splint: tell us about you! Who is Anne?
Anne: I am Anne – probably the oldest single woman in Norwich… I was born in Liverpool, we moved around for a while and then moved to Norfolk following my Dad being relocated in his job. We moved to Norwich when I was 12. I don’t think too much about what/who I am, I don’t think it does any good – best to get on with what you’re doing and not over analyse because it might make you feel very sad…
splint: so I know that you own Cupcake and Co here in Norwich (we have the joy of eating your cakes at the Birdcage), do you want to tell everyone else about your business and how it started?
Anne: yeah, so in a previous life I worked in a job which I really loved, however, unfortunately there were some people who made my life really unhappy. I had always baked and I kind of just thought to myself, do you know what; I am going to give it a punt. I got myself ill with everything that was happening at work and the treatment I was receiving – I moved around and seven years later here I am on Upper St Giles with Cupcake and Co. I spoke to my Dad about it because he had always been self employed and bless him, his one question he asked me was ‘what happens when you get too busy?’ – which was the total reverse of what everyone else was saying ‘what if it doesn’t work?’ and ‘how are you going to make it viable?’ – I think that was my Dad’s way of saying good on you.
splint: how was it starting your own business? Do you have any advice for people who are looking to become self employed/what do people overlook when they start their own venture?
Anne: I think my best piece of advice would be, love what you do. If you haven’t got a passion for your work it can be very daunting, scary and lonely – I still absolutely love baking and making treats. It is difficult to recognise your own success, I often still say – ‘when I become established… ‘ because it is really hard to see what other people see. The perception of Cupcake and Co is very different to my personal opinion of Cupcake and Co. If you love it, then you’re lucky; it gives you the energy to keep going. I am so lucky with my professional relationships, Steve from Bread Source is now a dear friend and he just says it how it is, there is nothing phony about him.
Have a good team around you, I’ve met the most wonderful people.
splint: do you think you need to be of a certain personality type to run a business?
Anne: no but I would say, for me in my old fashioned ways – what you need to have is integrity. I get a bee in my bonnet about businesses not supporting each other, some people think they can make a quick buck or they might have a huge ego, then they hit the wall – there has been some cases of this recently and all the coverage shows and highlights how people need to support local business but there is no story about how their failure affected other independent businesses, where is the integrity in that situation? Maybe I am naive, but don’t borrow money. If your business is good it will work. I can go to bed at night and say, I didn’t shaft anybody today, I did not treat anyone badly, I felt like shit but I managed to smile at everyone who came in – and no one else can say any different either. You have to have integrity.
splint: something that I take from you is that you block out what everyone else is doing, you manage to keep your head down…
Anne: yeah, absolutely. If your full focus isn’t on making the best product and doing the best you can then you won’t succeed. It happens all the time, people come in and say have you heard about this and that? I am like ‘no, I have been too busy here!’
splint: I know that you have two lovely boys, but do you want to talk a little more about them and how they influence your life/decisions?
Anne: they are everything. I just love them. Dan doesn’t live here anymore – he lives in London with his husband; he is the operations manager of a restaurant in London. He is a huge influence and almost mentor in my life. It’s like a role reversal because he is so level headed,I think I am sometimes too emotionally invested. Jack is my youngest son and he works with me here, he has come through a spell of health issues and is on the up – definitely not enough confidence but he is wonderful. Everything I do I run past them, we don’t always agree but I am so lucky to have them as well as my parents and my brother.
splint: a while ago you ran an event to raise money for the ‘Love Doesn’t Hurt’ campaign which I had the pleasure of being involved with. How did that come about and why that charity?
Anne: I had left an abusive relationship, funnily enough I didn’t realise it was abusive for a very long time. It was almost like closure for me, I wanted to do something and originally I thought I would have a few girls and a couple of glasses of wine in the shop. I then spoke to Amber Green formerly of @lifeinafinecity and now runs the Fierce Babes Network here in Norwich, she said ‘you have to have an auction!!!’ Steve over at Bread Source let us use his shop as the venue; the boys from Soulstew gave up their time to come and play some tunes. Dominic from Norwich Cocktails etc. People were amazing in donating and buying stuff, we raised £1500 in three hours. It was the first time I spoke publicly about my situation and I just felt like I was back. It was the first time I had spoken about the relationship without being in floods of tears, I am back. The charity are amazing, it was the Domestic Violence UK charity.
I would love to do some advocacy work with young women, reasonably well educated and fairly world wise but it still happened to me. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Domestic abuse isn’t always about physical abuse, it is about control in relationships. You would think having met me, gobby and fairly sorted – how could anyone control me? But it’s not about someone putting their finger on your head and keeping you still. It is about living with someone who is wearing a mask all the time – the only time the mask is dropped is when you are on your own with them. So no one else sees your normality. I just have this horrible fear that there are younger people in relationships that don’t realise they are abusive. I was very lucky to have such an amazing support network who held me up once I had left, the police are just wonderful. We are so lucky to have them, they take it so seriously, i would phone up about things that I thought were ridiculous and everytime they would treat me with such respect and gave a credibility to my situation. I had spent all those years believing that it was me.
The event wasn’t a sad night or people talking about abuse. Everyone knew why we were there and it was a fun night. Cocktails, great music and friends.
splint: how to do you think living in Norwich or a small city benefits and/or restricts your business?
Anne: I think living in a small town is nice because you can build great relationships with other business – you can help each other out, my event wouldn’t have happened without other business. The downside is the number of people who live here, there are only so many cups of coffee one person can have in a day! We have a great food scene here, with fantastic restaurants, there is room for everyone to do it, I don’t think there is a quick fix – Norwich is a slow burner, but it’s a good one.
splint: you have lots of male friends, how do you maintain positive relationships with the men in your life?
Anne: We love the boys. I think because, I am headstrong, gobby and some women perceive me differently to how I really am. I have always had male friends but the girlfriends that I do have are amazing. I am a very loyal friend, I will fight for my friends, not that I have to because they are very good at standing up for themselves. I feel blessed because I think people would do that for me too.I get cross about things and I never think to much about myself, but I am quite strong. I had been quite emotional but, I think think that was tied into my unhappy situation. If something triggered an unhappy feeling I would just spend a lot of time in tears. I am strong though.
splint: If you could work with one other women, anyone who would it be?
Anne: well i was lucky the other day, I had my niece come and help me out in the shop. We had a fun afternoon and it was really great to see and spend time with someone who is so focused on where she is going, what she is doing, who is single, beautiful and doing exactly what she wants to do. She isn’t waiting for Mr Right, she isn’t dependant on anyone for anything… She is wonderful.
Splint: what are your favourite podcasts/ how do you spend your spare time?
Anne: I am totally and utterly in love with Christopher Sweeney and Will Young from the Homosapiens podcast. I have learnt so much from listening to them, it doesn’t feel voyeuristic. Everything that they talk about is from an LGBT perspective… I didn’t know anything about Chemsex before and they are just so open, it isn’t scandalous but the thought of Will Young having sex in a wheelie bin just made me laugh. I love to spend time with people I like, but I don’t do it enough. I am always worried if I will make it up for work the next day, last time I spent a whole day in bed after a night out with you haha. I thought I was twenty five again that night.
Splint: It was brilliant haha! Thank you so much for chatting to us Anne, thank you for being so open and providing Norwich with the most delicious treats.