Maid in Devon
Working from home. It takes a lot of self-discipline. Television, radio, Interweb, they all provide distractions. I know, I’m sitting here in front of a computer in my office (bedroom) having provaricated for the last two hours on Twitter and Facebook. I used to work from home full-time, but I’m not sure how I did it.
Which means I have a lot of respect for Bella, of Bella’s Bakery UK. I met Bella (Twitter @bellasbakeryuk through the 21C networking delights of the Devon Social Media Cafe. She survived being patronised to within an inch of her life as I tried to tell her how to run her business. I who have never run a business in my life.
I felt very ashamed of myself afterwards, but I can at least blame a sugar rush, for Bella is somewhat of a cupcake queen. She’s also a bit of a good news story in that she showed what necessity and invention can bring about.
Under her real name of Annabel Harbut, she has been baking since a kid with her mum and gran. Unemployed after finishing an MSc at the Uni of Plymouth she had two vital things for any new business – time on her hands and a need to make money.
In her own words:
I was unemployed for quite a while, whilst looking for a job in Learning Support/SEN teaching. Whilst unemployed, I started baking again, and found lots of blogs etc from the USA about cupcakes and other interesting American recipes, which I got a bit obsessed with!
I then started thinking of different flavours of cupcakes you could make, for example, desserts that could be translated into cake form, and started to experiment a lot. The products of these experiments often went to my parents and friends, who all said they were amazing (but they’d have to wouldn’t they?!) and suggested I sell the cakes. At first, I didn’t want to, then as the unemployment went on, I began to see the possibility of setting up a small business, and finally took the leap after selling some cakes to friends. It all moved pretty quickly then – I set up my website for free, I designed and made my own business cards, ‘branding’, and packaging design, and set up a Facebook and Twitter page. I bought a load of boxes and ingredients, and soon they’d all been used! Not long after I set up, I had an article in the Plymouth Herald, an appearance on BBC Spotlight, and numerous bookings for weddings and events in 2010… so I had to keep going!
Foodies South West thought this shining example of necessity being the mother of invention was due a taste test. So we did one.
Taking delivery of a six pack of flavour of the month, Irish Coffee – coffee cupcakes with Bailey’s icing – I took them into my real job’s office and shared them out. We are an eclectic bunch and the eating styles varied, rather like Cadbury’s Creme Eggs (presumably soon to be Kraft Creme Eggs, or Krafty Cremes as I prefer). The man on pictures looked at the cupcake intently before popping the entire thing into his mouth. The PA nibbled it as she stared intently at her computer screen. The sub-editor sitting next to me pestered me for an hour to open the box before sitting on the edge of her seat with anticipation. And my boss just stuck his hand in the box and half-inched a cupcake while I was in the loo.
The response was positive though. Caveboy on pictures made ugg-ugg noises you’d expect from a 60s movie starring Raquel Welch, the PA stared at the paper wrapping trying to decide whether she could get away with licking it clean in public and the sub looked disappointed when there weren’t more.
The cake itself was nice and moist, with obviously a coffee flavour. But it was the Bailey’s icing that made it, adding a velvety sheen when you bit into the cake (assuming you don’t devour in one).
Only one complaint – please make them bigger. But as they are only £1 each (frankly we think they are under priced) we shall not quibble.