Bridget Scones Diary…

In the latest of our series of inspirational stories from food & drink producers, we hear from Deborah Matthews of Bridget Scones on where her business idea came from on and how she got things off the ground…

So Debbie, tell us about how your business idea came about…

As a former hotels and catering manager, I have been a stay at home Mum for around 2 years. I baked as a hobby at home, and not wanting to go back to my former career (I did not want to sacrifice motherhood for an 80 hour a week career), I never really found a job that ticked the boxes. The jobs I did go for I was told I was “over qualified” or although I was never directly told so, being a mother somewhat hindered one’s chances of getting a good job.

Back in June I joined a local community group, WestonCOG, a small group of people looking at ways to improve Weston-super-Mare, help local businesses and do great things for the community. I went along to the first meeting at a local café and happened to mention to the lady sitting next to me that I enjoyed baking as a hobby. She ran a community charity café that was linked to Weston Foodbank, and said if I ever wanted to donate any cakes then they would be most welcome.

A couple of days later I received a phonecall from a local Deli, saying that she had heard from the lady I had spoken to at the COG evening that I was local and I baked cakes, and she was looking for someone to provide cupcakes for her town centre deli. I explained it was just a hobby and I didn’t really bake professionally, but she asked for some samples, loved them and started giving me a regular order for the deli!

What a fantastic start! So how did you then turn that first order into a business? What came first?

Firstly, my husband quickly created a website for me; he’s a techie so could do this for me but if he hadn’t been, I would have paid someone to do it for me. I also got a logo designed, some business cards and signed up for Twitter and Facebook. All of a sudden, I was Bridget Scones, working for myself, from home, to maintain my work life balance and still be my own boss!

I have done cakes for lots of charity events, Made In North Somerset and other fairs and markets. I have also just placed an ad in Mum’s Diary offering kids’ cupcake decorating parties so hopefully that will be a success!

When you began baking for your deli customers, what steps did you go through in terms of getting food hygiene approval at home? What do you have to do differently to maintain that?

I already had a food hygiene certificate when I started as I had always been in hospitality and catering and kept that side of my knowledge and training up, should I ever go back to it. When it ran out in July I re-did it online, which only took about 40 minutes. I got a digital certificate. There are loads of great online courses that are really simple and convenient to do from home. It cost me around £40.00.

How do you go about costing your products so you can be sure you’re making a profit? What do you include in your costs?

I really struggled with pricing to start with. I think what you have to remember is that it isn’t just looking at the price of ingredients and then breaking that down per cake, it is also your gas, hot water, skill, ideas, time, equipment – these are things I didn’t think of to start with and also things that often your customers won’t take into consideration either!

Being part of a local community group that helped smaller businesses, it was important for me to keep costs to a minimum for customers buying my cakes. I do a wide range of cakes, and the cost depends on both the ingredients and the décor. I shop local wherever possible, use local ingredients when they are available and always use fair-trade and organic ingredients, which does sometimes come at a higher price, but will also adapt to budgets where needed. It is hard to judge exactly how much each cake costs in terms of gas, electricity and so on, but it is important to make a profit and to recognise your skill.

What are your plans for the future of your brand?

I am really looking for Bridget Scones to grow as much as possible. If I could make a good living out of it and be able to do what I love from home, and just do enough to enjoy it and for it not to become a chore, that would be amazing! I would like to do more local produce markets and also I am just starting to do cupcake decorating parties for children and adults so if that took off too then that would be great.

I don’t want it to be a full time job, I just want to earn some pocket money and achieve a great work/life balance so we’ll see what the future brings!

To check out Debbie’s beautiful cakes, or find out more about her parties, visit www.bridgetscones.co.uk.