How I started my own baking business

Janice Parrott runs baking business A Little Piece of Devon from her home in Portsmouth.

Janice - A Little Piece of Devon

In 2012, my husband and I moved to Plymouth, Devon, where my husband was stationed in the Navy.

I found myself in Devon without a job or family and only one friend. I decided I needed to keep busy as my husband was soon to be drafted away for five months, leaving me alone in Devon.

Discovering baking

I searched for jobs and applied for a few without any luck. I then found a job at a newly opened café called Valley View Café in Loddiswell as a kitchen assistant, with no previous professional kitchen experience but a love for cooking and baking.

At the café, I started with the basics, learning all types of pastries and cakes and then quickly progressing to be the official baker. I was making all the pastries, pies, sausage rolls and quiches for the onsite deli and butchers.

Some of Janice’s sausage rolls

I was in heaven and very pleased with myself. My baked goods were getting
sold to the public in an actual shop!

I couldn’t believe my luck. I had landed myself my dream job and had also made the most amazing friends and learnt the most invaluable baking skills that would stay with me for life.

Leaving my dream job

Fast forward three years and one baby boy later and it was time to move back to Portsmouth.

Leaving such close friends and my dream job hit me hard and I was torn, I was back with my beautiful family and close Portsmouth friends BUT I didn’t have a job and I felt as though I had almost left my heart in Devon.

I started looking for jobs and I worked at a couple of places as a cook but neither really panned out well. I was also baking my pastries for friends and family on the side for free.

We were then expecting our second baby boy and I found out the job I was currently employed in was ending. I felt I couldn’t apply for another job when already pregnant. I was at a loss.

Beginnings of a baking business

One night, pregnant and fed up, I thought, sod this, I’m going to do something I really love and make a business out of baking. I sketched a load of ideas and came up with the business name, A Little Piece of Devon.

A Little Piece of Devon jam

The name came to me for two reasons. Reason one, I wanted to bring the people of Portsmouth A Little Piece of Devon. And reason two because A Little Piece of Devon (and the people who showed me such love and friendship) will always be in my heart.

Thank God for clever friends

The next day I woke up thinking that it was all one step too far. I have never done anything like this before and cannot even comprehend how to start a business, let alone how to go about all the legal requirements. I gave up at the first hurdle and put my crazy idea to bed.

I went dancing later that week and whilst tapping and talking to my clever friend Sally I found out that she was starting up her own business in graphic design. I explained my own crazy idea and Sally said why not follow my dreams? And in fact she herself would love to make my business logo to get me started and to add to her expanding portfolio.

Janice with her hero Mary Berry

This was the start of A Little Piece of Devon.

Setting up the business

With good wishes from my Devon employers and a confirmation I would be able to use my learnt skills for my new business, I now needed to get the legal side sorted.

Read more: How my food intolerances led me to start a business

I had been Facebook stalking and watching from afar an old friend of mine opening an amazing vegan baking business in Cornwall. I thought I would inbox her and ask how the heck do you even go about opening a baking business. Natasha replied and helped me with what I needed to do. This information was invaluable, and I was so appreciative.

Lastly, my friend who is an amazing chef helped me with the written and practical side of good kitchen practice and fast forward to an environmental health inspection and a five-star rating I was good to go.

Sky’s the limit

I now do lots of fayres and markets in and around Hampshire and my jams and chutneys (that I have self-taught) have even sold in an actual shop. I have lots of orders on, especially with my new ‘Bake of the Week’ and even dabble in the odd celebration cake for friends and families.

A celebration cake

I continue to learn new skills and am always pushing myself forward.

I am planning to expand the business next year when child number two starts nursery and to be honest, the sky’s the limit for me and my business. With all the support of other clever businesswomen I have the pleasure of knowing, my wonderful husband who supports me daily and my friends and family around me, who knows where my little baking business will end up?

My advice for budding bakers

If you love food and would like to work in the food industry, then I would advise studying at a catering college to learn the basics and build up from there.

But, if this is not possible then even getting a part-time job as a kitchen assistant or front of house at a restaurant or hotel would give you such invaluable work experience. I would also advise to keep baking and cooking and pushing yourself. Practice makes perfect.

Janice with Bake Off winner Nadiya

There are also so many short courses available to learn different skills and make friends who are in the same industry. I have found this helpful as everyone is always willing to push you in the right direction.

Lastly, always follow your dreams and never let anyone or anything get in your way.
Best of luck and go for it.

To find out more about A Little Piece of Devon visit its Facebook page.

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