Cake International Birmingham

This was my personal favourite entry into the show.

The past few weeks I’ve been travelling through the UK, and one of the stops I made was three days spent at Cake International. There are several CI shows but the largest of these is in Birmingham – and whoooaaahhhh is it large!

I considered writing a review of the show, but it’s not that easy to review a show and quite honestly, as I no longer buy cake toys (although one or two might have snuck into my luggage) I didn’t really want to review it. I was there for fun and networking more than I was there for blog content…but of course, wandering around there for 3 days I wrote down a LOT of ideas which were blog worthy.

Here are the three most important lessons I learned from attending Cake International:

You’ve got to be in it to win it: There were hundreds of cake entries at the show. Hundreds. Some of them were literally breathtaking because they were so beautiful. Others were clearly made by beginners. ALL of them were hugely impressive. Why? Because each and every single person was brave enough to enter. Brave enough to put their work on show (to an audience of thousands daily) and be judged (by an audience of thousands. Daily.) Here’s the thing though- if you don’t ever bother to enter, you’ll never win. Or lose. NOTHING will happen at all if you don’t bother to enter. I am always telling you to, “feel the fear and do it anyway,” and nowhere is this more in action than in a cake competition. Every single one of those entries had a sense of triumph about it, merely because it was there in the first place.

Everyone starts with a Gold: I learned from one of the judges that ALL cakes entered into the competition start with a Gold Award, then depending on their merits, they move down the scale or stay where they are (or move up to also place.) Isn’t that kind of a nice metaphor for life? We all start at gold. It’s our actions which keep us there or bring us down. By actions I don’t really mean making cake with technical merits. I’m talking about how we choose to behave professionally. We all start at gold and frankly, we should all stay there – it’s the bullying and being horrible to one another which brings us down the scale. All of us should be aiming to be of the gold standard – it’s what you do (or don’t do) which takes you down.

Stand up for one another. We’re in this together.

The gorgeous Raewyn Read with her award for 2014 Cake Personality of the Year

There Are Opportunities Everywhere: I attended the CakeMasters Awards night on the Saturday night. I went to support my friends. I didn’t think about it as a marketing or networking exercise, and frankly that was really, really dumb of me. EVERYONE you meet is really an opportunity: someone to share with and learn from. I didn’t take a single business card with me and I should have – not just from a business point of view but from a friendship point of view. I’m not saying I should have gone there to pimp myself out, but I should have been prepared for the opportunities that kind of event presents. The secondary lesson here is PAY ATTENTION. I had no idea that the VP of International Marketing for Wilton was going to be there until he was announced at the awards night. That’s someone I really wanted to meet – so the next day I made sure to go to the Wilton stand and introduce myself to him. Had I not been at that event, and paid attention to who was there – that’s a massive opportunity I might have missed. You might hate networking…(and believe me, I personally find it REALLY hard to do) but it works! My business card is now in the hands of some people it would never have been near, had I not paid attention and siezed an opportunity.

I had a really amazing time at Cake International – and while the appeal of cake toys is no longer there for me, I had some incredible moments. I met Debby Brown (my childhood hero.) I got some invaluable advice from Ruth Rickey. I met the Wilton guy (and a bunch of other people I’d like to work with.) I watched as a dear friend won a lovely award, validating what we all knew already: that she is loved. I got to smile as people went up to friends of mine and shyly asked for photos. I got to hug people I’ve previously only met online, and discover that we have more in common than I might have thought. I made new friends, solidified friendships with old ones, and pushed myself WWWAAAYYYY the hell out of my comfort zone. ALL of those things took a lot of energy and effort on my part – I am quite introverted (yes, really) so all weekend long I was forcing myself to smile, say hello, and put myself out there, over and over and over.

Biggest lesson of all?

In the business of cake – and in life – 
it’s less about what you get out of it 
and more about what you put in.

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