Henrietta Inman’s refined-sugar-free clean cakes are divine – we know from experience (!!) – and along with her pâtisserie, her debut book has launched this spring. She talks us through launching her exciting business, writing a book, and the hurdles along the way.
Can you introduce us to Hen’s Clean Cakes – who are you, what do you do, where are you located, and what makes your business special?
Hello! I’m Henrietta of Hen’s Clean Cakes. I’m a professionally trained pastry chef specialising in delicious pâtisserie made with whole, natural and nourishing ingredients and that are free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar. I am located in rural Suffolk but I hope to move my business to London this year.
I feel that my business is special because of my training; I know the importance of taste, texture and beauty when it comes to food. For so long, people have thought of healthy food as bland, boring, brown and flavourless but with my experience in professional kitchens and my skills as a pastry chef, I want to banish once and for all the misconception that healthy food is tasteless or uninspiring. On the contrary, it can be exciting, vibrant, and beautiful to look at and it can taste wonderful too, just as my Clean Cakes demonstrate.
I feel that my business is unique as no other ‘good-for-you’ pâtisserie businesses have a ‘professional’ at the helm and I have a very personal style, inspired greatly by the Suffolk countryside and all the wonderful produce we have.
What was your motivation for launching your company and how did you go about establishing your business? Did you get support/advice from any organisations or people along the way that really made a difference?
After five years in London, I wanted to move back to the countryside. I needed fresh air, calmness and to collect my thoughts in preparation for starting my own business. To be my own boss and create my own food is something I have always wanted to do and I knew it was the right time.
Clean Cakes was born from boredom! I was bored of the same old ingredients that we associate with baking, namely plain white refined wheat flour and caster sugar. I had been using these ingredients for years in my career as a pastry chef but also at home in day-to-day baking and I didn’t want to be restricted by them anymore. There are so many varied, versatile and exciting ingredients available today and I asked myself, ‘why do we limit ourselves to baking with the obvious staple ingredients?’
Clean Cakes was born from boredom! I was bored of the same old ingredients that we associate with baking, namely plain white refined wheat flour and caster sugar. I had been using these ingredients for years… and I didn’t want to be restricted by them anymore.
Today, more than ever before, we are aware of the importance of eating well; indeed, I think most of us could cook up a pretty healthy and well-balanced meal quite easily. However, when it comes to a healthier alternative for the pudding, it’s often hard to find a sweet and healthy treat that delivers on flavour, texture and looks great too. As I love delicious, whole, unprocessed and real food, I decided to spread my love for healthy wholefood eating to the sweeter things in life: to pudding, to tea time, and to the cake!
I moved back home to the house I grew up in in Suffolk. My parents were a huge support and lent me the money to pay for all the equipment I needed to set up my own small professional kitchen in their house. I then started to sell at local farmers’ markets and take private orders from one apple and almond tart to dessert for a wedding for 200, and things really took off! Thanks to the thriving food business in Suffolk, once I had made a name for myself in the local area, word started to spread and things went from there. Then I began to experiment with my new pâtisserie, my Clean Cakes. Now I have merged my skills as a pastry chef with my passion for healthy living, I am only positive about the future!
What have been the challenges you have had to overcome along the way?
I am a very creative person and I love being active and using my hands – that’s why I love creating delicious and beautiful cakes for my customers. I’m not at all mathematically or business-minded and I find it hard to sit at a computer for a long amount of time so I had to really force myself to apply my time to things I had never thought about before, mainly creating a product line and pricing up everything to cover my costs and make a profit. As I was living at home, it was tempting to be relaxed about this but I had to be realistic. A lot of what I have learnt has just been learning on the job, but I am so grateful for my time at home, away from the busy and hectic city life, as it’s really set me up for the next stage of my business and moving it to London.
I had to really force myself to apply my time to things I had never thought about before, mainly creating a product line and pricing up everything to cover my costs and make a profit.
Being self-employed is also quite isolating, even more so if you’re cut off in a country village! Sometimes I have been quite down and lonely because the amount I have had to do has meant that doing much else has been quite hard most of the time! But I just remind myself of how lucky I am and that this is just the beginning. Stages like this, starting slowly and small and dedicating everything you have, are necessary at the beginning and for creating GREAT THINGS in the future! I do try to give myself days off though now and again, though find it hard when my bed, office and kitchen are all in the same house!
Your debut book has launched this February. Can you talk us through how this came about, the experience of producing it and how you plan on building on this in coming months?
When I decided to specialise in my Clean Cakes, I knew I was onto something. I was so passionate about the whole idea so I approached the publisher Jacqui Small. As soon as I said the words, Clean Cakes, she was interested! I went to talk to her team and they told me to come back with a layout of the book including the introduction and what it would include, chapters and what they would include… and, after a good few months of going back and forth on ideas, I got the gig in November 2013. Then we had quite a tight schedule – I had to create about 80 recipes and have them all tested and with the editor in three chunks, due the following January, February and March 2014.
In May and July we did the shoots, which took eight days in total and happened at my family home where my kitchen is. I did all the cooking and styling, so there was a lot of work and preparation as we did two three-day blocks of shooting and one two-day block. The photographer, Lisa Linder, and her assistant, were both great and really supportive. They also helped with the food styling, as did my mother, who is a rock and was there on all the shoot days, supporting us and feeding us! After shooting, all the right photos were chosen by the author (me!) and the publisher. Finally, I did all the last bits of the editing of the text with the editor before everything went to the proof reader and then off to the printers.
Over the coming months, there will be a big publicity plan with the PR and marketing section of the publishing company, so I am really busy with this campaign. There will be competitions to win signed copies of the book along with some of the ingredients used in the recipes; I’ll be in magazines and on the radio and I’ll be doing events to promote my book, vine videos for sneak peaks inside to give you tasters, plus peaks of pages on my social media accounts and a one-off recipe blog post featuring a recipe from my book – plus more, but I need to keep some things as a surprise! It’s all really exciting though and I just can’t wait for everyone to start cooking from it.
What golden advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs and young businesses?
Just keep on going and don’t lose sight of your dreams. Write a business plan and don’t get too preoccupied or worried about making a profit at the beginning. That’s the time when you really need to invest in your business so that it can grow; for example, investing in a good website, the right space to work in, and all the other initial costs. For me, it was heavy equipment like an oven and induction hob, then my branding and logo, followed by business cards, packaging and developing my Clean Cakes blog with a local company.
Don’t get too preoccupied or worried about making a profit at the beginning. That’s the time when you really need to invest in your business so that it can grow.
When you’ve really sussed out your brand and created a product that you completely believe in, that’s when the foundations are set and ready to be built on to create your amazing business. Reading is also really helpful. I’m working my way through books like The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, Entrepreneur Revolution by Daniel Priestly and From Vision to Exit by Guy Rugby. It’s so useful to hear how other entrepreneurs have made it and about the ups and downs of their experiences. Also, don’t underestimate the power of social media! GOOD LUCK!