Mum Polly Pomfrey, 29, didn’t let being made redundant in 2010 get her down. Instead, she started her own whoopie pie business, running Polly’s Patisserie from the East Sussex flat she shares with her husband and 5-year-old son. Big orders, press coverage and a cookbook later, Polly explains why she still loves every second of her new career…
‘I worked for the same management training company for about 9 years before I was made redundant in February 2010 without notice. I’ve never been one to sit around, so while I applied for jobs I started my own cake making business, initially focusing on celebration cakes, to keep the money coming in. Within a couple of weeks, I spotted an article about whoopie pies being the ‘new cupcake’ and decided to focus my efforts on these interesting little strangers. I found their origins fascinating and taste fantastic.
‘Back then there wasn’t a huge amount of recipes around on the Internet for whoopies, so I began making my own, creating new and interesting flavours like honey and lavender – my husband Matt’s favourite – and posting the recipes and pictures on my website. My first official online order was for a box of 6 whoopie pies. I felt ecstatic! Someone ‘real’ actually wanted to pay me to bake for them! It was a wonderful feeling and even though I’ve had larger orders since, I’ll never forget that first one.
‘With the orders coming in, the next step was marketing the business. I got myself a stall at a local food market along with a good friend who creates cupcakes and we also started appearing at events around Sussex. I also got in touch with my local paper to tell them about my story and they featured me with my whoopies. From there it was picked up by another paper and I was asked to talk at Sussex University about turning your passion into a business. Quite a busy first couple of months!
‘My grandmother is an author and she kept suggesting I should put my many recipes together and write a book. I approached a local publishing company with my idea for a whoopie pie recipe book that included savoury as well as sweet flavours and followed the seasons. Whoopies were a trend and if I was going to publish a recipe book about them I needed to get on board fast. Thankfully they thought it was fantastic and they signed a contract immediately. The result, Baking Whoopies, was published in November 2010 – barely 9 months after I had begun my cake-making business.
‘As the business gets bigger I still work from my home kitchen. It can get interesting at times – breaking off a baking marathon to cook dinner for my husband and 5-year-old son Ben. And it gets very crowded in our small 2-bed flat, but I love it. Having people pay me to something I love is the best thing about my job, it makes all the late nights worth it.
‘To anyone thinking of starting their own cake business I would say: stay positive! It is easy to start a cake business but not easy to make money from it, so you have to work hard and be determined. Once you’re up and running, marketing is one of the most important things to just keep plugging away at. Always have business cards and flyers to hand, and give them out all over the place.’
Where to next?