Wholesale bakery Just Desserts has expanded from a single unit selling shepherd’s pies to four units producing award-winning handmade desserts and cakes for the foodservice industry.
Just Desserts was born in 1985, when James O’ Dwyer quit his job as a sales rep. Trained as a chef, he began the business with his wife, Carol O’ Dwyer, who took on the role of finance director.
Initially, the couple received an enterprise allowance from the government of £40 a week, enabling them to set up a bakery in Salts Mill, Shipley. After a local entrepreneur bought Salts Mill, they moved the operation to Station Road, Shipley.
In 2000, Just Desserts expanded into a second unit, as the premises next door to their bakery had become vacant. As the business grew, it was clear they needed more space and storage to run it effectively and become more profitable. In 2003, the business expanded into a third unit.
James and Carol’s youngest daughter, Elsie, joined the business in 2008 at the age of 14, taking up work including washing up, baking, sales and marketing. Although she currently plans to get experience outside Just Desserts, James believes that, of their four children, Elsie is the most likely to come into the business on a permanent basis.
In 2010, James’ son-in-law, Andy Los, joined the team. Currently a firefighter, he helps out at the bakery as the health and safety auditor, delivery driver and in consumer testing.
“One of the most life-changing things I ever did was learning how to delegate,” James says.
“My biggest watershed moment was trusting to work with people that can actually do what I can.”
The firm’s most popular product is Yorkshire Scoundrels or ‘Posh Scones’, made with flour, sugar, currants, mixed peel, butter and sour cream, finished with cherries and flaked almonds. This is followed by cheesecakes, where the range has been extended to include custard cream, 99, Kinder Bueno, triple chocolate and Lotus Biscoff varieties.
The business took on a fourth unit in 2018, when sales rose by 30% on the previous year.
“We wanted to make space in the bakery that we could devote entirely to cheesecakes. The demand was far outstripping our capability,” explains James.
Just Desserts now employs 30 staff and was in the process of investing further, with £160,000 spent in doubling the bakery size. However, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted these plans.
“It’s incredibly scary as we’re tooled up for new growth, but it now looks as if this will be somewhat delayed. Despite the current crisis, I’m optimistic about our long-term prospects, but the immediate priority is to look after and support all our staff and ensure we are match-fit for when things start to return to normal,” says James.
1985: Just Desserts is established by James O’Dwyer (pictured) and his wife, Carol, in Salts Mill, Shipley
1989: The business moves to Station Road
2000: The company expands into its second unit
2003: The business takes on a third unit
2008: Daughter Elsie joins the firm
2010: Son-in-law Andy Los joins
2011: Just Desserts receives the SALSA food safety management accreditation
2018: Expansion continues with a fourth unit
2019: HRH Princess Royal visits the bakery