It’s now three years since young entrepreneur Cassie Lawrence had the idea of setting up her own company making caricature cake toppers. She is now running a thriving, full-time operation, which saw her named Young Business Person of the Year at the Western Morning News Business Awards reports Louise Thomas.
“Whatever you do in life, never settle,” are the words of advice that drove young entrepreneur Cassie Lawrence to launch an award-winning cake topper business when she was just 21 years old.
She was given the advice by a speaker at an awards ceremony, where the Cornish graphic design graduate was picking up a prize for her work.
By the following year, Cassie had launched Cake Top Characters, making hand-crafted, caricature cake toppers for the wedding market and other special events.
She quit a blossoming career in design and marketing for a global medical science firm to concentrate on her cake topper designs, which have grown into full-time enterprise.
To date Cassie has made more than 150 bespoke cake toppers for a long list of international clients that includes TV ‘dragon’ Theo Paphitis, sports presenter Clare Balding, singer Gareth Gates and former Chelsea footballer Jason Cundy.
Earlier this year she launched Cake Top Babies for Christenings and first birthdays, and in 2014 will embark on the next phase of her business, Cornwall Caricatures – a quick-fire caricature picture service for corporate events and weddings.
All of this she has achieved by the age of 24. It is this drive, vision and talent, as well as her work to inspire other young people, that saw Cassie named Young Business Person of the Year, in the Underhill Group-sponsored category, at the Western Morning News Business Awards.
“I was brought up to believe that I could do anything I wanted in life, and I genuinely believe that is true,” Cassie said. “Where you come from, and what you have shouldn’t dictate who or what you can be.
“I started my business with no funding, no business degree and no knowledge of sculpture, yet two years of business later I have won nine local and national awards, and been shortlisted for a further six!”
Working alone at her home in Trispen, Cassie is the designer, sculptor, marketing manager and accountant for her business, which she juggles with freelance marketing and design work.
She spends more than 30 hours on every cake topper couple, hand crafting and painting each one to capture the most intricate of details and produce a piece that will last forever.
Each figure is priced from £249, although Cassie did not want to disclose her company’s turn-over.
It is the individuality of her designs that Cassie believes sets her apart from others.
“There is a lot of competition overseas and there are a few UK companies who import sculpted heads from Asia with plastic pre-made bodies, but I have always felt very strongly about offering a completely bespoke product, and being based in Cornwall,” Cassie said.
“Couples don’t just want their face sculpted, they want the dress, pose, bouquet, suit – everything to be a replica of their big day, not a plastic off-the-shelf model.”
Next year Cassie plans to start Cornwall Caricatures, a caricature picture service for weddings and corporate events.
It’s familiar territory for the young businesswoman who, aged just 15, taught herself to draw caricatures and sold them to Cornwall’s summer visitors.
After finishing school, the grade A student studied graphic design at University College Falmouth and undertook freelance projects.
She went on to work for national cycling magazine Shred as marketing manager, and in design and marketing for a global medical science firm.
“I did land a job in marketing and graphic design after graduating and was lucky enough to be working in a globally successful company, but I was working in an industry I wasn’t passionate about, I couldn’t see any progression opportunities within the company, and after 18 months, I couldn’t ignore my blossoming business.
“I have always followed my heart, and have always been incredibly studious, so working from home and doing my own thing was very natural to me.”
Cassie hopes her own success will inspire other young people in Cornwall, and is actively working with them to try and make this happen.
She has given talks to students in schools and colleges and is a member of the UP committee, which helps organise networking and peer support for Cornish graduates.
Through Leading Women UK, she set up a networking group specifically for businesswomen in their teens to thirties. And, having judged at this year’s Young Enterprise Awards in Cornwall, Cassie has been booked as a keynote speaker for the forthcoming Enterprise Foundation South West conferences in Cornwall, starting in January 2014.
“I am passionate about young people succeeding,” said Cassie, who believes youth should be a positive in business.
“I am a big advocate of starting a business in your teens and 20s,” Cassie said. “The belief that anything is possible is drummed out of us as adults, but I still have that childlike wonder and excitement that has kept my hunger in business and helped me jump into opportunities and do some amazing things.”
She added: “We have so many opportunities in our generation – I am a digital native. Technology has been moving fast and we can use it to our advantage as young people in business.”
“Twitter and Facebook have been vital to me securing sales, with Facebook one of my top lead sources for brides.”
As Cassie strives to grow her business further, she will be looking to out-source some of the roles within it, freeing up her time to concentrate on her caricatures.
“A blog once called me Wonder Woman, but I think our black hair is where the similarity ends,” Cassie said. “I think in business we are like swans – others see us gliding through but underneath the water, we are paddling like crazy!”
Cassie, who is due to marry in 2014, is already busy dreaming up unique ideas for her big day. “Surprisingly, I won’t be making a Cake Top Character for the big day,” she said. “I will be making something even more exciting!”