You all know we sell dresses.. but that wasn't how it always was here at Chocodolly. Those of you who were here at the start of our adventure know the shop was filled with cakes and biscuits, The shelves were adorned with all kids of chocolate dolls (hence the name) and we even had a pretty parlour upstairs for teaching how to create these magical sweets...
But over time the dresses kind of took over and my little creations took a back seat. There didn't seem to be enough hours in the day to fit in all these classes and after a full day of steaming dresses, wrapping, styling customers, posting, collecting children and feeding them, the last thing I really felt like doing was making my chocolate paste and fashioning these pinup dolls. I was exhausted!
As time has moved on, Chocodolly has grown (albeit sideways) with new products that I have designed, bespoke bridal and prom gowns and even photoshoots! I love all things vintage so it just seemed a natural progression to put my cake skills aside and concentrate on the hundreds of customers who want the whole vintage styling and lifestyle which mainly resided around the fashion side of things. To be honest, I was getting exhausted, With Dom (my husband) landing a job back on the radio and rising at 4AM each day, getting the girls packed off to school and dashing to the shop, keeping up with the orders to send, check stock and keeping the website up to date and ordering more (let me tell you, the thrill of receiving a delivery of new stock will never subside, but I forget that everything needs steaming, pricing and the shop display needs freshening every few days!)
All this in mind, I was still receiving messages from customers who wanted the classes back, enquiries about bespoke cakes, even customers who still have cake class vouchers( (yes, I know you're still out there!) So the natural thing to do was take time away and design some new classes that I could run from my vintage parlour, away from the shop. So with Suze manning things at the boutique and the girls packed off at school for the day I tentatively picked up my tools and had a started forming my beloved dolls again.
The result surprised me- Not only did I remember all the ingredients needed to make my signature Chocolate paste, but I had come a long way with perfecting my style. But my real surprise was realising how much I needed to just relax. Although I'm quite an impatient soul (I want to see the end result almost within 5 minutes!) I found that just sitting with a few bits and pieces in front of me I completely forgot the stresses and strains of running my own business. with every stroke of my brush and finished dolly I felt so much more relaxed! I remembered the classes I used to run from my little cottage in Thorpe le Soken, with my regulars who came every Thursday night to learn and different design each week on 6 boxed cupcakes. I remember what my husband said at the time: The ladies weren't just coming to learn how to decorate cakes- it was their 'gang'. Their time off from mothering, housework, stressful jobs. I was a few hours of laughing, relaxing and honing their creative skills. I so loved those classes and adore being around a group of people who squeak with excitement when they realise that by rolling fondant a certain way they can create a beautiful rose!
No sooner had I started getting the classes on than I had floods of requests for cakes and other classes- even cake decorating schools that wanted me to teach for them! I had to make a decision... Could I carry on running the shop, designing clothes, being a hands-on mum and attentive wife as well as taking on commissions for new cakes? Although I wanted to handle all theses things myself i just couldn't see a way of making it all work and still stay healthy and sane- after all, time with my children and husband is far more important than spending my free evenings making cakes and teaching classes! So I made a decision... tentatively I would create a masterclass each month and start thinking about smaller, more affordable classes running alongside the shop. It'll take a while to adjust, after all, I still have customers messaging the website and Facebook at 9pm asking for immediate attention! But If picking up my cake tools has taught me something it's this... Any form of "me time", meditation, creativity, and doing something that makes ME happy isn't selfish, It's giving myself time to adjust. Time to have a bit of space to think, even switch off completely and concentrate on something not related to the every day ins and outs of business. I get an enormous sense of pride when I finish something I'm proud of. The Ironing can wait! The shop can take care of itself for a while, If you don't believe me, try it yourself- remember when you were good at/loved drawing? then pick up a pencil and have a go! Give yourself a few hours in the garden with the radio on and create a little flower bed! Get your sewing machine out and run up a pretty apron or set of napkins! And if you're feeling really creative, why not sign up to a class and see for yourself how talented you are- connect with others and have a laugh! Life is too short and sometimes the treadmill goes too fast.
I have made many friends through the years of classes and had commissions for bespoke Chocodollies from my friends, family, and eve the odd celebrity! I love making wedding cakes too and design the bride and groom from scratch with tiny replicas of the wedding outfits. I'm disney-mad so currently working on a series of Disney Princess cakes for classes later in summer. I'd really love to get a Youtube channel up and running soon- sharing tips on cake decor and other vintage-lifestyle hacks. So keep tuned- share the page and the pictures- come along for the ride and see how far we can go with our creativity. You never know- your talent could be the key to your very own little business!
Carli's cake classes run from her Vintage parlour and are available on the website. Vouchers also available.