Karlee Prior is the kitchen whiz behind Karlee’s Kupcakes: a one-girl band creating bespoke cakes and sweet treats for the lucky folk of Brisbane, Australia, and surrounds.
Karlee’s small business relies almost solely on Instagram to help get the word out about her gourmet goodies, both by posting on her own account, being featured on huge accounts in the baking trade, and her (often famous) clientele’s personal IG feeds.
I asked her what it’s like starting a business where her only source of promotion is social media, and how those of you with small or online businesses can replicate her success using nothing but your phone.
My business started as my main career in December 2014 when I quit my full-time job as a fraud analyst, but I had been building my business for at least two years beforehand to gain enough clientele to make it a full-time role! As for the social media side of things, I have been on Instagram since its inception, but didn’t really start using it to advertise my business until I went full time. Facebook was much the same with creating a business page to reach those not on Instagram.
I think it just happened naturally for me and Instagram is definitely a huge part of my life, whether it be looking at other businesses or keeping up with friends and family all over the country and the world. I love the connectivity you get with Instagram and I guess how ‘raw’ it is in terms of being able to comment to people directly and, most importantly, instantly.
I’ve been really lucky in the sense that I haven’t had to spend a lot of money on marketing. I’ve had some really cool clients in terms of their social status and followings online so I haven’t found the need to use physical/traditional marketing techniques. I think in this day and age it is a lot more common to tag someone in a post be it on Facebook or Instagram, rather than hand out fliers or do a mail drop.
I do still love having business cards though and I think they are really effective, especially for networking with other businesses, and a few of my suppliers actually have them on their front counters which is really nice!
I am on Facebook with a business page and I do have a website with plenty of information about my cakes, ordering and heaps of photos. I have never joined Twitter because I just didn’t think it was necessary considering my business is essentially all visually-based.
At the moment videos seem to a big hit, especially when accounts with a bigger following repost what I have shared. I have been doing time-lapse videos just on my phone and people love seeing the process of how a cake is put together – I find it quite hypnotizing!
My face, ha!
I definitely use my account now for business 99% of the time, but if I am posting something of a personal nature it usually involves cake anyway, so I try and combine the two! I’ve started doing ‘cake selfies’ where I take a shot of me with my cake in the background that I have just assembled. It was initially for my own sad entertainment but others seem to find it funny!
I try and post at least once a day. Since my number of followers has grown I’m not as pedantic about when I post but generally speaking in the morning when people are travelling to work or later at night when people are just getting home or when it might be dessert time!
I have noticed I have a lot of international followers now too, so posting mid-morning means I’m posting sort of early evening in the US, which works well too. My biggest days for cake are Friday and Saturday so I might have as many as five or six posts a day on those days it just depends on the work load.
This is something I have struggled with since the beginning. I have slowly learnt how to manage my time and how long I should be spending doing each thing.
For instance, I only bake on certain days of the week, I have set days for emailing as well as planning my classes and attending consults with clients as well as doing deliveries! On my busier cake days (Friday/Saturday) I usually don’t post until after I am finished as that allows me to respond to people or see who reposts my work, as I have missed a lot of those lately!
I am totally guilty of throwing all of the above out the window though, and just doing what works at the time – otherwise I’d lose my mind!
Honestly, 100% word of mouth. I’m not just saying this, but I actually have the best clients and wholesalers who all genuinely care about my business and me and are all amazing advocates for Karlee’s Kupcakes. Nine times out of 10 a new client will come to me and say they saw one of my cakes at a friend’s or relative’s event and just had to have one for themselves.
Also people tagging friends and family online on my pictures so they can see for themselves the style I offer has been really helpful.
The main one is probably being able to mentally switch off from it. I would always try and justify what I was doing on my phone be it emails, Instagram, Facebook etc. In the beginning I felt like I had to reply to people straight away where as now I tend to stick more to business hours and set myself some boundaries so I get some down time too. In saying that, I do love the ability to be able to run my business from my phone/laptop and I am definitely more of an email lover than talking on the phone!
My followers have definitely be a work in progress! Over time I’ve had a few friends with bigger accounts reposting things for me which is great, and I have also created cakes for a lot of Australian Rugby League players and their families, as well as singers The Veronicas, some politicians and well known faces around town so that has definitely helped!
Recently though, my time-lapse videos have shot my numbers up, usually growing around 50-100 per day which is just crazy to watch!
I’ve been pretty lucky with this and I pity anyone who wants to troll cake decorators, mainly because, well, who hates cake?!
I have had the odd comment since gaining more followers, someone said on a recent post “Too much fat, it even looks unhealthy!” to which I replied “don’t look at it then!”. I told myself I would never stoop to troll level but I will have a bit of fun with people if I’m feeling a little sassy!
Probably the amount of love and support I receive on a daily basis from people I don’t even know, who just love seeing my work.
I have never really been a creative person so to find this outlet and be able to make a successful business out of it is something I can’t put into words. I have worked so hard to get to where I am and Instagram has allowed me to document and share this journey with now just over 13k people.
Do you have a small business or use Instagram to promote your wares online? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments!
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