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Agility and digital awareness: the keys to dynamic business

Keys to dynamic business – agility & digital awareness

James and Claire McGoldrick of Bradfords Bakers
James and Claire McGoldrick of Bradfords Bakers

After uprooting Bradfords Bakers in 2013 and reinventing the business, managing directors James and Claire McGoldrick are seeing their family business flourish. 

Claire, a fourth generation Bradford, entered the company as a teenager while her parents managed it. With years of baking and confectionery experience, she rose to the ranks of director in her early 20’s. She married James in 2002, who entered the company in 2003 to help her after the death of her father, who was the managing director. 

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

Bradfords Bakers was founded in 1924 by Hugh Bradford; for decades, the business operated from one location with small teams, until it saw massive expansion later in the 20th Century. 

We put a keen focus on innovation as we not only opened new stores but launched our online branch in 2006 which allowed us to deliver UK-wide. In 2012 we launched the Bakery ATM in Glasgow, a vending machine which dispensed individual, fresh cupcakes on demand.  

The banking crisis led to the closure of our shops in 2012, but we kept the online store. The last Bradfords Bakers store closed one Friday in 2013, and the fresh business was fully operational the following Tuesday. 

In 2014, we founded two more businesses: Send Them Cupcakes and Send Them Balloons. Where Bradfords Bakers is hamper-focussed, they specialise in cupcakes and balloons. 

Bradfords Bakers
Bradfords Bakers

How did the idea come to you for the company?

By 2006, we were noticing changes in consumer behaviour as online shopping began. We took this seriously and developed the website, which extended our reach past Glasgow, to the whole UK, Europe, the USA, and China. 

Send Them Cupcakes and Send Them Balloons came as we felt new freedom after our fresh start in 2013, and we evolved from bakery to gift company. We wanted to reach new customers by telling them simply that we deliver cupcakes and balloons. These are both niche products with little competition. Send Them Cupcakes was seamlessly founded as they already had the e-commerce platform and capacity to bake cupcakes. Beginning these websites made good business sense and furthered our potential. 

How did you achieve awareness?

By 2013, Bradfords Bakers was a Scottish household name. We became eager to tell the new story of a traditional bakery evolving into e-commerce. 

Advertising is very expensive, so we went down the route of public relations to achieve awareness as t yields positive results. 

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

Bradfords Bakers saw major growth of 350% in 2020; as restrictions were put into place and non-essential shops and eateries closed, the demand for our gifts skyrocketed. 

The pandemic hit the hospitality sector and small businesses hard, and many ventures were wiped out, so we’re grateful for being in a place to continue working. 

We worked hard as we saw the amount of orders we took daily more than double from between 70 and 80 to over 400. In the three days before Mother’s Day, we sent nearly 2,000 gifts across the country.

The bakery was inundated with orders through all of 2020 and 2021; there has been an increase in orders year-round as customers buy gifts they wouldn’t normally, to tell someone they’re missing them, or to mark birthdays that they couldn’t celebrate together. 

Bradfords Bakers
Bradfords Bakers

What are the key successes?

Bradfords Bakers and its sister companies find major success in providing services for bigger corporate events and orders. Send Them Balloons created personalised balloons for Microsoft’s new Xbox X|S launch which we were thrilled to do. We consider it a massive success for a small company to contribute to such a prestigious event.  

We happily take on large corporate orders. We supply balloons and cakes to events, and corporate orders haven’t stopped coming in because of the pandemic; employers have sent hampers to staff who work from home to express gratitude for their continued hard work over a trying year. 

What were/are challenges you have and how have you overcome these?

Brexit brought difficulties in accessing packaging. We work with suppliers in Italy and Germany who are accustomed to shipping products within the EU and the UK. When the UK left Europe, they had to start considering a wide host new rules and regulations which caused delays. We pursued a short-term solution to ensure business flow by buying products we needed from local UK suppliers, which was more costly compared to our usual suppliers. But the bakery managed to get what it needed, when it needed it. 

What are your plans for the future?

The future now is dependent on how the coming months will go; as the world reopens and moves past COVID-19, we predict a small dip in growth. When non-essential shops, cafes, and restaurants reopen, we imagine that consumers will eagerly take to everything they’ve missed out on for the last year. 

We don’t see this lasting forever. Consumers have been drifting away from the high-street, and restrictions have accelerated this. Since lockdowns were put into place, those who are usually reticent towards online shopping tried it: We’ve seen an increase in conversion of 180% in consumers aged between 55-64, and 20% in those aged over 64. Now that these groups have experienced the convenience that comes with online shopping, they won’t let it go completely. 

We would like to one day move to a bigger premises, so we can gain capacity for staff and stock with the goal of expansion and new product development. 

Bradfords Bakers
Bradfords Bakers

What would you encourage to others who wish to start their own entrepreneurship journey? 

There is so much to think about before starting an e-commerce business – when beginning online trading, we had to consider who would host the store, how well the products would deliver, who would deliver the products, and so much more.

A new small business owner who surpasses these challenges can out-manoeuvre larger corporations.

Can you share your top five tips for entrepreneurial success?

1. Exercise agility. Small, nimble businesses can overcome obstacles that larger businesses can’t, and can also a variety of unique opportunities.

2. Pay attention to what consumers are doing and where they’re moving. Doing so led us to start an online branch which ended up being our saving grace.

3. If you see an opportunity, make sure to grab it before it slips away. A lot of success comes down to being in the right place at the right time, but that means nothing if you won’t grasp an opportunity when it presents itself. 

4. A lot of businesses fail, but that doesn’t mean the venture is a failure. An entrepreneur should prepare for failure and be stubborn enough to pull themselves back up and try again. 

5. It’s important to honour legacy, but there’s not many successful businesses that operate in the same way they did in the beginning. Bradfords Bakers is flipped on its head, but now we’re flourishing. Sometimes the best way to honour a legacy is to bring it into the future and ensure its success for generations to come, even if you must disregard tradition. 

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