Budding young local bakers turn passion into businesses in lockdown

Local students praise SERC for helping them to acquire the skills needed for opening their own business

Keely Sherry - So Bake
Keely Sherry - So Bake

Students on South Eastern Regional College’s (SERC) catering and hospitality courses have been flexing not only their excellent baking and patisserie skills but also their entrepreneurial prowess by creating their own businesses.

The college, which actively encourages students to develop entrepreneurial skills through a programme of project-based learning, has supported the development of over 55 enterprises including speciality bakes, patisserie and confectionery.

One budding business in the process of being set up is ‘Katie’s Baked Delights.’ Katie, from Dromore, is a former student of SERC who successfully completed the Level 2 Diploma in Professional Bakery before progressing to the Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Professional Cookery Patisserie and Confectionery. Whilst at SERC, Katie won Bronze at the UK WorldSkills, beating off competition from across the UK, with her confectionery knowledge and skills.

Keely Sherry - So Bake

Katie, whose business will specialise in buttercream celebration cakes and cupcakes, said: ‘‘I was inspired from a very young age to bake from both my nannies.

‘‘At weekends I would have been in the kitchen learning how to bake chocolate cakes, apple tarts and cupcakes. If I was ever baking on my own and anything went wrong my nanny Eileen was always there to save the day!’’

Meanwhile, Paula from Lisburn, has studied a range of courses at SERC including NVQ Level 3 in Confectionery and Patisserie. Paula’s business specialises in artisan food, desserts, cakes, snacks and treat boxes in the Lisburn area.

Paula says: ‘‘I wanted to start my business because I love baking and take great pride in the work that I produce. I recently created a chocolate showpiece for a client and I’m very proud of the final results – I get tremendous satisfaction from my work and when my customers are happy, I’m happy. I think the best part of it all is working for myself, making the decisions and planning my work.

Katie Graham’’s cake from Katie’s Baked Delights

‘‘Right now there are a lot of competitors in the market, but I think SERC has equipped me with the relevant, skills, experience and qualification to give me the edge over those competitors.’’

Keely, from Lisburn, is currently following the Foundation Degree in Hospitality Management at the College, progressing on from the Level 2 and 3 Patisserie and Confectionery and the Level 3 Hospitality and Catering. Her business specialises in occasion cakes for weddings, birthdays and baby showers.

Keely’s business was just getting off the ground shortly before Covid-19 restrictions hit. Keely said: ‘‘Covid was a challenge, it impacted sales and led to cancelations of orders, although I stayed positive that things would improve, and people would continue to order.

‘‘Eventually, to my relief, I found that the situation created a shift. People, who might not have ordered previously, wanted to make an extra effort with their occasion cakes and cupcakes. Because they couldn’t celebrate with a meal or a party, they wanted to make the occasion as special as they could, creating memories and going all out in other ways and that included a really special cake.

Paula Kirby of Paula’s Treats, Lisburn

‘‘For me the best part of running the business is being able to play a part and have a positive impact on someone’s big day.’’