Meet Sweet Noni

This week we talked to a lovely cake designer called Giovana, she was kind enough to answer our questions and explain how she set up her Cake business Sweet Noni in Ireland. Her cakes are absolutely gorgeous. Thanks again Giovana!

Tell me about Sweet Noni / How / Why did you get started!

Hi! My name is Giovana Giannoni, I’m from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I originally graduated in Tourism but after I moved to Ireland I began baking a lot at home and then got a job with The Butler’s Panty which was a really nice place to work. I had a great boss called Niall Hill who gave me a chance without having much experience, mostly because I was really enthusiastic, and in the end it turned out wonderfully and so started my career in baking. 

After that, I moved back to Brazil for a few years and I started Sweet Noni there step by step. I was giving English classes to kids, and then their moms started ordering cakes, and after about a year or so I went full time on it. The kids birthday party market in Brazil is really strong.

I did that in Sao Paulo for four or five years, and then moved back to Dublin. For the first while I worked in some places like Queen of Tarts, The Westbury Hotel, Avoca, while trying to build up Sweet Noni on the side. Then at the start of 2020 I took a chance and went full time on Sweet Noni.

What areas do you serve? Delivery? Collection?

I’m based in Grand Canal Dock, so most of my customers are around Dublin, but I have a few in Meath and Wicklow too. Sometimes order requests come in from further afield, such as Limerick and Cork, but most are around Dublin. We offer delivery, or orders can be collected here on the dock.

Who are your customers?

It’s pretty mixed, which is nice. The biggest part of the business is still decorated kids cakes, which I love to make. All sorts of themes like Peppa Pig, Disney characters, Paw Patrol and all the popular cartoons. They’re really fun to do.

I also get quite a few orders for adult’s birthdays and family events. Maybe someone is celebrating a big birthday like a 21st or a 40th or an 80th and they want to get something special for the party. I love all the different decorations and it’s really nice when the customer is especially surprised or pleased with their likeness or the design comes out just like they wanted.

On top of that, I do weddings, summer parties, and all sorts of regular cakes for normal days, for example a nice chocolate cake or a banoffee or a roulade for something like a Sunday family lunch.

Lastly, I supply a couple of cafes locally too, with things like banana breads and carrot cakes.

How has covid impacted your business?

Overall it has been okay. I think people like to order something sweet, a treat for their families, partly because there are not so many other options due to lockdown restrictions, plus we deliver the orders to their houses. 

Some people have been having small family celebrations for what might usually be a bigger event, for example a big birthday, or graduating from college, so it’s been really nice to be able do those. And then there have been a good amount of orders for regular cakes too, like chocolate ganache or lemon tarts.

It’s nice because I think it helps people relax, to enjoy something simple like a piece of cake, during the stress of covid.

Was getting setup difficult in terms of laws and regulations?

I found the process really straightforward here in Ireland. I officially registered my business and set up a bank account for it. Then I contacted the HSE (food safety department, FSAI). They came and inspected my kitchen (for free) and then sent official certification a week later. I also bought liability insurance, which is legally required. It costs around €200 per year. And finally, I spoke with an accountant so as to keep everything running in a fully tax compliant way. And then I was all set! 

I already knew about all the food safety regulations from working in kitchens before, but even if you don’t have that experience it is not difficult to learn. The guidelines from the HSE are very straightforward.

The total cost for getting started is pretty low overall, business registration, insurance etc, less than a few hundred euros.

Did you need to do a course?

Actually I still do cake design courses all the time. I’m always watching the more well known chefs and cake designers from around the world and any chance I get to do one of their courses I usually try and do it. The courses are usually really specific, like some particular technique I want to learn, or some new form of modelling characters or flowers.

When I was first starting out baking I learned from recipe books and then also more professionally from working in Butler’s Pantry and the other places I mentioned earlier.

I love doing courses!

Getting officially set up is not difficult. The hard part is finding your market and getting people to know about you. I did all this in Sao Paulo and then moved to Ireland and had to start from scratch again! But my friends and family here helped me get the word out initially, and step by step I made more contacts through social media, word of mouth and so on. I’m still growing day by day.

What were some good resources you found to help you get set up?

I found the FSAI site useful, both for regulations and for tips about starting a food business.

How do you market your business?

The best marketing is always word of mouth, one happy customer recommending you to a friend. But apart from that I’m very active on social media which is good for getting your work noticed. Plus there are some good communities on Facebook which help to promote each other’s small businesses. I also try to run some promotions with businesses in similar areas, for example, doing a joint event with a local party planner, or offering my cakes to hotels which offer weddings. But overall, social media is the main way I share my work. It takes time and you just have to make sure you’re posting frequently, interacting with people and gradually you start to become better known.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/sweetnonicakes

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sweetnonicakes

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SweetNoniCakes

Website: www.sweetnoni.com

The importance of directory listings to help increase your websites Google ranking.

I just started looking more closely at SEO recently and that’s something I plan to improve this year.

Also, it’s really nice to be featured on sites like MyFunday because it provides a great resource to people to find exactly what they need, or to compare prices and that kind of thing. Everyone loves a good party!

Don’t hesitate to contact Giovana :

Email: giovana.giannoni@gmail.com

Phone / Whatsapp: 0830494138

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