'A whirlwind' - how 19-year-old became baking sensation in lockdown
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
Most days, Morgan Lewis says, are a bit of a whirlwind.
Over the last year, the 19-year-old has turned a lifelong baking hobby into a thriving 'cakery' business so popular expansion is already on the cards a little over a month since it opened.
When she first launched Bakeaholics' bricks and mortar home, in Attleborough’s Queen’s Square, she was met with a two-hour queue and so much demand she ran out of stock - a rush which has so far failed to ease.
“It is still absolutely crazy,” she said. “We still have one-and-a-half-hour queues, we are selling out most weekends. We are looking at getting a bigger unit and taking on more people.
“When I was the little girl with a KitchenAid taking cakes into college I never thought this would happen. It’s been a whirlwind.”
Its roots, though, will be familiar to anyone who has launched a business, as a passion project which toured local markets and welcomed orders from friends and family.
Miss Lewis used to take her cakes and bakes around local markets, driving to Wymondham, Mildenhall and Newmarket to drum up trade, working at The Stag, then the Breckland Lodge, for an income.
“It was not earning any money,” she said. “It was breaking even - I might be lucky if I came home with £30 but I had to factor in that I was there all day.
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“I wasn’t doing birthday cakes - I started last February and maybe had one or two orders every six weeks. Covid came along and I thought ‘what am I going to do with myself?’
“I had started to get a few regular customers, I was not making a lot of money but I thought the business was building.”
As the country locked down, she launched lockdown treat boxes and, helped by her family, delivered them around Norfolk, learning as she went about mileage, delivery fees - and the failings of sat navs.
Pop-up shops came next, as the food world moved towards street food and mobile set-ups, their flexibility and lack of fixed base giving them an edge.
“I thought no-one was going to come,” she said, “but I said I was going to give it a go. We sold out in 45 minutes in the pouring rain.
“When we did another pop-up we quadrupled the stock, and had one and a half-hour queues.
“It just went from one extreme to the other. Our social media went from 500 to 5,000 [followers], and it’s now at 23,000.”
She said the business had “exploded over lockdown”, which, in a professional sense, had been a blessing in disguise.
The events became so popular that she was advised by council officers that she may have to rethink them, with the volume of people causing Covid concerns.
Instead, she used an industrial unit owned by her dad to do collections, encouraging people to pre-order via text.
“Me and my mum were answering text messages from 6pm to 2am, we had to turn so many people away,” she said.
But as demand continued to grow it became clear they would need a proper home, and after Christmas Miss Lewis visited The White House, signing on the dotted line and opening eight weeks later, on April 1.
It was an instant hit. Queues snaked around the corner as she opened the doors and she had to close for a day to restock.
“I think we are really different,” she said. “I’m a big believer that we are a modern cakery, not a bakery. I always wanted the Pinterest, Instagram-able place, and I have realised that’s what the area needs.
“Everyone loves a bit of cake and everything is home-made. I work 20-hour days just to keep up with demand. People follow the story and like that it’s family-run - my dad is on the door at weekends.”
The bright - and pink - aesthetic of the brand, clever social marketing and timing of its opening - two days after March 29, when people were first allowed to travel after lockdown eased - may have also helped provide a start that fledgling business owners would envy.
Today, Miss Lewis is fully booked for the next few weeks for bespoke and occasion cakes, and estimates she turns away five requests a day, which she says is "horrible".
She has just taken on a baker, whittling down more than 100 applications to make the final pick, and this weekend saw her shop's biggest individual spend so far, at £89.
Looking forward, the ambitious young woman has her sights set on expansion - next up on the menu are milkshakes, freakshakes (milkshakes piled high with cake, sweets, sauces and toppings) and home-made ice cream.
But she said: “We are looking at a bigger kitchen because we are still working in my garage at home. I would also love to open the shop three to four days a week.
“When I signed the lease I never expected the response, but because of how crazy it’s been we can only keep up with two days’ stock.
“The ultimate goal is a sit-in shop in Norwich, with swing chairs, pink cocktails and pink afternoon tea, within five years.”