For Bets Gee, owner of Magnolia Kitchen in Silverdale, everything started with her daughter. “I was a very young mum,” she told Restaurant & Café. “When she was young we would go to the library and get the cake books out – mainly so that other mums would be jealous when they saw what I could do!”
After an extended stint in an office job, making cakes only for close friends and family. She finally got her break when a colleague got her to make a cake for his partner. From then on, her path was set. “I wasn’t exactly happy in my job, so I thought I’d just bake.”
Gee registered the name and the business but continued to work full time for six years, until her son came along. “He was part of my business plan,” Gee admitted. “I went on maternity leave, then just never came back.” The current Magnolia Kitchen packaging pays homage to her humble beginnings. “That’s how the design of my boxes came around – back then I was using takeaway noodle boxes to give fudge out to my friends.” The business grew and grew, both in custom cake making and supplying to retail stores like Farro.
The way in which Gee harnesses social media has played a massive role in growing the business. Magnolia Kitchen boasts 175,000 Instagram followers – all organic, and from all over the world. “I saw I had a group of followers from a city I’ve never even heard of. I don’t know what country it’s is, but they like my cakes!”
Gee also uses Instagram as a sounding board for new flavours through her weekly cake auctions. Flavours which wouldn’t normally spring to mind, like Earl Grey and lavender or coconut and tamarillo, will often feature.
“Often you’ll notice that the more out-there flavours are the ones I put up,” Gee explained. “It’s my way of educating and experimenting, where I’m not controlled by the customer.” The auctions, as outlandish as they may be, have proven popular – the fastest one has sold in 40 seconds.
Social media has also opened doors overseas, with growing demand from across the Tasman leading her to search for distribution partners. “Australians are screaming out for my stuff – some are currently paying $20 shipping for some fudge.”
Gee is currently in the midst of expansion the wholesale side of her business, occupying the space next door to the current Magnolia Kitchen. Of course, followers can keep up to date with the work via Magnolia Kitchen Instagram story but for those easily offended, be warned – Gee once served in the Navy, and the old simile certainly rings true.
“It’s not the most PC,” she admitted, “but its reality nonetheless!”