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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Cake: it`s a family affair

It`s not bad going--having your own business when you`re only five months old.

OK, well, bobbing along in a little bouncy chair while mum and dad run the business around you.

The baby entrepreneur whose name fronts a brand new cake company in Shropshire is Betty Joyce. I met her quite by chance while dashing to the supermarket on the Gain`s Park housing estate just outside Shrewsbury.

Opposite the supermarket, there was a `Now Open` sign on the window of a shop which had sat empty for  months. I sauntered over, and peered through at the delights inside; pleased that cakes were again being sold at this former bakery. "You can go inside, you know, " said a small voice beside me. "Yes, you are allowed," said another, reassuringly. "And if you go inside, you can buy one of dad`s cakes."

The opportunistic sales reps-- seven year old Chandler, and Owen, two years younger, were standing right beside me in their school uniforms; willing me to open the door. How could I refuse?

Inside, they explained that it was their dad over on the far table, busy constructing a camper van cake for someone`s birthday. "That`s what he does," said Chandler, "and he wants to make lots of money."

They looked so welcoming, and eager, and full of hope--the boys, little bobbing Betty, cake maker Darren and his partner Kerry Thorley, that I abandoned them for five minutes, and legged it across the square to buy a shorthand pad and pen to make some notes about their new venture.

Because that`s what so many people are being urged to do, now, isn`t it? Start up alone. Find backing. Explore grants that are available. But even with a shed load of business advice, it`s still a huge venture to take on premises, and establish yourself in the marketplace.

For this family though, it was something they had to try. Their home based cake-making business was growing nicely--and taking up all their available space. They`d heard about this shop from a customer, had a look, out of curiosity, and decided to go for it.

But Darren, who learnt to cook in a Michelin starred chain of pubs and restaurants after leaving military life, said it wasn`t all plain sailing.

"We approached the banks and were told `no`--we didn`t have enough money in place. Even with some help from Kerry`s dad, they still said no initially--sometimes it seems it`s easier if you`re working business to business, rather than starting up on your own."

But they persevered. And fitted their new shop out by themselves. And when I met them--on day three--they were happily taking on suggestions from new customers about what kind of products will prove the most popular, and not afraid to admit it`s quite a steep learning curve.

"We make the bread every day for sandwiches," said Darren. " And one lady asked for a bag of rolls--we realised we didn`t know what to charge her!".

But the price list is sorted now, and the daily counter sales of delicious cakes, sandwiches and coffee will be Kerry`s responsibility, while Darren works through a growing order book for the wide range of celebration cakes he`s now being asked to bake; grateful for Kerry`s creative eye and design ideas.

"We`ve done everything from a Wallace and Gromit cake, to the camper van design I`m working on hen party cakes and divorce cakes, " he said..."they`re actually getting quite popular!"

I left with a carrier bag containing the cakes I`d bought: coffee and walnut, and a chocolate one for luck. And got a thumbs up from Chandler and Owen.

I hope their little sister`s got them on commission.

Find out more about Darren and Kerry`s business here :
Or call in to their shop on Gain`s Park in Shrewsbury.

And they`re on Twitter too-- @BettyJoyceCakes

Thanks for reading--please retweet?

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