hire a giant generator (nick-named Jenny) for 3 weeks while Vector approved the upgrade. We had enormous cables running from the carpark into our kitchen, the dizzying smell of diesel constantly in the air, and the business bank account was rapidly declining because Jenny, the beast, was exorbitantly priced. At the time this was not a funny experience, but looking back on it, I can have a chuckle.

What’s next for Jordan and The Caker?

We are setting up The Caker in LA!! But I would rather discuss this a little further down the line when things are a bit more established. Ask me again in 6 months :)

Degustation cakes from The Caker, source:  https://www.facebook.com/thecakernz/

And finally, whose story would you want to read about on here?

I’d be interested to read answers from Georgia Alice. I admire her so much!

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