So you want to open a… cake shop
I often get asked how I started my business and why. Well here is the story. I was always very creative and artistic as a child, however, I decided to follow my other main passion — cooking. I made the decision to become a chef from a very young age of about 10, and to work hard to gain as much experience as I could. I am originally from Dorset, so I got myself a weekend job at the age of 13 working at a hotel in Lulworth Cove throughout the summer. I loved doing a job I enjoyed as I was learning a lot. And even better, I was getting paid for it.
At 16 I began a three-year catering course at Bournemouth & Poole College. During my time there I was picked by my lecturer for a fantastic opportunity to go to London for my summer holidays and do an apprenticeship under Jean Christophe Novelli at his Michelin-starred restaurants. I was so terrified, as I was a true country bumpkin. Coming to the big bad city of London was a big decision for me, but one I will never regret and will only be forever grateful for.
When I finished my three-month apprenticeship, I came back to work for Jean Christophe at the weekends and studied in Bournemouth during the week until my college course finished. I then moved to London permanently and after working for Jean Christophe for several years, I went to work at The Ivy, working my way up through the ranks to Sous Pastry Chef, then as a Head Pastry Chef at Le Caprice. After four years I left the company and went to work for Popina, an award-winning bakery, where I specialised in product development for the likes of Sharpham Park, Highrove House, Daylesford Organic and their biscuit range which was stocked in Waitrose.
After a few years in the role I decided it was time to ‘go it alone’ and work hard for myself rather than always for others. I saw a gap in the market for a niche dessert brand unlike anything else out there, specialising in handmade, top London restaurant quality desserts to take away. So I learnt to drive in 11 weeks, bought a car and then thought of a name for my business with some help from friends bouncing ideas around. Then in the middle of a recession with no savings, I crazily started The Dessert Deli.
I am a ‘doer’ rather than a ‘talker’ and from a friend’s kitchen and her spare room, I started producing products for my first market in Balham’s Hildreth Street. My business then started to grow very rapidly: within six months I was supplying Selfridges Food Hall followed by Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols and now, Whole Foods Market stores.
All I can say is to succeed, you need to have it totally set in your mind from the outset your business idea, your plan and key principles, and stick to them. It is so tempting to go off the tracks and forget why you started your business in the first place. You must be physically and mentally able to work near enough 24/7 and not be a person who gives up at the first hurdle or when things aren’t going to plan. It’s a tough old slog but for me the benefits outweigh the negatives.
The Dessert Deli by Laura Amos, published by Paperbooks, hardback, £20, is out now
Follow Laura on Twitter @TheDessertDeli