Robin Campbell was shocked when the Icelandic bank she worked for went bust almost overnight.

Suddenly she was unemployed but with six months’ salary in her pocket she saw it as the chance to pursue her dream of running her own business.

“Initially I was nervous but then I realised that a massive decision to leave the world of banking, where I’d worked since university, had been made for me,” says Robin, 28.

“I’d always vaguely imagined I’d end up doing something involving food, possibly running a delicatessen.”

The year she lost her job was full of friends getting married.

“When I realised a friend had paid £1,500 for a wedding cake it dawned on me that this was a very good business to get into.”

Within days of getting her redundancy package, Robin enrolled on a course to learn how to ice and decorate cakes.

“I also started some intense market research, which involved me pretending to be a bride and approaching other cake companies. I took a lot of time to gauge what the current trends were.”

Robin’s first cake was for a friend. “I was so nervous. I didn’t want to let her down.”

She needn’t have worried. The iced extravaganza she created in the kitchen of her one-bed flat in South-West London went down a storm.

“I knew I needed to get word out there so I set up a website,www.cakesbyrobin.co.uk in January 2009. I was so careful with money I paid for the site development in cake!”

Robin knew she would have to invest in professional photos of her cakes.

“I spent a lot of money on getting them beautifully photographed. I sent photos to the bridal magazines and couldn’t believe it when they actually featured me. I was off!” Robin forged links with florists, caterers and wedding photographers. “Facebook helped get the word out, too.”

She also went to Enterprise UK (www.enterpriseuk.org), which helped her find courses and networking opportunities. “They were invaluable to me and now I act as an ambassador for them, hoping to inspire others.”

Robin was soon rushed off her feet. “My boyfriend Andy would come home from work asking where he could stand. I had cakes scattered everywhere in the flat.

By the end of last year Robin was feeling cramped.

“I thought about renting an industrial unit but then I heard about an established patisserie and cafe only yards up the road that was on the market.”

Robin called the seller – a 75-year-old lady who was retiring. “I borrowed money from everyone I know and, £20,000 later, I’d bought the business and a lease on the shop – Suzelle Cakes (www.suzellecakes.com). In January, I opened the patisserie.”

Robin admits she hadn’t a clue what she’d let herself in for.

“I didn’t even know how a till worked. Thankfully I have a trusted accountant who helps keep me on top of everything.”

The shop has allowed her to showcase her wedding cakes.

“The shop already had an established business with occasion and novelty cakes, which I’ve continued and it seems to be going well despite the recession. People might not go out for dinner but they’ll still pop in for a cup of tea and a cup cake.”

ROBIN’S TIPS

● Be prepared to be broke – I didn’t pay myself for the first year. I might be able to pay myself a bit this year.

● Try to have some savings behind you.

● Be ready to work round the clock.

● Have faith in your idea.

Setting up shop

Whether you’re gifted at making cakes like Robin, clothes or arts and crafts, you can make products from the cheap safety of your own home. Finding customers is the hard part. Consider online selling, local street markets, shops, and word of mouth.

By Laurette Ziemer, Mirrorworks@mirror.co.uk

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