Disgruntled with the humdrum of the busy city life, Barry Hawthorne moved to the Isle of Skye from Cape Town. Captivated by the moody Scottish countryside, it’s here that he set up his pet project - a bakery called The Isle of Skye Baking Company.
"I first came to Skye in 1998 and fell in love with the peace and quiet of the countryside," says Hawthorne. "While living in the city, I never had enough time for my family."
Now, Hawthorne has more than enough time to spend with his wife and daughter, both of whom help him with the bakery, since he does not employ any staff. "My wife does the accounts and I handle the delivery and the baking," he says.
It’s this hands-on involvement that endears him to the local people, concedes the entrepreneur. He pointedly supports local businesses for supplies, which in turn carry his products.
However, the Isle of Skye Baking Company does not simply supply its products to local shops. It also has an online shop, where you could order its unique heart-shaped shortbread, as well as oatcakes made with black ale.
They also have a new range of products, such as curry oatcakes and gluten-free products lined up for Easter. But, before launching a new product, Hawthorne studies the market through an initial free tasting and constructively uses all the criticism. The tasting also works as a form of advertisement.
It’s because of this insight into the market that The Isle of Skye Baking Company was nominated for two awards at the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards, for the Best New Product and Best New Business 2007.
"Although we didn’t win the awards, it was such a good feeling to be acknowledged, especially since we’ve only been open for six months," enthuses Hawthorne. n
=== Going it alone ===
The business: The Isle of Skye Baking Company
The brief: Anything that can be baked and may have a gap in the market.
Products: Shortbread hearts, seed loaf and oatcakes.
Flavours: Raspberry, ginger, lemon, lavender and vanilla shortbread. The biggest sellers are the black ale oatcakes.
Finance: Grant of £7,000 from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Company, given in monthly instalments of £600.
Staff: Barry and Liza Hawthorne.
Background: Worked as a pastry chef in Cape Town and trained under a German master baker.
=== The pros and cons ===
Biggest challenge: It was really hard to get the locals to warm to us. In the Isle of Skye, everyone knows everyone, and if we did something wrong the whole village heard about it immediately.
Greatest satisfaction: I absolutely enjoy working with my wife. We are both free to work as and when we want. And, best of all, my little daughter helps us with packing and loves being part of the process.