Enterprising undergraduates use lockdown to plan for future
Four enterprising bakery undergraduates have successfully used lockdown to launch businesses or to plan their future.
Charlotte Lawler, Abi Donaldson, Georgina Nixon and Lilly Machin all studied for their Level 2 Diploma in Professional Bakery in 2018 and have progressed together through their Level 3 Diploma in Professional Bakery and Foundation Degree in Bakery and Patisserie Technology (Levels 4 and 5). All four are due to graduate this summer.
Alongside the challenges of studying remotely, the friends have independently put the technical and business skills they have learned over the past four years to good use during the pandemic.
Charlotte launched Cakeologyco during the first lockdown in March and has built up a regular on-line customer base via Instagram and Facebook. She bakes bespoke cakes, cup cakes, brownies and treats from her home kitchen, mainly alone but helped by older sister Natalie at busy periods.
She hopes to launch her own cake shop in her home town of Bolton and believes that building up her on-line following during lockdown has been an ideal preparation.
Charlotte, who won the Level 3 award for making most progress in cake decorating, says: “I can’t believe how well my business has come on in less than a year. I think a lot of my success is because our lecturers taught us business skills for the future and supported us through the actual baking, modelling and cake decorating. Their experience was a great help and I’ve used every skills I was taught – right through from Level 2.
“The Covid pandemic has given me a unique chance. People are having to stay at home so they’re looking for ways to celebrate a special occasion. Personalised cakes are very popular and fortunately I’m quite creative. I was recently asked to make a cake with an Aston Martin theme so I bought a toy car with a personalised number plate and placed it on a white and grey cake. My cup cakes and brownies are also very popular and I have orders from all over the country.
“Running a business alongside my uni work is a big commitment, but it’s manageable and I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved.”
Abi, another award winning student at Level 3, has also used lockdown to put the final touches to her own on-line cake business and has gone on to achieve considerable early success.
Beginning with a portfolio of cakes made for friends and family, Abi used social media to gauge her market. There was so much interest that she registered as an official business and used the knowledge and confidence gained from her studies to complete the process. She also gained the necessary hygiene certificates during her courses.
Abi bakes for any occasion, from bespoke celebration cakes to every day cupcakes and postal treats such as brownies, blondies and cookies which are enjoyed UK wide. Her drip and fondant cakes have gone down a storm – all products she learned to bake at college.
She is also very creative when it comes to personalising cakes, such as a birthday cake for a young doctor made in the shape of a medical white coat, complete with stethoscope and name badge. Buttercream and drip cakes remain very popular products in her range, with a trend for taller cakes of at least four sponge layers. Rainbow coloured cakes are a big hit with young children.
Abi, who also lives in the Bolton area, hopes to open her own shop in the near future.
She says: “The goal’s in sight but I’m not quite there yet, as I first have to concentrate on finishing my degree. I’m looking forward to the future. Covid has definitely had a positive impact on my business.”
Georgina’s business, ‘Baked by G’, is another prolific home based cake business which has flourished during lockdown.
She sells an original range of cakes and cupcakes, plus treat boxes for special occasions, which she advertises through social media platforms including Instagram and Facebook.
Her most popular products are personalised drip cakes, with themes ranging from Liverpool Football Club to bees, and customers are also enjoying her novelty fondant cakes topped with sugar paste models or figures.
Georgina would like to expand her business into a cake and coffee shop near her home in Crewe and will devote all of her energies into growing her brand once she’s completed her degree.
She says: “I’ve loved every bit of my four years at Reaseheath. I’ve learned new baking and cake decorating techniques on each of my courses and I’ve also gained a good understanding of how to run a business, which has been very beneficial. The hygiene and health and safety courses I took while at college have been a real help.”
Lilly has also been busy baking for family and friends including three particularly successful birthday cakes, one the shape of a book, another with a football theme and the third a Disney character.
Although an on-line business appeals she is also interested in becoming a chocolatier, a person who creates confectionary from chocolate, so may look to gain more experience in this craft.
Lilly, who lives in Madeley, Staffordshire, says: “I enjoyed working with chocolate at diploma level and have learned more skills and the science behind it during my degree. I made salted caramel chocolate for presents last Christmas and I’d like to take this further.”