Who said you should never put all your eggs in one basket? Not Ruth Robinson, that’s for certain. She is the founder of Ruthy’s Scones - a name that doesn’t lend itself particularly well to diversification. "I tried baking traybakes as well as scones, then realised everyone was making them, but the scones were unique!" she says.
This former housewife, mother of three and avid home baker turned professional three years ago, baking scones for local coffee shops. "I just needed to do something for me; I thought I’d have a fiddle and see what happens," she recalls. "I didn’t want to make ordinary scones with just currants in - I wanted unusual scones so I invented recipes, like Cranberry and White Chocolate, Wholemeal, Raisin & Cinnamon - even a Mediterranean version. I didn’t realise they would take off the way they did. It’s amazing how people love scones."
Earlier this year she launched a scone mix range in tubs for commercial bakers that are available delivered throughout the UK via the website. Take-home branded packaged versions have also been developed. "I couldn’t keep up with demand. So I created a scone mix so people could do it themselves," she says.
While the mix side of the business is still in its infancy, Ruthy’s Scones has started appearing at café-related trade shows to drum up orders from retailers, farm shops and delis. "It’s a very unusual product that you can’t really get anywhere else, especially the varieties I do. Scones can be hard to make but mine don’t fail."
While it was a challenge making the leap from home baker to being business-minded, the single income of her husband was enough to support her through the early stages. "I had one customer to begin with and every penny I made went straight back into the business, and it still does. I would get to a certain point and then buy a new machine, which might cost £1,000. When that wasn’t big enough I’d buy another for £2,500. I’ve always been able to keep my head above water."
Earlier this year she finally achieved her goal of setting up her own bakery. n
=== Going it alone ===
The business: Ruthy’s Scones, based in Dumfries, Scotland; established 2004
The brief: No brief, just baking scones!
Products: wholesale supply of around 30 varieties of scones; commercial and take-home scone mixes
Flavours: cranberry and white chocolate is the biggest seller; other varieties include mixed fruits; apricot and white chocolate; date and walnut; wholemeal, banana and date; pizza; bacon and egg
Finance: started small, baking from home; reinvested turnover in machinery; no loans
Staff: Ruth plus two part-timers
Background: former runner-up in Jane Asher’s Home Baker of the Year competition
=== The pros and cons ===
Biggest Challenge: The hardest part has not been the finance or the running of the business, or the products. The hardest thing I found - having been a mum at home - was finding confidence - both in myself and my product. I was used to wearing a pair of jeans and no make-up!
I can work my own times. Sometimes I get up at five in the morning, while the kids are asleep, and work through; I can still pick the kids up from school; and my husband has been very supportive. Best of all, I love sitting in a coffee shop eavesdropping on people who are eating my scones!