Product idea #12: Love Cheesecakes
Passion and life changes drove founder James Asquith to launch his product business. Here he talks launching in Selfridges, growth expansion and cheesecake diameters...
Founder: James Asquith
Date launched: March 2013
The product: Individual sized, uniquely flavoured cheesecakes
Becoming an entrepreneur wasn't originally in James Asquith's plans. But, after a change in circumstances, the single parent found managing his job with his parental responsibilities increasingly difficult.
With a passion for learning new skills, and the hope that running his own business might provide greater flexibility, Asquith decided to sign up to a number of business courses to help prepare him to strike out on his own.
Deciding that he'd eaten “enough bad cheesecakes over the years”, the cheesecake lover created a business plan that combined plenty of market research, his love for cheesecake and his newly learned business skills and, according to Asquith, the plan had too much potential to leave it on paper for long.
Within weeks he had transformed his kitchen into a cheesecake factory to test flavours on family and friends and to appear at his first trade event and after just three months he was trading at large food events around the UK.
Despite some delays bringing the product officially to market, after the website development took longer than planned, Asquith's mouth-watering cheesecakes have quickly become a hit with foodies.
Carving a niche in the market with its unique, individual, mini-cheesecakes in innovative flavours (bubblegum is one of the newest flavours on the cards), the start-up secured a loan at the start of the year to accelerate growth – and with a listing in Selfridges on the cards and new products launching soon, the next 12-months are looking very exciting for the young brand.
Here, the founder talks about launching delays, the importance of having a website to showcase your offering and the difficulties of having a unique product…
Can you briefly describe your background James?
I wasn’t looking to run my own business but I became a single parent and although Love Cheesecakes only existed on paper I was struggling to balance my current job with my parental responsibilities so I started to build my own business up on a part-time basis.
I’ve always wanted to understand business and I love learning new skills so I studied various business courses and put everything I had just learnt into a business plan.
The plan looked good and was too tempting not to try so I renovated my kitchen and created 20 flavours and tested on friends and family. Then I designed and purchased the event equipment and within weeks traded at my first event, three months later we were trading at large food festivals and have never looked back.
Where did the idea for Love Cheesecakes come from?
I love cheesecakes so I wanted to put my energy into something I enjoyed and after eating enough bad cheesecakes over the years, I thought why not.
The idea for individual sized cheesecakes came about during the planning stages – the size everyone makes is nine inch cakes, but after analysing the market with various sizes I decided to make mine smaller and individual-sized and offer a wider range of flavours.
Describe how your individual cheesecakes are disrupting the marketplace?
As our cheesecakes are in individual portions, there is no waste; but they are also rich and therefore filling. Also they are made-fresh so 80% of our stock can be frozen – making them ideal for catering events.
Finally we have a wide range of flavours, offering 54 flavours currently with more being designed. This year we created a pineapple cheesecake and a fudge cheesecake, and next year we plan to make bubblegum cheesecake.
What market research did you conduct to learn more about the dessert and catering sector?
At the time of the writing the first business plan I was head of market intelligence at my previous job so had access to various marketing reports and was aware of various free data sites, I collected over 100 reports and presentations before I even wrote a single word in my business plan.
How did you finance your cheesecake business?
I started the company on a credit card and then invested all the profits back into the business; we managed to secure a business loan in January 2014, which changed everything this year as we did more trade shows and focused on B2B customers.
Describe your business journey to date, from having the idea for your cheesecakes to bringing them to the market.
It took over a year to bring the product to market, which was a lot longer than I had wanted. One big reason for the delay was the decision to launch the website along with the product – this took a lot of energy and time to design but gave us a great platform to showcase our cheesecakes.
Another challenge was packaging our individual cheesecakes as everyone provides nine inch cake boxes or wedge shaped boxes, so we have had to be creative and find suppliers who don’t want to work with the norm.
The product has changed dramatically from when I first created it, in fact from the very first batch of 16 cheesecakes, I only use two of those flavours now; we also use different suppliers and types of chocolates and will continue to develop the product to ensure it’s the best and remains innovative.
How do you distribute your cheesecake?
We sell our cheesecakes mainly online and at festivals, but corporate and hospitality events have been great this year and we have seen an increase in supplying delis and general stores.
Recently we secured orders with various food halls and from December we will be in Selfridges Food Hall in London.
Do you have plans to take your business overseas?
Yes, I’m currently testing the product and new packaging and we have a few European contacts so I’m hoping we can offer a wider distribution.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs considering launching their own homemade dessert business?
Be careful of who you listen too, what you take as advice can just be someone’s opinion; your business and product is down to you to create so go with your gut feeling and always consider your customers.
What are Love Cheesecakes' future plans?
The plans for the next 12 months are to offer a national distribution and develop three new product ranges, including a gluten- and allergy-free range.
Finally we want to expand the team and employ individuals who want to create and express their own passion with Love Cheesecakes; attend events across the country in major cities, and keep building and growing the business.