#FemaleFounders - Amy Crabtree

Amy Crabtree - owner, cakes with faces

Amy Crabtree is a UK graphic artist/designer and owner of Cakes with Faces, a brand of colourful t-shirts, clothing and gifts with cute designs inspired by Japanese kawaii which she sells online and at Comic Con events. She started her business as a hobby, and 3 years ago quit her job to become full time self-employed. She also makes videos about Japan, with over 1 million views on YouTube.

This year she was a finalist for Business Entrepreneur of the Year in the Coventry Telegraph Business Awards, and Cakes with Faces has been featured in The Guardian, BBC Radio and nominated for 4 NEO Awards (Best Specialist Company).

1. Who inspires you?

Haruka Kurebayashi – she’s an icon of Harajuku, the home of alternative fashion in Tokyo (and my favourite place to go shopping!). Her style is just so colourful and quirky – she’s bold and not afraid to be different and stand out from the crowd. I was lucky enough to meet her last summer – she’s absolutely adorable and such a lovely person. I interviewed her for a video, half in English and half in Japanese – I translated all the questions just in case, but as it turned out she understands English really well!

I think it’s great to have role models or idols and have those magical moments when you meet them – as long as you keep it in perspective, it’s really motivating,


2. What gets you out of bed in the morning?

When you love what you do, it’s not hard to motivate yourself. There’s always a million things I want to achieve and never enough time.


3. What keeps you awake at night?

There so many details to obsess over when you’re designing new products, and lots of tiny decisions to make. Introducing new products is exciting and I love designing new things – one of my missions is to bring colour to people’s everyday lives with fun designs. But it is a risk, which involves investing in a large volume of stock before you know if anyone will want to buy it! So all these little decisions are important, and it can be hard to be objective and decide what’s best.

4. What’s your signature meal and who would you cook it for?

A sushi feast! It’s a fun way to spend the evening with friends, making sushi rolls together – I’m excellent at kappamaki (cucumber rolls). When you make your own you can have as much as you want without worrying about the bill. I wrote a comic book about how to make it at home.


5. How do you manage your time?

Lists lists lists! Just on paper, nothing fancy. I’ve started using a proper diary this year and it really helps to plan things properly rather than keeping everything in my head. I’m not naturally an organised person so I have to force it upon myself!


6. Best bits (s) of advice ever received?

Before leaving my job, one of my (older) colleagues was talking about the tear-jerking opening to Pixar’s film “Up!” and the old man looking back at his childhood dreams in his adventure book. They told me: don’t leave it too late, make sure you do your adventure book.


7. What is the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?

Best: Does my hamster count? Maybe she’s not really a purchase… Ok, my first ticket to Japan. I’d been interested in Japanese culture (design, food, fashion, music) for years and I’m so glad I went. The trip of a lifetime turned out to be the first of many. Now I make videos about Japan and travel vlogs, and my channel has had over a million views. It’s such a big inspiration to me.

Worst: When I was starting out I booked a (very expensive) booth at a trade show. I quickly discovered the event wasn’t for me and I had to sit it out for 4 long days. Sometimes you have to try things to learn and discover what’s right for you.

8. What is the closest thing to magic?

How ideas come to you from nowhere. As a designer you can talk about your inspirations and styles that influence you, but really, ideas seem to magically come to you. I don’t know where the Alpacalypse came from – I drew it one day and now it’s one of my most popular designs!


9. Do you have a mentor? What value do you think a mentor brings to a business?

I don’t have a mentor, but it does always help to talk things through with someone else, especially if they have an outside perspective. It’s so much easier to see the answers to other people’s problems than your own.


10. What unusual food combinations do you enjoy?

Toast dipped in sesame seeds (for breakfast) – try it, it’s delicious! And it’s probably a crime against food but I love pasta with gochujang, veggie hotdogs and grated cheese!


11. How can female entrepreneurs further support each other?

By remembering that helping others doesn’t make you less successful yourself. It’s not necessarily a competition - we can all grow together.

12. What’s something that will always be in fashion, no matter how much time passes?

Having your own original style. I really don’t pay much attention to fashion – I believe you should wear whatever you want, and whatever makes you feel happy and comfortable. (For me that’s being colourful!) If you’re never in fashion, you can’t be out of fashion, right?


13. What was the last thing you did that made you really proud?

You can reach all the business milestones you want, but it’s the reactions and messages from my customers that really make me proud inside. When I have a stall, sometimes they bring me gifts and pictures, and it blows me away that they’ve taken the time to do that. One of my customers told me I’m an inspiration to their daughter who loves drawing and Japan. She said, “you’re doing so much more than just running a business”.


14. If you were to give advice to a fellow female entrepreneur what would it be?

You have to put yourself out there. It’s not enough to make something or build a website and expect customers to come along; you have to work hard. Don’t be afraid of self promo - if you don’t promote yourself, who’s going to?

