How I turned my passion into a side hustle

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Good Cake Day founder Chinelo Awa dreamed of being a star baker, but lacked the time or money to get herself to a top cooking school. She tells Stylist how she used YouTube to turn her pipe dreams into a reality…

I think I properly got into baking at university. I always liked cake as a child – I mean, who doesn’t? – but when I got to university, someone gave me a really basic baking book and I was hooked. 

They were only recipes for simple cakes, but I got really into it. All my friends and housemates would invariably end up being gifted one for their birthdays, whether they wanted them or not - but I made some very confused cakes during those years!

When I left university I went into law. I enjoyed it, and still do, but about four years ago I noticed a lot of my friends were setting up their own businesses and getting to do something they were really passionate about. 

I wanted a slice of the action, to be my own boss and start a business, and baking seemed like the perfect thing.

I looked into doing some classes as I knew my current baking skills weren’t up to par at all. I was stunned by the cost – almost £400 a day, in some cases. 

I’m sure they would be brilliant and really helpful, but I knew that I couldn’t do that. I knew I had to look elsewhere. That’s where YouTube came in.

Pretty much all the cake-decorating skills I needed to learn to make my cakes amazing I found on YouTube. Making really tall cakes, getting those super-sharp edges on cakes, making fondant, making decorative flowers, all the techniques – it’s all there.

Once I started watching the videos and mastered the techniques, I had the kind of professional cakes I wanted. I’d always been able to make cakes that tasted good, but finally I could make them look show-stopping, too.

I can say to this day that I’ve still never been to a cake-making class. Instead, the How To Cake It, Lindsay Ann Bakes, Sugar Geek Show, Evil Cake Genius, Zoe’s Fancy Cakes channels were my education! 

Discovering YouTube was such a revelation, because you can rewind the videos and watch them again and again if there’s a bit you’re struggling with – that’s better than a lesson, in a sense.

Plus you can go at your own pace and in your own time – there’s no ‘Show up here at 8am every Friday’. You can do as much or as little as you want in a day, and if I couldn’t make something work, I’d just ask in the comments and the creator would usually reply, giving you something of a Q&A. Cake people are so lovely.

The other beauty of learning on YouTube was the sheer variety of it. If you’re struggling with one person’s method, no problem: fire up another. Someone else will have a technique that’s different. 

It’s all trial and error, and practice really does make perfect. I’m still learning today.

It really removed so many of the barriers to entry for me, and made it possible for me to connect with bakers all over the world from home. From there, Good Cake Day has gone from strength to strength. 

I’m still juggling baking with law, but we’ve had great success and media coverage and made some stunning cakes. 

We’re moving into year three of the business in 2019 and it’s only going to get bigger and better.

YouTube is more than just viewers. Read about six more extraordinary viewers who became doers here