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New Markets 2 supports the growth of cake institution Caz's Kitchen

If you haven’t heard of this little nugget of gold located on St John’s Road in Waterloo, where have you been? Caz’s Kitchen might be defined by some as simply a cake shop, but to those who know, it is so much more than that!

Caz and her team supply cakes to local restaurants, coffee shops and delis, but customers can also enjoy her gorgeous cakes in her quirky little premises. Caz also sells whole cakes, desserts, tartes, tortes, cheesecakes and puddings, plus cake platters and cake towers for parties and functions and even wedding cakes!

But Caz’s speciality is cakes for specific dietary requirements, what’s so unique about Caz’s cakes is that they are REAL. She uses nothing artificial in her cakes, choses butter over margarine and the flavours come from in-house roasted nuts, Belgian couverture chocolate and fruits from her allotment. In fact, everything about Caz herself, her kitchen and her team is REAL. When we visited Caz at her Waterloo premises on St John’s Road she told us; ‘We are passionate about ‘proper’ cake. Good food is good for the soul and a well-deserved treat (not a chemical cake from the supermarket) is a beautiful thing!’

As well as real, proper cake, Caz has also developed a range of innovative treats, her HappyHealthyYum range; ‘These are gluten free, dairy free, vegan, refined sugar free treats that are designed to fill you up and satisfy you with slow releasing energy and are chock full of superfood, vitamins and minerals.’ – So, it seems that you can have your cake and eat it too with Caz!

The journey to Caz’s Kitchen has been a long one though, and we were delighted to sit down with the woman herself; Caroline Hill, and get the full story!

Before Caz started her business, she graduated with a degree in Food Science & Nutrition and began to work in the field of Product Development, working on new products for most of the major retailers starting with a job in Safeways and then moving on to developing chilled desserts for Marks & Spencer.

‘I was the person that worked with a chef on a kitchen recipe then project managed that recipe to become mass producible. I would work alongside buyers, a production team and technical and engineering departments to taste recipes in a test kitchen and then the pilot plant before they went into full production.’

Caz says that when she first started this job there was a massive buzz when she would see her products on the supermarket shelves at the end of an exhausting project. But, things began to change. Caz began working for a smaller company and found that the job became less about researching the marketplace adequately and all the other details and processes that make up developing a proper product, it became more about the bottom line.

‘When I started my career in Product Development I was developing 10 products over the space of a 6-month critical path. By the end I was juggling 200 products with a 3-week turnaround from concept to launch. And the products that were being launched were rubbish.’

Caz is a pro-independent, massive foodie who is down to earth, friendly, unpretentious, caring and ethical, so it might not come as much of a surprise that she decided at this point, a future of developing products from big brand supermarkets wasn’t for her!

This was over 10 years ago, next Caz decided she would try and set up her own business, a coffee shop and deli and she got in touch with The Women’s Organisation, back when were known as Train 2000, and we helped Caz with a business plan. Now she is back in the fold of The Women’s Organisation again, working closely with Senior Business Adviser; Claire Pedersen on our growth programme; New Markets 2.

But, rewind to 10 years ago when Caz began working on her own business plan; ‘A deli and coffee shop in my local community. It would be ethical, it would be cosy, it would support other local businesses and it would be healthy and wholesome.’

Caz negotiated on numerous premises for this business, after a few years and a series of knockbacks she started to feel that maybe it just wasn’t to be; ‘I was starting to run out of steam on hunting for the right place, it was all consuming; planning and hunting and failing to be successful in bidding for properties for one reason or another. So I just put it out of my mind for a while.’

During these years Caz worked for numerous start-up foodie businesses in Liverpool and small businesses that were looking to develop; ‘I was working on and off for various SME’s in all aspects of their business, office, front of house and cheffing. I was enjoying assisting other people with their start-ups and offering help and advice in the areas that I have good knowledge of from my years in the food industry. As well as this I was also gaining more relevant experience within the independent sector.’

Caz now sees this as invaluable as it formed the perfect building block on which to base her own business. ‘I actually started baking from home alongside my day job as a bit of a favour to a friend. I never at that point thought it would become a full-time thing! But actually, it suited me as I’m generally less of a cheffy chef and more of a control freak with my cooking, a tip of the hat to how I was trained working for the supermarkets, always working to very strict specifications and recipes.

‘Baking was something that combined my love of food but also my nature of precision and accuracy. Baking is a science and I have a Food Science degree! It was then that the thought of baking as a way to earn a crust was born.’

As word spread about Caz’s cakes and the contracts increased, she took the plunge and after 3 years of baking from home moved to the premises on St Johns Road in Waterloo. The name ‘Caz’s Kitchen’ was derived from the fact that it did start in her own kitchen!

Caz then got back in touch with The Women’s Organisation and began to work with Claire on our growth programme; New Markets 2. Claire said; ‘When I met Caz her business was doing really well, but she was still running as a sole trader. She needed to professionalise her systems and image and bring it all band up to date with where she is currently with her business. She also wanted to grow and expand the wholesale side of her business. We developed a strategy for growth starting with updating and formalising some current systems, looking a timeline for a rebrand and a new website to be built.’

And Caz has been receiving some fantastic feedback from her customers; ‘We have been blown away with the encouragement and support. Honestly, I am humbled by the positivity surrounding the shop, it means everything to us.’ Because for Caz, it’s not about the hard sell and she says; ‘Our marketing strategy has been more of a whisper than a shout.’ But it’s one that worked, she has a fiercely loyal customer base and is passionate about providing the best for her customers, with their happiness being her priority rather than profit or growth.

Caz adds; ‘What’s unique about my business is that it is genuine. I haven’t created a business idea to generate money or jump on a bandwagon. It’s something that has come as a natural progression from my previous work. It’s just like everything has come together as a happy coincidence, at the right time for me personally and the right time for my community. I do truly believe that the reason I have such a lovely bunch of supportive customers is because they see the authenticity in me and the shop.’

‘I’m extremely conscious of providing more than just cake. I want all our customers to feel well looked after, welcomed and appreciated. I want to add to my local community and for customers to feel they are very much a part of my business, to put smiles on their lovely faces.’

And what is Caz’s key to success? What would her advice be for other business women? ‘If, at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. I pushed so hard to get my first business off the ground and everyone who knows me knows the trials and tribulations I went through trying to set up that business.’

‘In the end I did launch one! Granted it wasn’t the one I was expecting, but in hindsight it was the perfect one for me, combining lots of aspects of my previous work, experience, education and hobbies. I’ve had my allotment for 15 years and never expected to use it as part of my business. It’s also really satisfying to use my nutrition degree and product development experience to create the healthy eating cakes.’

So, what is next for Caz and her kitchen? Caz told us that she would like to just continue along the road that she is already one, and it’s a successful road! ‘I want to carry on doing the best I can for my customers, my staff and my community and continue to support other local businesses and charities. Every day is a school day and I’m learning all the time about how to run a better business.;

So, if you would like to visit Caz and try some of her cakes, and believe us, they are INCREDIBLE, you can find all of Caz’s details over on her website and by following the links below. And if you’ve been inspired by Caz’s story and would like to find out how we can help you start or grow your business, get in touch with us! Email us on hello@thewo.org.uk or ring us on 0151 706 8111

More information about the growth programme; New Markets 2 can be found here