Specialising in all things sweet, CeCe’s Cakes and Bakes in Coleraine, offers vegan, gluten free and dairy free options daily, with plenty of seating to relax after some shopping, catch up with family or friends or simply to have some time to yourself. Custom celebration cakes, cupcakes and giant cookies are also available to pre-order.

Providing the frosting to this business are sisters Gemma and Kirsty.

Kirsty had been working in a commercial bakery in Ballymoney and Gemma had recently opened Elephant Rock, a boutique hotel in Portrush, as General Manager. Having previously worked in the luxury boutique hotel Me & Mrs Jones in Portstewart, Gemma aspired to start her own business and in March 2022, the opportunity seemed financially realistic.

Along with her parents’ support, Gemma started to create the concept of CeCe’s – a name she had selected for a business almost 10 years ago. Originally wanting to call it CeCe’s Cupcakes, Gemma adjusted the name to CeCe’s Cakes and Bakes, so that more items could be incorporated. Shortened to ‘CeCe’s’ – the name brings some realm of truth in representing the sisters’ surnames – Caldwell & Caldwell.

Gemma heard about the Go For It Programme through a friend, who had also enrolled. Gemma was keen to source financial aid and make contacts with professionals who could assist in the development of her business, including architects and solicitors.

Despite being a business graduate, Gemma knew she needed assistance putting together financial and business plans.

“I found chatting to my business advisor at Enterprise Causeway very helpful. He would prompt me at our one-to-one meetings to consider sales, expenses and USP…among other things.  Even though I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do, these regular meetings gave me clarity for what my next steps should be.”

Developing the brand was extremely important for Gemma, having perfectly understood the power of social media from her previous roles.

Knowing what look she wanted the shop to have was the starting point to creating the logo, theme, packaging and décor. Gemma sourced everything herself, making sure to stick to her brand themes and colours. This branding was then incorporated across Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok accounts and is evident throughout the shop floor. Gemma continues to watch for online trends that will align with her brand to keep her product offering fresh and appealing, including Bubble Tea, Cookie Cups and Stuffed Cookies.

“I suppose coming onboard to the Go For It Programme with Enterprise Causeway, what surprised me was the work that’s done behind the scenes. The level of support you get to create your business plan allowed me to focus on other things and do more thorough research.  It took the pressure away from me, which I am grateful for.”

Along with one-to-one mentoring and support with her business plan, Gemma was able to measure her progress, define goals and gain help in order to achieve those goals.

CeCe’s Cakes and Bakes opened its doors on the 4 August, only a few short months after enrolling in the Go For It Programme.

In addition to a sweet counter, tea/coffee and considerable seating area, the shop features an array of specialities from local producers.

“Over the last 6 or 7 years I have been an advocate and supporter of local suppliers and producers. Having my own business was no different and I wanted to make sure and include as many local producers and suppliers as possible. We use Causeway Coffee and have a wide range of local producers in our retail section including Taste Joy peanut butters, Broighter Gold oils and Glens of Antrim crisps. I’ve also given a nod to local Northern Irish life by including some artwork I designed myself which include local sayings and phrases.”

Gemma intends to introduce more lines to the retail section including CeCe’s own branded items, as well as events, including private parties, charity events, cake classes and afternoon teas. A website is also a possibility, should they decide to venture into online orders.

“For anyone thinking about starting a business I would say to have a clear idea of what it is you want to do. Everyone will have an opinion that they want to share with you (good or bad). Surround yourself with people who believe and encourage you. Having a knowledge of the industry you want your business to be a part of is also key; I have been able to save money in several areas due to my previous work experience and knowing which suppliers to contact and order from helps.”