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North Manchester mumpreneur Hayley Lawson reveals how she cooked up a plan to turn a passion for baking into a successful business to see her through tough times.

Credit: Joanne Lazarus Photography

2020 was no piece of cake for Whitefield mum of two and Maccabi coach Hayley Lawson. After losing her father, and her best friend to cancer, she was made redundant from the architectural practice she had been with for seven years. “I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t wait to see the back of 2020. Because my dad was in a home, I could only visit him at the very end, he was my best friend, I didn’t even get the chance to say a proper goodbye. Then being made redundant obviously wasn’t part of the plan. But I did decide to start a new business, which is growing really well.”

When England went into lockdown in March, the whole country, Hayley included, descended into a baking frenzy: “At one point, you couldn’t get hold of flour for love nor money. I have always baked, but never really had the time to indulge my hobby. Suddenly, I had all this spare time on my hands so I just started baking for family and friends, and then I decided: ‘you know what, I could start earning some money here!’”

Hayley joined Facebook groups to get advice on launching her baking business, Bake Cake Eat Love: “Selling to the public from your kitchen is no different to a restaurant, you still have to register with the council, have the kitchen inspected and acquire all the relevant paperwork. Whether it’s understanding allergens or keeping temperature checks for proper storage – there’s a lot involved. So I registered in June, and trading in July and I was able to advertise my stuff outside my circle of family and friends, and it just snowballed from there.”

Hayley has always been business minded. Founding ventures from her own brand of dog treats to an ongoing events company, her ideas have all stemmed from spotting a gap in the market: “When I was getting married, I would drag the kids around wedding fairs, which they hated! So when I was planning their Bar Mitzvahs, I needed to find the same sort of suppliers, but the last place they wanted to spend their weekends was at more wedding fairs. There was nothing out there for Jewish families, so that’s where HL Events started and JLife kindly sponsored my Great Simcha Showcase from day one, which was amazing.”

Hayley was lucky enough to host her most recent showcase in March, two weeks before lockdown, but since events have come to a standstill, her focus has turned exclusively to her baking: “I’m getting loads of good feedback and built up a base of repeat customers quite quickly. I’m always trying to think outside the box and do things a little bit differently from other bakers.”

Although cakes are Hayley’s speciality, her hot chocolate bombs – tempered chocolate shells filled with hot chocolate and vegan marshmallows – have received a surprising response: “I wasn’t expecting to be so overwhelmed by orders over the festive season. I had to make over 100 chocolate bombs before Christmas – they completely took over my house!” Bake Cake Eat Love isn’t a registered kosher business, but the majority of Hayley’s ingredients are vegan, which satisfies both Jewish and dairy-free customers: “Getting kosher accreditation is too expensive and my whole home would have to be koshered. Perhaps if I went to a kosher restaurant and asked to bake in their kitchen, that might be an option.”

Requests for vegan cakes are on the rise, and Hayley is confident her customers won’t miss the dairy: “My vegan cakes are just as delicious, and I don’t want anybody to feel left out. I recently made a cake for a client with an egg allergy, but the cake was for her daughter so she said: ‘if you want to add eggs that’s fine I just won’t eat any.’ I told her: ‘no, you need to be able to eat birthday cake with your daughter’, so I made sure I incorporated her allergy into the recipe and her daughter loved it.” Asked what the future holds for Bake Cake Eat Love, Hayley replies: “The dream is to have my own cake bar; somewhere you can chill out and have a coffee and a slice of cake, with good passing trade like Prestwich village – I don’t think there’s anything like that there.”

Arising from her own challenges of sourcing online, Hayley recently branched out her business into edible printing: “Finding someone to print my cake topper designs was an expensive and stressful process, so I started doing it myself and thought: ‘you know what, I’m going to make it pay for itself.” Now printing and posting designs nationwide entirely through social media, Hayley proves that big marketing budgets not a prerequisite for small businesses: “The majority of my sales come through my Instagram, Facebook groups dedicated to hobby bakers and businesses, and more recently word of mouth. I’ve been inundated with messages to send out my hot chocolate bombs, but delicate bakes don’t travel well!”

For those who have been dealt a bum hand by COVID, and may be aspiring to start their own small business, Hayley believes your transferable skills can surprise you: ““Being made redundant made me feel inadequate, but there’s no point moping around, you have to be positive and get out there. Finding another job in architecture wasn’t easy, so I had to think outside the box. I had to look at my skills and ask: ‘what else can I do?’ The same project management skills I used to put a showcase together have been crucial to helping me organise my baking business. I haven’t ploughed loads of money into the business, I just done a bit of research and made my hobby pay. My advice is if it’s something you enjoy, just go for it.”