Eighteen months ago, mum of 2 Amanda Armstrong baked lots of cakes and took them out on the road to see if she could drum up business for herself. She managed to get customers from this madcap marketing idea, formed hill Cottage Bakery and has been baking beautiful, tasty cakes for clients in and around Bristol ever since.
At the beginning of the year she started an online delivery service, inspired by it being the Girl Guide Association’s Centenary Year this year and the idea of ‘brownies’ by post! She has been gained FoodLoversBritain.com approval and has just supplied a large order of chocolate fudge brownies for the BBC crew that were going to Glastonbury (and apparently they gained better reviews than the Gorillaz from some members of the BBC)!
At our last Bedford Mum’s The Boss networking meeting, we carried out a very scientific taste testing of Amanda’s delicious brownies. She sent us a box of each flavour – Original Chocolate, Chocolate with White Choc Chunks, Walnut, Ginger and Berry – which we set up on a tasting table along with a feedback form. However what we really needed was a video camera to capture the closed eyed, rapturous look on people’s faces as they tried the brownies, and record the ‘mmmmmmms’ that were emanating from that corner of the room! The brownies were lovely and light, and just melted in the mouth and the firm favourite seemed to be the White Choc Chunk box which was emptied first!
So, what inspired you to start your own business?
I have always wanted to work for myself but like most people I left school and got a job and before I knew it many, many years had passed and I was still working for other people. It’s very hard to give up a salary even if you know you’ll be so much happier being your own boss. But when I was seven months pregnant with my son I finally stopped working. My husband and I relocated from London to Bristol and we now have two wonderful children. As we had relocated I wasn’t able to simply go back to my old job and this gave me a chance to rethink about being self-employed. I had become aware of the cafe culture during my pregnancies and cupcakes were just becoming popular. The thought of baking for a living was too tempting. I could be creative, work for myself, make something wonderful and tasty that people love to buy and I would still be available for my family when they needed me. Baking is something I enjoy and I can bake before the children get up, during their school day and later, after they are in bed I can carry on again. It just sounded perfect, hard work but perfect.
What have you learnt about yourself since you became self-employed?
I’ve learnt that I should have done this 25 years ago. I love it. I love what I do, I love being busy, I love working hard and I love the feeling of being in charge of my destiny. I love learning about aspects of business that, when you work for someone else, you never experience. I am learning all of the time and loving every single minute of it.
What has been your biggest challenge?
There are many challenges to running a business but running a business with two small children is so much harder. The time I have available to work is very limited during the day and I end up working late into the night instead. Simply juggling so many work commitments with the needs of small children is very hard. I don’t live anywhere near my family so I have to be super organised to ensure that my children don’t ever feel in second place to the needs of my business. It is vital that orders are delivered but it is equally important that I make it to an important assembly or sports day.
What has been the best thing about being your own boss?
The best thing about being my own boss is, funnily enough, the same as my biggest challenge – juggling. Working for myself in the way I do means that I am able to have the satisfaction of creating a successful business but at the same time I am able to take my children to school and I’m there at the end of the day. I do work hard and very long hours but this enables me to be around for two small children who need me.
Who has given you the support to succeed?
My biggest support – my husband, my husband, my husband. It would have been possible to get to where I am without him but it would have been 100 times harder. He believes in me and does so much to support and encourage me. I don’t thank him enough. My children are very proud of their mum too as I keep hearing from their teachers at school!
If you could give one piece of advice to someone with a ‘dream’ an aspiring ‘mumpreneur’ what would it be?
My one piece of advice would be a cliche I’m afraid but, just do it! If you want to do something don’t hang around. I waited and waited and then one day I took out a tray of freshly baked cakes, put a smile on my face and promoted myself and now I have a small bakery that has just supplied the BBC with lots of lovely brownies for this year’s Glastonbury Festival. If you have an idea just go for it. It’s a cliche but it’s true. Just try it and see.
For more details about Amanda’s business please visit www.hillcottagebakery.co.uk