back to her childhood, Helen says, "We lived in the village
of Gisburn, on the A59 from Preston that had all the cafes and pubs
on. So from the age of 12 I was waiting on in cafes, and I always
wanted to do my own food or have a café."
15, she was working at a local stately home as a cleaner in the
holidays. "They used to have these shooting parties and shooting
lunches. A lady called Lavinia came from London and did some wonderful
chocolate roulade. This was 20 years ago when everybody did trifles
or fruit flans and to see chocolate roulade, I thought that's what
I want to do, I want to be a caterer and I want to go and do this
kind of food."
Helen went to catering college at Nelson and Colne for two years
and then set up on her own from her parent's kitchen when she was
18. "I wanted to be an outside caterer but nobody would have
me doing outside catering because I was only 18. So I did my first
funeral tea, and if you do a really good funeral tea, things really
get around! I cooked my own ham and made my own cakes and my own
scones, so then I got my weddings and then I got parties and it
just went on from there."
years on, Helen's vision of having her own business has brought
sweet success. Her sticky puddings and biscuits are stocked in supermarkets
up and down the country. She's got a purpose built production factory
in Clitheroe and she's continuing to plan big ideas for the future,
whilst keeping her eye firmly on the homemade quality that she's
built her name on. "We are expanding all the time, but all
we do with expansion is buy more mixers to make the same small batch
size so we just keep repeating the process more frequently rather
than scaling it up to a huge operation. We are growing because we're
doing more products and the range has extended dramatically."
very proud of her sticky toffee pudding
Sticky Toffee Pudding is still our staple product and it really
is excellent! I believe in what we do and in the fact that we've
got such a good New Product Development department that can make
products special. We take a basic product and we twist it, like
spotted dick, our version is called a Stickie Dickie and it's currants
and apples with a cinnamon toffee sauce. Our bread and butter pudding
is made with brioche and marmalade and we've just brought a chocolate
version out made with a chocolate hazelnut sauce and vanilla custard."
are always busy trying out new pudding recipes
positive attitude and infectious enthusiasm has undoubtedly got
her where she is today, but being the head of a successful business
has meant she has had to adapt to changes. "I've probably altered
more in the last two years than anyone else in the company because
I've gone from being the cook behind the scenes in marquees that
nobody ever saw, to all of a sudden having to buy clothes and suits
and go out and be the business woman. I've had to grow into the
role of being a Managing Director, I didn't even really know what
a board meeting was before now!"
She is keen to encourage others to follow their catering dreams
too and regularly speaks at events and to schoolchildren, "I
go and judge school competitions because that's where I started.
I entered the Electricity Chef of the Year competition when I was
about 13. I think that gives you an insight into winning things
and striving to do better. Life is a competition in some ways, you
have to know what level you are at to strive to be better."
Helen is passionate about good food, her advice is sound for anyone
wanting to succeed in business. "Believe in yourself even if
you get told no. No is a really good answer because you can deal
with a no, with a maybe or a perhaps you don't know whether you're
coming or going. If it's a no, you pick yourself up, dust yourself
off and start over again. There's nothing else you can do, so just
deal with it. You've got to know you've got a good idea and you've
got to believe in it more than anyone and once you totally believe
in it you can do it. Be prepared to work hard, be prepared to cry
a lot and laugh a lot and for goodness sake, enjoy what you're doing!"
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