Hi. I am Ed Dench, one of the founders here at The Cake Mix. I have never written a blog before, but here we go… The point of this blog is to share with you all a little bit about what makes me me and why I do what I do.
I boarded this journey at St Michael’s Hospital, weighing in at 7.5 ounces on October 5th 1985, my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, blue faced and screaming. We set up camp in Keynsham and by the age of 2 we had kicked my biological father / sperm donor out so it was just me and mum.
Early school was not really a great experience for me. I didn’t have the Nikes, Spliffies Jeans or a lunch box that gathered much of a crowd at swaps-time. No. Most of school up to year 6 was not that much fun. As far as the school was concerned I was lazy, disruptive and not really worth the effort. I found myself spending most of the day standing outside the classroom door looking in.
Luckily, my mum wasn’t happy with the way I spent my days at school or the reports saying I wasn’t going to get very far in my academic endeavours. To cut a long two years short, we travelled up and down the country meeting as many specialists as possible to carry out what seemed like endless tests and tests to test the tests. I can honestly say, none of this was any fun. This is another blog for another time, that I will write at some point, but for now we shall charge on…
So… ‘you are Dyslexic’.
After the two years and a lengthy tribunal, driven by my mum and supported by my grandmother and soon to be stepdad (my dad), I got awarded a statement stating that I was in fact severely dyslexic. The Government was going to pay for me to attend a specialist school called Edington and Shapwick. My boarding school days would fill a blog page easily, so I will keep this brief. Leaving for school felt a lot like Harry Potter’s first days as a wizard as we went shopping for school items. Yes, I have a trunk (it’s now my coffee table), but sadly I have no broomstick or owl.I did have a shoe polishing kit though and they had hamsters on site already. It was a long drive from home, with a manor house as the main campus, that almost certainly resembled a castle to me at the age of 10.
In short, without the education of Edington and Shapwick I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am very grateful they stuck with me, as I wasn’t necessarily a model pupil. I stayed with the school all the way through to college and continued to board for my first year of college too, until I was basically asked to leave but again, that’s another story. At college I studied performing arts and did very well. I quit in my third year however and decided it was time to work full time as I’d quite like more money and messing around at college was getting in the way. It basically took me almost 3 years to become un-institutionalised.
Jobs I have had.
Child’s entertainer, bar work, bar work, bar work, fencing, estate agent, sales rep, fire protection, tattoo artist, sales….. Most of my jobs have been based in Clevedon or Bristol, except when I lived in Thailand as a tattoo artist! That’s not really blog material, but more a collection of stories to be shared over a pint.
I learnt a lot about myself in Thailand. Yes… I realise this is a big cliche, but I did, ‘I found myself in Thailand’! My girlfriend loves pointing it out to me jokingly, but it’s true. After a long stint,I decided I was ready to come home and get stuck in. Once home, I started working for the son of a previous employee and that was the first time I was encouraged to be creative and develop a product. That was it, I was hooked.
The past 6 years.
My next role was running a social media agency owned by a large film kit rental company. It was a small team running social campaigns for mostly hospitality and B2B businesses. During my time there I started an internal project based around a loyalty app. I was encouraged to be creative and develop the product, however this time I was getting frustrated. In fact, this probably wasn’t the right Job for me really, but what would be? At this point I was getting fed-up of the people around me and the owners’ lack of involvement, despite sitting in the room, and lack of willingness to back the development of the company. Maybe it was time to work for myself!
It’s for Chefs
After some long chats with a good friend of mine, ‘the other Ed’, we decided we would start our own agency. As Ed wasn’t able to start straight away, I set up in the pub I was living above at the time. Luckily, the landlord, one of our new clients, had some space for me. Off to Ikea I went, to buy a desk. The space available was in the back of the chefs changing room, in the window recess, facing a wall, in an area of the pub that had definitely never been involved in any pub restoration projects.
No, it wasn’t the best place to start a business and yes, there were some awkward moments where I had to leave my “office” to offer a little privacy to some of the chefs, or clients asking me where I was during Skype calls. However, it was my desk and my bit of space and at the time it felt like a great start.
After a short time, the ‘other Ed’ was ready to join and the company officially started. There was no room for us both in the naked chefs cupboard, so we worked from the pub downstairs where ever a plug were available. Our agency grew and grew over time and so we got an office across the road and some staff. App number 3 soon started, also based around loyalty.
For ‘other Ed’ and me, these were some very important years. Being a good business partner doesn’t just mean covering your side of the business. It’s much much more. We had our ups and downs but what we built was a partnership that would succeed whatever. We would push the other when needed and offer support. ‘Other Ed’ did most of the pushing in the early days so I must thank him for sticking with it; ‘Thanks Lobbett’.
The curse of the loyalty app
Another app, another death. The biggest mistake here was partnering with the wrong people. We had everything we needed, except the tech ability to actually build the app, so we partnered with a new entity that was willing to build it in return for equity and the use of the code they created. In short, the project was delivered so late that we had burned through all of our resources, even dropping clients to focus on the app and basing the future on an ever changing release date. When we eventually went live, we were not able to support the app or in fact ourselves. It was time to go back to the drawing board.
We decided to stop the app and focus on the agency and getting back to a stable place so we could move forward. Therefore, we started looking for work and that’s when we met our next challenge.
Behind the oak
Now, this story is much more than a blog. In fact, it should probably be a book called ‘Behind the Oak’. It was a fund-raising project that was meant to last for just a few months, but ended up being over two years. I travelled the world; Dubai, South Korea, Vietnam, Tokyo and more, working with a great team of 30+ people. I gave a lot to this project; not only my time but every idea I had and by the end I found that it was killing my creativity and stopping me from moving forward as the company was unable to move forward itself. I learnt a lot but it was time to leave and get back to me, the ‘commercially minded creative problem solver’ (my linkedIn caption). It was time to get back to the plan and back to our own space, as long as it wasn’t back with the chefs
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‘Other Ed’ and I started The Cake Mix to do what we love, getting involved in small businesses and helping them to do more, move forward or understand how they can evolve. We are lucky to have a great team around us with Ben, Tom and Jan joining us from the previous team. We have some app ideas but might stay away from loyalty this time.