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Saturday, 30 August 2014

‘Cake lady‘ has recipe for success

A HUGELY successful female entrepreneur inspired businesswomen on a visit to Furness.

Helen Colley set up her catering and bakery firm fresh from leaving college almost 30 years ago. With £250 investment and based in her parents’ barn, the former Junior Cook of the Year grew the firm over the next 18 years into one of the region’s largest catering companies.

Then in 2000, Mrs Colley took the decision to begin making sticky toffee puddings – a move that would literally change her life. Over the next five years, Farmhouse Fare’s success continued to grow – producing and selling puddings to big name retailers like Asda, Tesco, Co-Op, Morrisons and Marks and Spencer.

At the annual summer lunch of Ulverston Business Alliance women’s group in June, members heard Mrs Colley’s inspiring story. Held at Chequers Hotel in Dalton, the lunch was attended by around 40 women, who couldn’t fail to be impressed.

Having launched her company with just £250 investment, Mrs Colley then described how, in 2006, she sold her beloved Farmhouse Fare to Daniel’s Chilled Foods for £10m.

“One of the questions people always ask me is ‘why did you sell it when you were doing so well?’” she said.

“I’d got to the point where I had put my family on hold... fortunately my daughter is still speaking to me! I realised that to take the business to the next level, I would need to make a lot of changes and I wasn’t ready to do that.”

Far from cashing the cheque and stepping away from the catering industry, Mrs Colley has since become involved in other pudding projects – the Half Baked Cake Company, launched the week she spoke in Dalton, offers busy mums the chance to bake “homemade” cakes by putting a ready-made cake mix straight in the oven.

“In the industry I’m known as ‘the Cake Lady’,” Mrs Colley says, smiling with pride at the name. “I’m also a consultant for Warburtons and an ambassador for Costa, developing their cake range.”

After the popular event, Mrs Colley, who lives near Clitheroe in Lancashire, said: “People describe me as a women’s ambassador but I don’t label myself as anything.

“I was delighted to be asked to speak at UBA’s event, the South Cumbria area is very similar to where I’m from and I enjoy visiting.”

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