Meet the bakers cashing in on Instagram’s love of desserts

Welsh bakers are upping their aestheticism to profit from this unique business opportunity

Four cupcakes with blue icing and sprinkles
Instagram success relies on the visually spectacular, which these three bakers certainly manage Credit: Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Instagram is a powerhouse for distribution and baking is the latest industry to harness its potential. In June 2020, Instagram hit one billion users, which is almost an eighth of the world’s population, and businesses spent 177 percent more on adverts in this year, according to wordstream. Furthermore, around two million Instagram users pay to promote their posts.

Lockdown has been characterised by people trying new things they would never have had time for before, including baking. Whether that be the classic banana bread, welsh cake variations or more complex brownie bakes, interest in baking shot up, and this was mirrored by the increase in followers of Instagram’s baking community.

The hashtag “#cake” brings up 98.4 million posts, closely followed by “#cakesofinstagram” which brings up 9.3 million. Closer to home, the hashtag #welshbaker reveals 2800 posts, and shows artistic cupcakes, sponges and more.

The owners of @famishedbakehouse, @heavyhandbakes and @bakesbyness are all examples of bakers using Instagram’s marketing potential in Wales. Here is what they have to say about using the platform to grow their brands.

Famished Bakehouse
These creme egg cookie pits are being sold as part of Famished Bakehouse’s easter collection Credit: Alanna Doherty

The Instagram account @famishedbakehouse is run by 30 year old Alanna Doherty from Swansea. She stocks a range of cookie products, from stuffed cookies at £2.50 to cookie and brownie stacks costing up to £65. She originally invested money from her full time job as a call centre manager, where she still works part time. Now, it supplements her income as she sells an average of 1000 products per month. Having run the account successfully for 18 months, accruing over 5,400 followers, she has quickly learnt the most effective way of attracting new buyers.

She explains she has worked with bloggers in the past and done product giveaways. She said, “I quickly learned that your following goes up but you don’t necessarily get customers from either of these things.”

Additionally she noted that local hashtags like #swanseafood and #swanseabusiness work the best, especially as she only delivers locally. However she admitted she usually forgets and hasn’t used them for a while, but her followers still go up daily without their use.

The hardest part is attracting new followers who will make the step to also becoming buying customers. The most effective method for this is through existing customers sharing their orders on their stories. This authentic form of review works. The customers pay via bank transfer or Paypal, and she also plans on launching a website which will simplify the sales process. 

Cookie treat boxes with a mixture of products Credit: Alanna Doherty

Instagram is not her sole point of sale. Alanna also sells her products on Facebook and stocks them in cafes in Swansea. Alongside this business, she also works as a contact centre manager.

She said, “I started working reduced hours because Famished took off more than I ever expected!”

Other Welsh bakers to keep an eye on
Heavy Hand Bakes
Amy Davies, owner of Heavy Hand Bakes also sells cookie dough alongside her cookie products Credit: Amy Davies

@heavyhandbakes is a Cardiff based account which was set up in June 2020 by 26 year old Amy Davies. She works full time at Park Side Cafe in Heath, where she stocks wholesale of her products. Including her wholesale supply, Amy sells around 4000 products monthly, which includes around 100 on her Instagram. 

Amy’s raw products cost her around £400 or £500 per week. At the beginning this was a struggle to fund, and she used her personal overdraft and furlough money. Looking ahead to this June, her first annual turnover is looking to be £32,000.

She now puts limits on how many Instagram products she sells per month due to the intricacy of many of her products, and is regularly sold out a couple of months in advance.

But how does she manage to work full time and bake over 4000 products per month?

“I never sleep!” she jokes.

An elaborately designed cookie
One of Amy’s more elaborate bakes

Amy stocks giant cookie and brownie combinations, with options of personalised plaques ideal for birthdays, ranging from £25 to £45. The complex toppings include bits of brownies, broken chocolate bars, creme eggs and more. They’re visually spectacular and Amy now has six thousand followers on Instagram.

Amy put in a lot of groundwork to build her following since starting the account last June. She says, “I advertised posts, contacted a lot of local bloggers, did markets, hashtagged the right things to get people noticing, held regular competitions and giveaways and relied on a lot of word of mouth.”

In terms of specific hashtags, Amy’s go tos are #Bestofcardiff #Cardiffcookies #Cardifffood #Cardifflife #Giantcookie #Cookiecake #Cardiff and #CardiffIndie. 

Originally, the Instagram account was her main source of income, but she now has a regular wholesale supply which provides a secure income. For Instagram customers, payments are made through bank transfer.

Amy suggests there may be a place for Instagram to introduce a depop style framework, where payments are made through the app but depop take a cut of the profits.

She says, “A lot of businesses use Instagram and it may be safer than messaging across bank details.” However, she adds her business works well without it, and it would be unfair on smaller, startout businesses who keep fees to a minimum.

Bakes by Ness
Mini egg blondies sold on @bakesbyness Instagram Credit: Vanessa Jones

@bakesbyness is run by 24 year old Vanessa Jones from Bristol, who sells to surrounding areas including South Wales. Alongside the business, Vanessa works as a trauma coordinator for the NHS, so limits her baking to evenings and weekends. Sometimes she closes her online shop altogether when she has busy weeks at work.

Vanessa splits her business between Instagram, where she has 2300 followers, and Etsy, where she has sold over 500 of her products. They include brownies, cookies, cakes and more. Prices range from 16 up to 70 pounds for the 10 inch pre-decorated celebration cakes.

Her preferred platform is Etsy, where she directs a lot of her customers who direct message to make orders on Instagram. Etsy take a five percent cut of each item sold, which is a small percentage compared to sites like Depop and Ebay which both take a 10 percent cut of profit. In 2020, there were 4.3 million active sellers and 81.9 million active buyers, according to Statista.

This six inch peanut butter and chocolate drip cake is sold for £40 Credit: Vanessa Jones

When asked if she’d prefer keeping her business in one place, she says, “Instagram is a great business tool but we don’t need any more shopping platforms.”Vanessa sells around 50 orders per month, many of which include multiple items.

On increasing following and customers, she says, “Just be consistent. Word of mouth is great, and if you have a legitimately good product, it doesn’t take long for people to take notice.”