Maya Harruna and Taeya Abdel-Majeed explain the journey behind their guilt-free online bakery brand, No Guilt Bakes.
What is your business all about?
My company, No Guilt Bakes, is an award-winning online bakery that specialises in tasty cakes, sweet-treats and savoury essentials that are SugarWise Certified ‘No-added Sugar’, low in carbohydrates and gluten, making them perfect for diabetics, gluten intolerant, the health-conscious and people following a keto/low-carb diet.
Tell us the story behind your business?
My cousin Taeya and I lost 40kg between the two of us by sticking to a ketogenic diet. We both adore desserts, chocolate and sweet treats, and we struggled to find keto-friendly sugar free snacks that tasted as good as the sugar-ladened originals. So, we decided to bake our own.
Our friends, family and colleagues enjoyed them so much that they started asking us if the sweet treats were available to buy, and No Guilt Bakes was born.
No Guilt Bakes is our first foray into entrepreneurship and despite Taeya having an extremely demanding full-time career in finance and me currently completing a very demanding law conversion degree, we have managed to build a successful business that generated in excess of £100k in the first year of operation which we’ve since doubled.
Based in the heart of East London, we launched the business in November 2019, just before the first lockdown. Initially, we were baking in our home kitchen but demand for our range of no-added sugar cakes exploded and our humble oven couldn’t handle the demand, and within a few months of launching we had to move to a commercial kitchen.
What sets you apart from your competition?
There are very few sweet treats available on the market that have a low glycemic impacte, and so it’s difficult for British consumers to find products that are free from added sugar, but don’t have an impact on blood sugar levels.
What sets No Guilt Bakes apart from our competition is that we use sweeteners that don’t spike blood sugar levels, whilst still tasting great.
Flavour and texture is central to what makes No Guilt Bakes stand out. Before launching we spent six months testing recipes, because it was important to us that our cakes could be enjoyed by everyone, and not just people that are trying to get healthier. Last year our cakes were awarded a Nourish award – Nourish is the UK’s leading health food award for foods, drinks and supplements that provide a healthier option.
How do you spread the word about your business?
When we launched, we were selling to friends and family, and so word of mouth was key to our initial growth.
Social media has also been central to our development and growth, as it helped us to raise awareness of the brand organically, and we are so lucky to have a large amount of repeat custom.
We then tapped into Google Ads to maximise exposure and drive sales.
How has business been during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Prior to the pandemic, our growth strategy was centred around food markets, gyms and coffee shops. However, the lockdown put a screeching halt to our plans, and by the end of March, sales dropped drastically and we were left questioning the future of the business.
Many businesses were affected by the pandemic, yet the ability to adapt to ever-changing, uncertain circumstances is indeed the difference between ‘swimming or sinking’. We re-evaluated our approach and turned our attention to digital ventures and transitioned to being an online-only business.
We have been extremely lucky. After the initial turmoil, the shift made as a result of the lockdown actually benefited the business significantly – increasing turnover by 600%.
How do you see your market evolving over the next few years?
The health and wellness industry is one of the fastest growing sectors, in 2020 the UK market was worth an estimated £23 billion, and it is expected to continue growing at a rate of 6.4%. Since the pandemic, increasing numbers of people are becoming more health conscious, and embracing healthier alternatives to their usual favourites.
As a result, we expect to see the market for ‘no added’ sugar cakes grow. According to research by Harris Interactive, interest in keto has grown, with internet interest in the term increasing three-fold. So, we predict that the keto trend will continue to grow as Brit’s look for effective ways to lose their lock-down weight gain.
What’s the hardest thing about running a business?
Not having enough hours in the day! Taeya has a full-time job and my law course is extremely demanding, and so it never feels like we have enough time to get everything done.
No Guilt Bakes is our first business, and because we decided to bootstrap the business, we have taken a very hands-on approach and had to learn on the go. There is so much to learn, and the learning never stops!
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Finding the right manufacturer has been one of the biggest challenges we have faced. Demand for the cakes keeps growing, and a number of retailers have shown interest in our range.
It has been a challenge to find a manufacturer that is suitable for the scale we require, because our cakes are not made using the typical high-carb, sugary ingredients.
What’s the best decision you’ve made so far?
The best decision we made was to change our business plan once lockdown hit, and we pivoted to become an online only business. Deciding not to wait for lockdown to lift so we could resume with our original strategy ensured that our business grew by 600% and made our business stand out to UK retailers and international importers.
If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?
As a start-up that is entirely self-funded, we have to be extremely conscious of our outgoings. We worked with a number of companies who had great reputations, and made lots of promises that they were ultimately unable to deliver on. It was a costly lesson to learn, and if we could go back in time, we would definitely not have worked with them
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
Receiving an email from a buyer from a well known and established retailer five months after we’d launched, requesting to list our products. I cried as soon as I read the email.
It was confirmation that our product was no longer a small, niche product, and the big players were waking up to the gap in the market for tasty no-added sugar goods.
What are your hopes for your business in the next five years?
Global domination. In the run up to this, we are currently speaking with a number of retailers and we hope to see our range of products on the shelves of the UK biggest retailers.
We would love No Guilt Bakes to become a household name and to be the go-to brand for Brit’s that are looking for a tasty, healthier low-carb alternative.