The Apprentice was over, orders were flooding in and I had some exciting but scary decisions to make for the future of my business! If you have read part 1 of my 'The Journey' series, then grab another cuppa and stay tuned for what happened next.
After the mad rush of Christmas, it became very clear that my little kitchen was no longer big enough and I needed a way to produce more to meet the demand. It had been hinted at during the show that I should outsource my production. But where on earth do you start with outsourcing? Who do you contact? How does it work? How much should you look to pay? I had no idea. I got in contact with a Business Advice Centre that specialise in food production in Wales (so very niche!) and completely admitted how I felt, I needed help and I didn’t have a clue where to start… I was way out of my depth. They were so helpful and put together a list of people I could contact and actually came with me to a number of meetings as they knew the producers well. The brief was simple, they must be able to make our cakes and they must be based in Wales.
The first team we went to see were perfect. A medium sized bakery in North Wales run by a husband and wife who had mainly small customers and one big customer. I was shown around the bakery and felt like a child in a chocolate factory! The day I went they were producing marshmallows and there was molten marshmallow bubbling away everywhere, I truly wanted to stick my face in a bowl of it. It was the most beautiful shade of pastel pink and smelled like strawberry pop. Everyone in there was happy (I would be if I was surrounded by marshmallows!) and the Owner then proceeded to tell me his inspiring story about how he had grown the bakery. He had started, just like me selling at markets and making the cakes himself in a small bakery in his local village. He had expanded and bought out a local pie company and taken on the bakery. He told me about the first day he turned up in his new bakery feeling completely overwhelmed with no idea how he would fill the place. Since then he had also bought out the unit next door and was growing rapidly. I was sold on the place and sent my recipes over immediately to begin planning. Queue number one of the hurdles, I received a very sad email that the bakery didn’t feel they could take us on right now and didn’t want to go into this together when they couldn’t fully commit. I was devastated. I appreciated what they were saying but at the time I just didn’t understand. In my head I had already moved in and I even knew where I would hang my apron.
I had a little cry (something that happened a lot last year!) and moved forward, the business centre introduced me to one more; a factory that had in the last 6 months opened a bakery a long side his other business of making butter. My cakes use a lot of butter and so seemed like a good fit! I was introduced to the owner a short while after and he was a breath of fresh air! He was so incredibly positive; everything I suggested was possible, nothing was too big and they knew exactly how to help us grow. Everything moved quickly and before I knew it the baking trials were complete and we were ready to go!
Diving in head first was daunting, and unknown to me at the time a lot of learning was about to happen! Since then we have grown considerably and I have learned things I hadn’t considered before, such as how to scale up your recipes to all of a sudden make 400 brownies instead of 40! In fact, the first batch of brownies made were just not right. I scaled up the recipe, but it wasn't quite right and out came tray after tray of cakey dense brownies. I made a few changes, everyone stayed late into the evening to help make a second batch which were even worse! These were like biscuits and nowhere near the gooey brownie we were promising. This was the first time I realised that on some occasions I would just have to make an executive decision, I had Ambassadors waiting for their cake and I just had to do what I thought was best.
The benefit I had throughout this was the help of Lord Sugar. With far more business experience than I have, it was so much help to have him advise on the logistics side of this move; I thought I would have to deliver all this cake to my Ambassadors myself in the van! But he helped advise on finding a courier, pricing I should consider and other aspects I had never come across previously. He would then leave me to focus on the aspect I know the best; my cakes!
Having a bakery help with production meant a lot for Ridiculously Rich. There was no way I could have been slaving away in my tiny kitchen to get these orders out, and all of the bakery staff working a million miles an hour was amazing to see. The experience has taught me so much; how frustrating it can be when the weather effects deliveries, how hard it is when something goes wrong and there is nothing you can do to fix it, but I also saw how exciting it can be to see thousands of slices of cake all in one room because people so desperately want to buy them! All in all, this may be the area that has taught me the most, grown my patience, and made me understand my business even more.
Bakery in full swing, it was now time to fill the Ridiculously Rich family with eager and excited Ambassadors. See you in the next blog for how it felt to open up my business for others to be a part of!