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Cooking Up Business Success

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Before the likes of The Great British Bake Off got under the skin of the nation, baking was already an important part of my life.

Like many people, I have fond memories of a childhood spent in the kitchen with my parents cooking up a host of different treats. For me, though, it always went much deeper than that.

Cooking played an important role in teaching me to be self-sufficient, encouraging me to try new things and challenge myself creatively. I would always find the hardest recipes to attempt - desperate to test myself no matter how ambitious the task seemed.

Inevitably there were disasters as well as successes, but the fear of making mistakes never put me off trying something different. Any kitchen catastrophe spurred me on to make sure I continued to develop new skills, and what my friends learnt in the mud and rain of the sports fields, I taught myself in the kitchen.

Despite this obvious affinity with cooking, it wasn't until later in life that I started to earn a living from doing what I love.

It's fair to say I had next to no idea what to do with myself when I left school in 2008. After deciding that university wasn't the right path for me - maybe that was a mistake, but I don't think I'd be where I am today had I half-heartedly pursued a degree. Either way, I found myself in the middle of the worst economic crisis in living memory unsure what to do next.

I fell into a job working in a toy shop that ended very quickly, but stayed in retail after finding work at a tool shop. For a while life was great. I made some good friends and felt I was learning about the industry, but after just 18 months I was out of work - forced out by a recession that hit the high street hard.

Deciding to do something different, I took a chance and invested a significant amount of my redundancy package trading on the foreign exchange markets - something I would later regret.

Having lost the majority of my redundancy money, I found myself in a precarious position. It was a huge blow to my confidence and brought on panic attacks that left me feeling as though my world was crashing down around me. Everything I'd worked for had vanished at the click of a button.

It wasn't until after I had regained my confidence that I remembered my love of baking and was inspired to set up my own baking business. As is so often the case, it was a chance encounter that helped make this a reality.

Earlier this year I found myself on the School for Startups website, where I heard about the start-up funding they are helping the government deliver. Founded by former Dragons' Den investor Doug Richard, School for Startups provides young people with the training and coaching they need to turn a great idea into a great business.

After completing my business plan and the due diligence processes, I was given approval for a £9,900 loan to help me get started. Oliver's Kitchen was born and with it my life had changed in an instant.

Today, we make a range of cakes, desserts and puddings, with our specialities including our famous bakewell tarts and sticky toffee puddings. I'm already supplying a range of restaurants and pubs, and have developed something of a following at local farmers markets and food festivals - something that has helped business blossom.

My family have been very supportive, with my Dad passing down a few of his recipes that I enjoyed when I was a child. It gives me great pleasure to see a mixture of his and my very own recipes being enjoyed by everyone who buys my cakes, desserts and puddings.

It's been a rocky road to get to where I am today, but it's been worth all the sleepless nights and stress. Having a business that has been born out of a love and passion for baking is something that I am extremely proud of.

As a start-up we're going to face challenges in the years to come, and I know the toughest days are ahead of us, but I'm determined not to let things get in my way of making Oliver's Kitchen a success. I can't wait to see where we are this time next year - bring it on.