Cork-based mum's cake making business goes from strength to strength

Glanmire-based mum Izabella Sikora had no money to buy her son a cake - so she decided to make one - and so began the start of her new business, writes CHRIS DUNNE
Cork-based mum's cake making business goes from strength to strength

Izabella Sikora of Funky Cakes by Architect. Picture: Michael Black Film

ARCHITECT Izabella Sikora was on the up-and-up as her career soared to great heights. Then she was floored when she fell ill.

Being creative and artistic, she looked outside the box, and when she discovered sugar craft artistry, she decided to turn her skills into a business, called Funky Cakes by Architect, based in Glanmire.

Izabella is from Poland and has lived in Cork for 16 years.

“I studied architecture in Poland and I finished my studies in Canada,” says Izabella, who is mum to Lucca, aged 10.

“Here in Cork I was one of the directors in the company I worked for and I was doing very well. I had a successful career and I was happy. Then the economic crash happened and my work virtually stopped.

“After I had Lucca, I was hoping to back to work in the industry. That proved difficult as I did long hours and I was a single mum.”

Then Izabella, who had plans and ambitions, was diagnosed with ulcer colitis, which is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract.

“I was hospitalised a few times, but when Lucca was born I didn’t suffer too badly from the condition and I was in remission,” says Izabella.

One of Izabella's creations.
One of Izabella's creations.

“I was careful about what I ate. But then five years ago the colitis erupted again and I was very ill. It is very stressful when the colitis ulcer acts up. You are tired, you are depressed, and you have no energy whatsoever. In 2018 I ended up back in hospital and the doctors advised me to take time off work. They advised me to rest and to slow down.”

Izabella, always a hard grafter, had to take time out to go on sick leave.

“That left a scar both mentally and financially,” she says.

Things looked grim.

“There were times that I had no money to heat the house or to buy food, and I was depressed about my situation.

“As a proud single mother with a wonderful boy, I reached out and I asked for help. I was the sole provider for the house.

“At one stage, I had no heat in the house for three weeks and I got wood for the fire from a friend. It was a hard time and for a while I couldn’t see any light.

“And with my illness, I couldn’t see myself working in my profession any more. That made me even more depressed.”

Izabella reached out.

“I am so grateful to the charities and to SVP, who donated food for me and my son,” Izabella says.

“They didn’t ask any questions, they are nice people. SVP is an amazing organisation. Social welfare helped me out with the basics. My friends helped out too. Without them I might have given up some day.”

Izabella Sikora and her son Luca.
Izabella Sikora and her son Luca.

When did Izabella get the gem of an idea to create Funky Cakes?

“My adventure with cakes started totally by accident,” she says. 

“Lucca’s sixth birthday was coming up and I realised that I had no money to buy him a cake. That was the moment that changed my life.

“I decided to teach myself how to bake and I looked up YouTube and social media for ideas. Then I went to Aldi to buy cheap ingredients to make Lucca his birthday cake.”

Lucca was in for a fabulous birthday surprise.

“I made him a Batman cake!” says Izabella.

Another stunning cake.
Another stunning cake.

Was it difficult to make?

“It was very complicated, but the knowledge from my job as an architect made it seem easy,” says Izabella. “Lucca was so happy.”

What did he say?

“He said ‘Mum, don’t go to work, make cakes!’”

One of Izabella's beautiful cakes.
One of Izabella's beautiful cakes.

Izabella took her son at his word.

“He was my first supporter,” says Izabella.

Her friends were bowled over by Lucca’s Batman cake.

“When our friends came to Lucca’s birthday party they were thrilled with the cake,” says Izabella. 

“The mums wanted me to make cakes for their children and soon word spread. The business started by word of mouth. 

"It was slow at first but soon orders for the cakes started coming in. Every month I invested what little money I had on new equipment.

“Business started slow but I was so happy to have something I enjoyed to occupy my mind. I forgot about my situation doing something creative.”

Izabella had a new occupation.

“Sugar craft was my new hobby. I invested more time in looking into it and researching it.”

Izabella is self-taught in the art of cake decoration.
Izabella is self-taught in the art of cake decoration.

Izabella is self-taught.

“I learned everything myself,” she says.

“My cakes are structured; they don’t look like cakes. Each is a unique creation. My customers say; ‘we don’t want to cut the cake!’”

A fabulous birthday cake.
A fabulous birthday cake.

When Izabella opened her own studio in Glanmire last year, it was the icing on the cake for her.

“I live in Silversprings, so I am near my work, and I employ two girls part-time.”

Izabella is on the up-and up once more.

“The medication keeps my illness under control and I’m not depressed anymore,” she says.

Another Funky Cake by Architect.
Another Funky Cake by Architect.

Her work is creative.

“I’ve always been creative,” says Izabella.

“Making funky cakes allows me to continue my creative work. It’s great to do something that makes me so happy. Creating memories for people makes me happy. I love the positive comments from people when they see the cake they ordered for that special occasion.”

Izabella is very busy.

“All the different seasons and all the different occasions like weddings, communion, christenings, birthdays; keep me busy,” says Izabella. 

“I make small cakes too; people like the funky cup cakes I make.”

Izabella is in a good place now.

“My business is growing. I put in lots of hours.

“Fortunately, the pandemic didn’t affect met too much. I ran the business and survived.”

Izabella has some encouraging words for others too.

“I would say to people, if you feel down in the dumps, to try and find a new hobby that interests you and that makes you feel good,” she says.

“It will keep your mind occupied and distract you from your situation. In my case, I kept my mind busy and I didn’t think about the situation I found myself in.

Some of Izabella's smaller cakes.
Some of Izabella's smaller cakes.

“A new hobby or a new passion can shift your thinking, and it’ll help you not focus on any bad things.”

Izabella, with lofty plans to grow her successful business, is happy with her lot.

“People enjoy my product. I never thought I’d progress to having my own cake studio and my own business. It all happened organically.”

Izabella has made a great success of her business.

“Every success has its own tears, pain and also determination,” she says.

“Don’t get me wrong; I work hard, often up to 16 hours a day. It can be a hard job. I am often exhausted and feel like I want to quit.”

But she never has.

“No, I won’t quit,” says Izabella, smiling.

She has lots of support in her corner.

“I want to thank all those who made orders with me. Not only are they supporting families, my son, but also the further development of this business that will hopefully grow more in the future.”

You can find Funky Cakes by Architect on Facebook and Instagram.

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