Posted on August 26 2015
Elizabeth Solaru is this week's Wednesday Woman; a former Scientist, Elizabeth now runs her world-famous cake company Elizabeth's Cake Emporium. A very successful and busy businesswoman, Elizabeth has appeared on numerous TV shows as a cake expert extraordinaire, and her award-winning cakes have been featured in Vogue, Conde Nast Brides, Wedding Magazine, OK!, and Hello, among others.
Hear how she went from introverted Scientist to female founder, and what advice she has for others starting their own business.
Newnham: Elizabeth, I know you through the charity event I started and which you kindly judge each year, The Great Agency Bake Off, in aid of The Sick Children's Trust but, what were you like when you were young / did your entrepreneurial spirit show early?
Solaru: I was a very sensitive introvert when I was a child and quite nerdy! But I also did start baking as a child and I remember selling a few cakes to my friends' mothers as a 10 year-old for quite a few months before it all got too much.
I was encouraged to focus on my studies and after qualifying as a Scientist, I honestly thought that that’s what I would spend the rest of my career doing, in a laboratory. Little did I know of course that I would actually go back to baking and make it my career. (Elizabeth started her career as a Biomedical Scientist at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, after obtaining her Master’s degree in Medical Microbiology and Parasitology.)
Newnham: So when do you think you fell in love with cake design/making and how did you turn your passion into a business?
Solaru: I clearly remember a friend showing me a photo of a wedding cake that looked like a stack of presents and I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I wanted to know who made the cake and how it had been made. This then set me on a quest to find out and, as this was in the pre-internet days, I had to comb a number of bookstores in order to find it! You can imagine my joy when I eventually found a book by the cake maker in Foyles!
Saying that, life happened as it does and it took another ten years of buying books, practicing, and attending classes before I felt brave enough to show anyone my cakes and once I did, the rest, as they say, is history.
Newnham: What are some of the biggest hurdles you have faced in running a successful business and how did you overcome them?
Solaru: I guess one of the biggest hurdles was getting my brand out there in a market where I was being out-spent £2,000 or more every month to my marketing budget of zero! Thank God for social media and creativity though because I was actually able to build quite a following on those networks and, to this day, I am continuously thankful to each and every person who supports my brand (Elizabeth uses Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and Facecbook).
Newnham: What / who inspires you?
Solaru: I am inspired by successful people/ entrepreneurs who started from nothings and whose face, grace or race may have been against them. My "sheroes" are people like Oprah, Martha Stewart and Melinda Gates who firmly believe that any obstacle can be overcome and actually do something about it.
Newnham: What advice would you give others and a younger Elizabeth first starting out?Solaru: Ultimately, the buck stops with me. I am responsible for every success and failure that happens in the business which can be frightening but I believe the following:
“Be bold, be brave and don't be afraid of failing. Embrace what makes you different as this is exactly what will make you successful.”