Camelia’s Cupcake Blog: Business advice for newcomers in Sweden with mouth-watering cupcake talk sprinkled in….
Camelia Safai moved from Canada to Sweden for love and just a few short years later she now owns and operates her own business, Camelia’s Cupcakes. In previous blogs she shared her personal experiences of moving to Sweden, and gave helpful tips on how to start up your own business here in Stockholm. This week she let’s us in on the process of choosing the location for her café and setting up for her grand opening in Stockholm. This week she writes:
Hello again everyone, I hope you all enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy writing them!
As promised, I am going to share my experience of finding a café location for my business. In Canada, where I come from, it’s generally quite easy to find empty retail locations to start a new business in. There is much more supply than demand, and you can even get a good deal on the lease if you sign for a year. So you find an empty location, get set up, and then open your business. Pretty simple.
Coming to Sweden, I found that things worked a little differently here. Empty retail and café spaces are much more difficult to find, especially in the city center, which is where I was looking. Generally, people sell their locations, along with the furniture and equipment, and with that sale, you get access to a lease with the landlord. So when starting a new business, you need to think of capital not only for rent, but also to buy a location from a previous owner. It makes things a lot more expensive, especially if you want to invest more money into renovating or redecorating the space you purchase.
Choosing the Location
So last winter, I started looking for a space to buy/lease for a café. I had thought about just getting a kitchen location for catering, but when I looked at prices for purchase and rent, it would not cost too much more for a café where I could have seating and serve coffee as well. As this was my dream, I decided to focus my search on those types of locations. I also knew I wanted to be in Central Stockholm. It’s good to make a list of what you are looking for before you start searching, it will save you a lot of time:
- What type of space are you looking for in terms of size? Think of kitchen space versus seating area, or outdoor seating in the summer
- Where do you want your business to be located? Central or suburbs, residential or business traffic, close to public transit?
- What kind of facilities do you require? Does it come with a full kitchen, restroom, or storage space?
- If it does not come with what you need, do you have permission to make changes? Are you able to renovate the interior, or add a grill in the kitchen if it does not come with one?
I found the best place to look for a location was on Blocket.se, as they have listings by agents and private individuals, as well as empty locations or businesses for sale. I was on that website every day for months, checking out listings, calling agents for more information, and then going to the locations to inspect. I was looking all over Central Stockholm, but I knew I wanted to be on a main street with lots of foot traffic and close to public transit. I checked out a lot of places that winter and spring, and usually things that were in my budget were not the best locations in terms of visibility or size.
Keep in mind, I was working with a very small budget. I did not have any investors or a bank loan, just our savings and a personal loan from a family member. Working with a limited budget made things more difficult, but I also had to be more careful about what location I chose, as I did not want to lose my investment by making a bad choice.
Finally, last April, it felt like all the stars aligned and our prayers were answered, I had found the perfect location! I went there to check it out, and it felt right, I just had a feeling that this was the place for my café. Everything about it was exactly what I had been looking for: size, kitchen space, outdoor seating, foot traffic, lots of offices and residences around, central location, and close to public transport. It was being sold privately by the owners, who had to sell due to personal reasons and were interested in a quick sale, and were including all the furniture and equipment with it. We had a friend who is in the café business go take a look at it as well and give his opinion on it, and he said we would not lose money on this location. My husband and I scraped all of our money together and made them an offer, and after some negotiations, we settled on a price. We were heading to Israel for a vacation right at this time, so we literally signed the contract for the sale on our way to the airport, and when we got back, I went straight to the café to get training on the espresso machine before we took over the store the next week. It was all very quick and exciting when it happened!
Paper work, Supplies and Setting up
The next few weeks after we took over the café were quite busy for us with signing documents and leases, buying supplies for the kitchen, moving my personal baking equipment into the kitchen, and getting things set up. We were closed for a few days and had a bunch of friends come help us with painting and cleaning the store, getting it ready for opening day. I had to bake test batches to see how the oven worked, and made modifications to my recipes to make them work in a hot air oven (which is not what I was used to working with). My husband and I had to learn how to make espresso drinks, but as we were using the same coffee supplier as the previous owners, we were given lessons by the suppliers and then spent a lot of time practicing in the café. We also made things easier on ourselves by transferring the internet and cash register program from the previous owners. We ordered a sign to put over our door, and made posters for a sandwich board outside our store to advertise our deals.
I also had to set the prices for my cupcakes and coffee, so I did a little market research in the area, going to the various cafes around and checking their prices for coffee, and then setting a competitive price for ours, given our expenses. I set up the menu and then we were ready to open!
Open for Business
Immediately, we had a great response from the people in the area, lots of regulars coming in for cupcakes and coffee on their lunch breaks or after work, and making requests for orders. I played around with our opening hours, trying different opening and closing times and days to see what worked best. And before I was able to hire help, I was exhausted, working 6 days a week, long days, and doing all the baking, serving, and cleaning myself! But I learned a lot during that first month we were open and things got much easier as I streamlined my procedures and got staff help in the store.
In the next few posts, I will talk about the marketing strategies we utilized to get our name out there and more business in the door, finding vendors and suppliers, as well as coming up with an exit strategy if you want to get out.
Deals for the month of February:
Come try our Red Velvet and Strawberry Chocolate cupcakes! 50% off sale on all of our books, chocolates, espresso beans, David Rio Chai, and decorative items!
Camelia’s Cupcakes is located at Nybrogatan 40 in Östermalm, near Östermalmtorg T-bana.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 11-18 and weekends 12-17.
Follow us on Facebook for more details about our store and cupcake flavors.
Baking Tip #3
Get a kitchen scale for measuring items correctly. Baking requires exact proportions and measurements, and a lot of recipes out there use cups and deciliters as measurement tools. Unfortunately, when you scoop flour into a measuring cup, the flour could be denser as it has absorbed moisture, thereby throwing off your entire recipe! If you buy a scale and use recipes with metric measurements, you will have exact proportions every time, and it will make it easier to scale up your recipe if you want to double the quantity. All the professional bakeries use metric measurements in their recipes, especially for large batches, and it ensures consistent quality every time. And don’t forget to sift your flour before adding it to your recipe, this is to make sure you remove the lumps that may have formed due to moisture!
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