15. What does success look like to you?

Success is a goal that changes as you go along. If you’re ambitious, you’ll always want to be more than you are, and it might never feel like you’ve got there. I really like Johnny Cupcakes’ quote: “Real success is being happy doing what you love.”


16. How has social media helped your business?

My followers are amazing and I feel like I have a real community on social media. Recently some of my designs were stolen, and the response from my followers was incredible – I really feel their support.  As my business is online, chatting on social media makes it less one-sided and helps me connect with them, wherever they are in the world. It’s also a way of showing some personality and sharing what Cakes with Faces is all about.


Website - www.cakeswithfaces.co.uk

Social - Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

#FemaleFounders - Mary Hamley

Mary Hamley - wanderlust on wheels

Mary Hamley started a campervan hire business alongside her full time job in IT last year and due to its roaring success she is looking to invest in two more campers and turn it into a full time job. Her business is inspired by her and her partner, James’s love of the outdoors and exploring new places.

1. Who inspires you?

I am inspired by a lot of people, I don’t think I could narrow it down to one person specifically. I follow lots of small business on Instagram and I love following their stories and keeping up with how there are doing, in particular I like people who have managed to create their own product and it’s selling really well. It’s so motivating to see people competing with the big businesses and being successful! I try to post about our campervan regularly with a mix of photos of the van, and customer photos.


2. What keeps you awake at night?

As much as I enjoy social media, it does make it hard to put my phone down and relax. I often get enquiries about hiring the van late at night and I want to reply to them as soon as I can. I’m hoping to automate my website soon to take instant bookings but at the moment I am replying to each person individually to confirm availability and the price.


3. What’s your signature meal and who would you cook it for?

I love cooking in our campervan when we go away. We have 2 gas hobs inside, and 2 portable ones. One of my favourite dishes is simply but so tasty. Chorizo and pasta in a tomato sauce, and I throw in whatever seasonal vegetables we have - I don’t tend to stick to strict recipes! Even on a rainy day in the camper when there’s not much space it’s easy to prepare.


4. How do you manage your time?

Pen and paper. I like to write to do lists every day and check things off as they are completed. It helps me visualise how much I want to get done, and what to prioritise. This is particularly important at the moment where I am juggling my business alongside my full time job in IT.

5. Best bits (s) of advice ever received?

The best bits of advice I received were around my website. I created it myself in WIX as I wanted to keep it as cheap as possible while I waited to see how many bookings I could get. There’s so many add ons and functionality on the WIX store that it can be a bit overwhelming. I asked for advice from a variety of people and I was very open to reviews and constructive criticism. When creating your own website you can get so caught in the detail (spending hours choosing designs and layouts etc) that you forget what it would be like for a new customer on their first visit to your site. I am still working on it now, and plan to automate the bookings (which WIX allows when you upgrade) and also to hopefully add and second and third campervan.


6. What are the best purchases you’ve ever made?

The best purchase I’ve made was the fridge for the van. It’s small but can hold a lot (including an upright bottle of prosecco!) The shelves can be moved around and it even has a mini freezer section. Chilled wine and milk are definitely important for the luxury camping experience!

7. What is the closest thing to magic?

My boyfriend when he goes out to the shops at 10pm because I have sugar cravings!


8. Do you have a mentor? What value do you think a mentor brings to a business?

I don’t have a mentor but I tell my mum a lot about what I am doing and ask for help & advice when I face problems. I think a mentor who also has their own business would be really useful, even if it’s just to encourage you that you are on the right path and doing your best.


9. How can female entrepreneurs further support each other?

I think just by sharing our stories, whether it’s something that specific went wrong or right, or our entire journey, can help women to feel they are not alone in this and hopefully keep them motivated and even give them ideas for their own business.


10. What’s something that will always be in fashion, no matter how much time passes?

Campervans! You still see the old VW campers around in the summer, and now new fully electric versions are being built. Not as cute but a tad more reliable!!

11. What was the last thing you did that made you really proud?

We had a couple hire the van over NYE and I was worried about them feeling too cold, especially as they were going up to Scotland. I double checked everything and made sure there was plenty of gas for the hob, and advised them to bring lots of layers. It turned out they had a brilliant time, and were so grateful for my help and advice.


12. If you were to give advice to a fellow female entrepreneur what would it be?

My advice would be to take a step back say once a week, and look at everything you’ve achieved, and how far you’ve come. Sometimes you get so caught up in the little details, or worry that something isn’t perfect. I find it’s really motivating to get some perspective and not let a small problem dishearten you too much.

13. What does success look like to you?

Success to me will be when I can leave my current job in IT and turn my business in to a full time job. I’m hoping to invest in two more campers, so I’d love to have  my own little fleet. Although I do think it is important to celebrate all the small successes along the way as well!



Website - https://www.wanderlustonwheels.co.uk/

Social - Twitter | Instagram | Facebook