Mike Woods, MD, The Just Love Food Company, Blackwood, Wales
What was your route into the baking industry?
I started work as a management accountant at Alliance & Leicester after doing my A-levels and was headhunted by RF Brookes (part of Premier Foods) in Leicester, where I held a similar post. I went on to become head of finance, but wanted a more hands-on job. I was put in charge of one of five business centres producing Yorkshire puddings, and was then promoted to heading up the largest unit. I became managing director of Avana Bakeries at 31, responsible for two sites making desserts and cakes, and thoroughly enjoyed doing the job for eight years before moving to Memory Lane Cakes five years ago. I helped grow the premium cake ranges, such as Taste the Difference, and am very proud of that.
How did you start the Just Love Food Company?
I realised I wanted to have my own business and, with two children who have nut allergies, saw there was a gap in the market for branded cakes from a nut-free environment. I’d spoken to my contacts in the industry and knew there was an opportunity. So over the past year, I’ve been raising finance, finding a property in Wales and getting equipment and staff.
We launched a range of celebration cakes exclusively in Sainsbury’s in April this year and are now in open dialogue with other retailers as well as foodservice companies.
What does your current role involve?
As managing director, I’m working to increase awareness of the company, spending time with my financial network of lenders and developing new product ideas the industry is crying out for innovation and I think we can introduce lots of different things.
What is your proudest achievement?
Helping to turn the Yorkshire pudding unit at RF Brookes, which was doing £10,000 a week, into a £5m business in two years, and working with the team I had around me then, who gave each other great support. I believe in having a vision; a ’visionary leadership’ course I went on in Canada years ago guides all I do. You need to be clear about where you want to be and be clear about where you are.