In my series of interviews speaking to inspirational business women, I was delighted to talk to the founder of Pudding Fairy who provides patisserie for special events.
Describe your childhood
I grew up in a small village not far from Lyon in France, in the Beaujolais countryside. The eldest of 4 girls, I spend most of my free time horse riding for hours with my best friend, around hills and vineyards. My grand parents on my dad’s side lived in the same village and I spend a lot of time with them after school. They were both amazing: My grand mother was a great family cook and host. She had a cupboard full of “aperitif” nibbles, always ready for someone to come in spontaneously for a drink or two. My grand dad was an amazing gardener. He had a big allotment at the bottom of the village and grew enough fruits and vegetables for them, us and my cousins family who also lived nearby.
What was your first career and why did you choose it?
I didn’t! I was more of a fan of “follow life where it takes you”. Even now, although I have started planning a little since having children. I travelled to Seattle for a few months whilst at Uni, came back, then enrolled into a 1 year living and studying in Dalian, northern China. Back in France, my first job (an office admin role) didn’t work for me. So I went back to training Polo ponies in Paris for a season. From there I moved to London, first with a sales assistant job at Maison Blanc in the French area of London, then for various high end restaurants and outside catering companies. This was an exciting time. I got to organise fantastic events like a masquerade Christmas Ball at the V&A, a dinner at Saint James Palace, PR nights at the London Aquarium….Life took another turn and I found a job as a marketing assistant for a local business in West Sussex. Marketing then web experience became my life for the next 15 years …
What did you gain from your first career?
Besides the obvious marketing and web skills, I’d say 2 principles:
Listen and learn – I have learnt to listen to people I work with (and close friends, family, and my husband!) . Really take on board their feedback and ideas. I can be quite defensive (it’s my French Latin side!!) so it’s not always easy. But it’s helped me to become better at my job on many occasions and still does. I think you live and learn everyday. Sometimes the impact is immediately obvious, sometimes it resurfaces months or even years later, and you think…..oh yes, they might have been right here! Lol
Make it happen – I was very lucky to work as part of a small team for an exciting start up in my last role. We were given a lot of independence in our jobs; at the same time every dollar invested in the project counted so we were also very accountable (and being 4 or 5 in the team to start, things are very transparent). I learnt how to create a bigger impact on my goals, to make things happen. Thinking about new ideas for your business is great (I constantly have 30 tabs open in my head!); in the end to reach success you’ve got to action them. I use this discipline a lot now, even more since I am my own boss. And once a month, I look back to tick what I achieved and set up a new list of priorities to get done in the next 30 days. Oh and this works with non work stuff too, like home projects….
What made you want to change your life?
I came to a real crossroad moment in 2013:
I needed to adjust my work/family life balance. I was away a lot, and it was taking its toll at home.
I also wanted to practice what I preached more – I often tell our kids that you’ve got one life and should try to find what you really love and if you can, make it your job. It’s so much more fulfilling. I had been talking about becoming a cake maker for quite a while, and thought “you can’t just keep talking about it. Just…do it”.
I spotted a gap in the market for a new type of event patisserie
Patisserie for special events
Pudding Fairy is all about patisserie for special events. I marry delicious French inspired recipes and techniques, with creative designs inspired by the British lifestyle and the gorgeous Sussex countryside, where I live. I describe myself as a “franglaise”, French born and English “adopted”. My cakes and sweet treats are like me, franglais and a little quirky. I design bepoke cakes for weddings, celebrations and corporate events; I also run private cake decorating classes and team building events like mini Bake Off challenges, buttercream piping and glitter (a great way to relax after an intense conference for example)…share delicious happiness!
What life lessons would you like your kids to take from you?
Have a plan (a bit of a plan at least) but be prepared to be flexible with it and adapt your course. I am a great believer in saying yes to new opportunities, even if they appear a little challenging or daunting. I have actually written about this in my blog, The Patisserie Diary. (http://www.puddingfairy.com/the-patisserie-diary). Beyond that, remember to smile and have fun, and be kind. To you, to people around you. Carpe Diem! (my life motto).
Who supported you in moving forwards positively?
My family and friends are all absolutely amazing at supporting me and Pudding Fairy. The kids are incredible ambassadors, telling everyone and anyone about it. My husband is a very talented, successful and recognised sales coach expert working for himself. He’s fantastic at helping me grow the business commercially- not only helps me be a lot more efficient at selling but also launched his own business 4 years before me, so knows about the importance of measuring efforts versus returns to make it a success.
I have also been very lucky to gain great support from my previous employer when I started, as well as from the top marketing agency I worked with in London. Those guys gave me a real leg up. I hope I’ll be able to do this in turn for someone else in the future.
On a day to day basis, what can be challenging working for yourself is the lack of human interaction. I have joined a great support group run by Janet Murray from Soulful PR last year. It’s a brilliant virtual hang out place. Janet has got tons of energy and top level advice.
What advice would you give a woman who has a dream but lacks the confidence to pursue it?
Do your research – you’ve got to make sure your plan stacks up financially. Passion is brilliant but you can’t live on it alone.
Find your niche- you should be able to explain what makes you and your business unique in 30 seconds to anyone. Having a clear vision of what your business is about really helps with decision making and prioritising
Experiment and learn – I tried things like print advertising and pop up shops that didn’t work and cost me money. But I tried them, and learnt from those, to refocus and narrow down where to place my marketing efforts. Not everything will work but you’ve got to find out. Assign a small budget to new tests, and look back at the result with open eyes.
Network – Word of mouth is my best and biggest source of new business. Attend local or industry relevant events. Find forums of likeminded people (Twitter is brilliant for this). again be pragmatic and see what they bring to you versus the amount of time you spend on there. There are only so many hours in the day.
Just do it – there is rarely a perfect moment to start making your dream a reality. No one will do it for you. But as the great Mr Walt Disney once said “if you can dream it, you can do it”. Bonne chance.
I hope you enjoyed reading Laure’s inspirational story as much as I did. Now go and get your tastebuds tingling by checking out The Pudding Fairy cakes and patisserie for special events.