Baking her own way to success

Lois Macdonald
Lois Macdonald
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Lois Macdonald always knew that she would own her own cake making business and she was right. Catherine Scott reports

Like most little girls, Lois Macdonald loved baking with her mum and gran. But unlike most other little girls, Lois knew that one day she would have her own cake making business.

And this ambitious Yorkshire lass was right.

Her Miss Friday brand has been open just over six months and yet it has already started to bring the 28-year-old accolades, including The Yorkshire Post/Deliciouslyorkshire Taste Awards Best Bakery product for her Peanut Brittle Brownie.

“It was amazing to receive the award, especially as I am on my own and I was up against some really big names,” says Lois, who lives in Beverley.

Her dream of running her own business started to see fruition less than a year ago when she managed to convince her dad to allow her to convert the garage of his Wistow home into a bakery.

“He said ‘no’ at first but I worked on him and now eventually he gave in. It meant a lot of trips to the tip as we had loads of old stuff stored in the garage. We then set about converting the garage in to a bakery,” says Lois.

As well as selling her amazing brownies at farm shops, delis and markets, Lois came up with the novel idea of a pop-up dessert bar.

“I wanted to do something different,” she explains. “I love food, particularly indulgent, naughty food which I think should look like you want to dive into it. I think people are sick of mass-produced desserts and cakes at weddings, christenings and other events and so I came up with the idea of the pop-up dessert and I already have a number of weddings booked in for next year.”

Lois got the baking bug from her mum and gran but she says it wasn’t until she was studying food technology at Selby High School that she really knew that she wanted to make food, particularly baking, her career.

“I wasn’t exactly naughty at school, but I was a bit of a chatterbox. But when it came to food tech I really really concentrated I just loved it. We had a great teacher, Miss Bentley, and I got an ‘A’, it was all I wanted. I am a bit of a black sheep in our family. My parents are both teachers and my sister lectures at Askham Bryan College, but I wanted to go off and do my own thing,” she says.

“I’ve always been creative.”

She may be creative but she is also a savvy businesswoman. She realised that she needed a solid base on which to build her business.

After studying hospitality and catering at York College she want to Harper Adams Agricultural College in Shropshire where she learnt more about the food business.

It was while she was at university that she started baking brownies and selling them at local markets.

“I would bake all day Friday ready for market on Saturday. My friends called me Miss Friday, which is where the name for my business comes from.”

Even though her brownies sold well, Lois still felt she needed more business knowledge before going it alone.

She went to work for Hull-based company Cranswick, working her way up to New Product Development Manager, developing premium products for the likes of Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer.

“It was fantastic experience and it also meant that I was saving money to plough into my business,” she says. “I learnt so much but I couldn’t wait to get out there and start up on my own.” She managed to stay four years building up her experience while fulfilling her need to bake at weekends. “I would bake and then post pictures of what I’d make on Instagram just to keep the Miss Friday name out there.”

By Christmas last year she decided it was time to hand in her notice and pursue her dream.

“I had managed to save £10,000 which was enough to convert the garage once I had convinced Dad to let me use it,” says Lois.

“To buy a unit would have cost £100,000 not £10,000 and rent is just a waste of money. Being able to convert the garage at home gave me security as I am on my own and Mum and Dad have been a great help, especially since they have retired.”

In May the transformation of the garage was complete and Lois launched herself into her long awaited cake baking business.

“I am passionate about using good quality ingredients and where possible I make my own such at the peanut butter for the peanut brittle brownies. That way I definitely know what is going into them.”

Family, friends and her rugby coach boyfriend and his team act as tasting panel and give their feedback.

As well as brownies, Lois makes indulgent meringues which she not only sells at farmers’ markets but at suppliers including Drewtons, Bert’s Barrow and the Jug and Bottle at Budworth.

“I live in Beverley at the moment so it takes me about 50 minutes to get to the bakery and so I decided to take samples to the farm shops and delis on my route. I couldn’t believe it when the following week they all placed orders,” says Lois, who currently has five different types of brownie and two types of meringue and pavlova. I try to put aside one day a week for product development,” she says. “I did think about trying to do a more healthy snack, but at the end of the day they are an indulgent treat and should look like it.”

Lois is ambitious and hopes to take on a member of staff to help her with demand. But she is determined whatever happens that she will not lose touch with the artisan nature of her business. “I have to keep reminding myself that this is my career as I just love it so much.”

Lois Macdonald, aka Miss Friday, makes 15 trays of brownies a day and there are 24 brownies on each tray.

In addition she makes 15kgs of peanut butter as well as batches of pavlova.

She also has to make desserts for her pop-up dessert bar which can be booked for events such as weddings, Christenings and other celebtrations.

“Everything about the dessert bar is indulgent,” says Lois. “The brownies and desserts will come with extra cream, sauces, toppings – just about everything you can think of.”

If you want some of Miss Friday’s treats on a smaller scale then products are currently supplied in farm shops and delis in Yorkshire including Drewtons, South Cave, Bert’s Barrow at Hillam and the Jug and Bottle at Bubwith.

“Every Wednesday I deliver a different selection of freshly baked cakes and treats,” says Lois. “ I am so lucky to work with such amazing retailers.”