When Newcastle-based finance director Richard Linfoot, 42, was made redundant from his accountancy job, he thought long and hard about what he would do next.
Swapping his briefcase for a baker’s apron, he and wife Jane worked out a business plan, got their kitchen inspected and licensed by the local council and, earlier this year, opened for business as the Gosforth Cake Company.
Their plan was to offer baked-to-order cakes, delivered personally door-to-door for local residents. Richard explains: "As this is a new business, we are still on a learning curve. We began by leafleting the local area and this proved successful. We are now doing about 40 cakes a week, but this was from a standing start and it is increasing all the time."
Starting on a small scale, the couple has been able to finance the business themselves. Additionally they had previously upgraded their kitchen, so it was able to satisfy local environmental health demands. Richard also had a head-start on the baking side as well. "My mother was always baking and I learned from her."
Jane adds: "I never thought, a year ago, that we would be making a living out of baking. I always said I married him for his puddings and his cakes were beautiful too."
The couple attribute success to using old-fashioned personalised ways of doing things and this has struck a chord. "I don’t specialise in fancy cakes for weddings, although I will do them; I make traditional old-fashioned ones such as chocolate, coffee, fruit, lemon drizzle and a whole load more."
At present Richard does the baking, Jane does most of the deliveries and children Nicholas and Anna are the unofficial tasters. "There is no doubt that we have tapped into a market that is out there," says Richard. "By this time next year, I hope we will be in our own small bakery unit, but still selling privately to households. Partly, this is because if we sell into shops, we will lose part of our margin, but also because we use only natural ingredients, the shelf-life would probably not be long enough for shops." n
=== The pros and cons ===
Richard: Managing demand. There is a greater demand for the weekend and this can create problems. If there are 10 different orders for 10 different cakes on a Friday afternoon, this can create problems in the kitchen. However, as we grow and learn, we will be able to see the pattern better.
Richard: Being my own boss and being in charge of my own life. To be able to make a living baking cakes is really a dream come true.
Jane: It is a bit of a change from being a finance director to baker, but Richard is more fulfilled and is doing something he enjoys.
=== Going it alone ===
The firm: The Gosforth Cake Company, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne
The brief: baking cakes to order for delivery to the customer’s door
Products: 10 different types of cake - coffee, chocolate, vanilla, lemon, carrot, lemon or orange drizzle, apple and cinnamon, fruit cake, banana and date cake, fruit tea cake. Price for 6-inch cake is £7.95 and for 8-inch cake is £9.95. Delivery: free locally but with a charge for longer distances
Staff: Richard and Jane
Background: Richard is a former accountant; Jane is a former teacher Website: [http://www.thegosforthcakecompany.co.uk]