#inspo: Clifford Luu, Founder of 'Cakes By Cliff'
Meet Cliff from Cakes By Cliff - a Sydney based project manager by day and cake designer by night! After studing Architecture, he began working full time in project management. However, he also enjoyed the creative freedom of baking cakes for friends and family which became a regular weekend activity. This eventually grew into his own side business which he successfully balances with his full time job!
Cliff has been involved in some amazing workshops both locally and overseas including collaborations with William Sonoma Cooking School and Don't Tell Charles Online School, as well as EZ Cooking Baking in Surabaya, Indonesia. He has collaborated with a variety of talented creatives including Queen Fine Foods and Elegance Made Edible and has been featured in Time Out Magazine, Samantha Willis & Huffington Post Australia. He enjoys teaching others how to develop their baking skills and inspire them to grow their own business too.
We chat to Cliff behind the scenes to find out how he got started on his side-hustle and how he manages to juggle two careers!
Did you always know you wanted to become a cake decorator?
Not at all! It was not in the plan for me, as I studied to be an architect at university. It was something I stumbled into as I only started baking and decorating cakes as a hobby.
What did you do before you started baking and what made you change career paths?
I am a project manager – I still am! I work full time in an office and do my cake decorating and workshops on the weekend. I haven’t changed my career path per se, but rather I have added another part to my career!
How did you manage to set up your own business whilst working at the same time?
I just did it. It isn’t something I sat down and had a plan for. I did everything on my own including the website, the Instagram, emails to customers and stock ordering without any help. I guess you could say if you want it bad enough, you make time. Everyone is busy, but it’s what you prioritise. If it matters, you make it happen.
Tell us more about the beginnings of starting your own business?
It was hard to begin with. I learnt a lot and I am still learning. You make mistakes and you learn from them. You ask questions, (I asked my friends heaps of questions) even if it was just a sound board. It helped that I have such a supportive network around me. I threw myself in and went from there. Most people in the industry have been so kind and helpful as well.
What did you find the most challenging?
Juggling time for work, emails, Cakes By Cliff, time with my partner, friends and family has been the most difficult thing. Just as you think you have the balance is right – it tips over again! I think it is something that a lot of people struggle with. I try to make plans and be as organised as I can be. This at least ensures things are in balance!
What does your work week typically look like?
I will work in the office Monday through to Thursday. Most evenings I will be preparing for the weekend cakes. Fridays are spent running errands and decorating - generally making kilos and kilos of buttercream! Saturday and Sundays are big days for me. There is a time in the year many call “wedding season” where there is generally at least one wedding cake every weekend! I deliver all my wedding cakes to the venue and set the cake up. I like to know the cake is finished in the way I intended.
How did you get into collaboration workshops?
I like to collaborate with like minded creatives. I have met some amazing, inspiring people through Cakes By Cliff. A few people knew Cakes By Cliff when I first started. They helped me grow and “gave me a leg up” in the industry. I recently ran a number of workshops in the beautiful kitchen in Williams Sonoma in Bondi. I hosted some amazing creatives who I hoped gained a different audience when they collaborated with me.
Why do you find collaboration useful?
It’s a good way to connect with new people and it’s also a great way to expand your following as you can reach out to a different audience. I also love collaborating because I get inspiration from so many different people. It’s great to work with others and see how they work.
What advice would you give someone who is looking to get into collaborations?
I would say, reach out to people whose brand/product aligns with you and your brand. There are times you see collaborations and they make no sense! I will only ever align myself with something I believe in. Try and seek out local creatives – it’s great working with people who are just starting up as well.
What keeps you motivated?
I would say wanting to keep learning. Wanting to try new techniques, learn how others do things and learn how to make my cakes better.
What’s it like being your own boss?
It is both great and hard! You set your own timelines and goals however, you need to make sure you are on top of it. You are responsible for the success of your business so there is a lot of pressure.
What do you love about your job?
I love that I can take a client's vision and bring it to life and that I am able to be creative in this line of work. There is nothing more pleasing than creating a cake for a milestone event.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love spending time with my French bulldog, Howard, and trying new restaurants with friends. I have a keen interest in photography as well.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
Everything happens for a reason - be it work, relationships or anything in life.
What are you most excited for in the future?
I am most excited about not knowing. The past few years have been completely unplanned and amazing – I look forward to see where this journey continues to take me.