Heavenly ambition

25 January, 2008
Following frustration at not being able to source what he wanted as a caterer, Nigel Green set up Heavenly Cakes. And he has high hopes for the firm, reports Andrew Williams
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"If we had to put one cake forward to the devil, I think the brownies would save our lives," says Nigel Green, co-owner of the ironically named Heavenly Cakes - presumably the world's first Satanist bakery.
Dabbling in the not-so-black arts of baking traybakes, this business grew out of a previous catering venture, which has now been wound down to focus on the cakes."The catering business was great, but we'd taken it about as far as it would go and we wanted a new challenge," he says. "It was a wage-earner rather than something that could go towards our retirement. Whereas - and I don't mind telling you this - this business could be really big for us; it could be our nest egg."Capitalising on the trend towards traditional, clean-label cakes, Heavenly Cakes makes a no-nonsense product, born of frustration from not being able to source those products as caterers. "We're not trying to satisfy a specific dietary requirement, be it gluten-free or vegetarian or organic."It's all about the flavour," says Green. "We decided to make them ourselves, because we didn't like the quality of the products we could buy in, and that's really how Heavenly Cakes was born."The firm now supplies signature cakes, such as a meringue traybake with chocolate and almonds, a rocky road traybake, and a brownie to cafés, patisseries and sandwich bars, as well as Woburn Safari Park, Whipsnade Zoo and London Zoo. "We seem to have cornered the market for animal theme parks," notes Green.The most frustrating thing has been turning down leads from as far afield as Wales and Yorkshire, while the company develops its distribution network."That's why you need a great brand," he admits. "Cold-calling on the phone, scouring the web trying to find distributors - it's hard graft trying to get your cake out there. We're a small manufacturer, selling a brand that could be sold anywhere."We'd love to sell our products nationally, but we need distribution."Going it aloneThe business: two-year-old Heavenly Cakes, Stevenage, HertsThe brief: cakes made with simple ingredients - real egg, Belgian chocolate and butter Products: 20 lines of traybakes split into three categories: shortbreads, chocolate cakes (including brownies) and flapjacksTypical retailer: "Anybody who'll have us!"Finance: "The last year's trading figures for my catering company were pants because all the money went into this"A little help from my friends: Graphic designer and web design chums created the branding, website and logo at cost[http://www.heavenlycakes.co.uk]The pros and consGreatest challenge: It's easy to set up a new business in the UK, but you have to have a really good product, an awful lot of balls and a strong backbone. From a general business perspective, if you believe in yourself - I mean utter commitment and belief - you'll make a go of it. We're fortunate that, having made these cakes for eight years before we started the business, we knew they were tried-and-tested.Biggest satisfaction: The most satisfying moment came when our biggest client and advocate - Whipsnade Zoo - said they won't use anybody else now except us. You never expect customer loyalty, but it's great to know that they believe in you.



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