A business inspired by TV’s Great British Bake Off has proved so successful for Leeds-based Caroline Pearman, she’s taken on four associates and increased her turnover by 77% in just two years.
Caroline, who lives in Chapel Allerton, was working in project management at Leeds University when she took the plunge and turn her passion into a business. And it’s been so successful, she’s enlisted the help of one full-time and three part-time bakers to help her keep up with demand.
“I’d been a project manager in the commercial sector for 20 years, but reaching 40 felt like a major milestone,” explains Caroline. “I really wanted to turn my passion for baking into a business, and watching The Great British Bake Off on TV made me think that there might be a niche market I could work in.”
After a year’s sabbatical from her demanding university role, Caroline began baking from home and business quickly took off. With customers including Crust & Crumb in Chapel Allerton, The Bowery in Headingley and The Mill@Scotthall, her baked goods were in huge demand.
But running her own business wasn’t a piece of cake – Caroline became so successful she found herself working 12 hour days, seven days a week and she was in danger of making herself ill. So, with the advice of Leeds and North Yorkshire Business Doctor Simon Monaghan, she decided to spend less time in the kitchen and create work for fellow bakers who shared her passion for profiteroles.
“I work from home so taking on an employee would have meant renting a catering unit, which just wasn’t feasible,” she explains. “So we hit on the idea of appointing associates who could deliver the quality I insist on, but work from their own homes.”
The idea was a recipe for success, and since appointing the four bakers, Caroline’s Cakes has grown by a huge 77% in under two years.
Now, Caroline and her team supply cakes to a wide range of corporate clients and six cafes across Leeds – including her old colleagues at the university.
“The university is one of my biggest clients,” says Caroline. “We make cakes for their cafes and are taking on two more of their outlets in the autumn.”
And, although she enjoys seeing her old colleagues when she goes back to deliver cakes to the university, Caroline’s certain that she won’t go back to the 9 to 5.
“I’ve loved baking since my grandmother taught me to make cakes when I was a little girl. Being able to do this for a living while still having the time to care for my father, who has Alzheimer’s, and also fulfill my passion for travel really is a dream come true.”