Rachel Cheshire (her name could hardly be more apt) is busy deciding whether a Baron Bigod Brie can take the weight of a wheel of Yorkshire Blue and a Neufchatel.
She’s creating a wedding cake with a difference. The difference is it is entirely made of cheese.
It is all a far cry from Cheshire’s career prior to launching Celebration Cheeses last year.
Her background is in fashion and television and she has worked as a model and fashion show presenter. Since meeting her husband 10 years ago she has helped him with his business which includes working with music artists and DJs, mainly for the BBC and various large festivals, when they are performing in the region. They also provide private jets, helicopters and yachts worldwide often for celebrities.
So why move from celebrities to cheese? “After having my daughter, Violet, I knew I wanted to be a ‘Mumpreneur’. By the time she was three months old I was fed up of daytime TV. I needed to be back in some kind of action fairly quickly but that I could do from home.
“Although I wanted something associated with the wedding industry I couldn’t find an area that wasn’t already saturated,” explains Cheshire who lives in Monk Fryston. “Then the lightbulb moment; my sister adored the birthday cheese cake I made the year before and everyone went potty over it in the office the next day.”
She says it might sound far removed from her life prior to having a baby, but there are a lot of transferable skills and similarities.
“It was everything I was used to. Designing and building, coordinating product photoshoots, taking briefs from clients and attending events but instead of fashion and TV I am now dealing with cheese. Most of it I can do from home with my baby, it’s perfect.”
But she ended up launching her business sooner than expected.
“We were on holiday in Dubai and I saw something on Facebook about a wedding fair that’d had one of their wedding cake suppliers cancel and they needed someone to fill their slot.”
Cheshire messaged the organisers and they replied saying they would love to have her. “The only problem was the wedding fair was in ten days time and we were in Dubai. My business was little more than a concept and a head full of ideas. I had 10 days to basically set up a business, and I was on the wrong side of the world.
“My husband said ‘You’ll never do it in time.’ I just saw that as a challenge. Who says you can’t design and order an event set from under a parasol whilst drinking a virgin Cosmopolitan and juggling a three-month-old?”
On returning to the UK she had to design 10 cheese towers, build a website, sort a supplier, get a logo and business cards, photograph the pack shots and order a banner – all in just seven days.
Against the odds she made it to the wedding fair that was to be the launch for Celebration Cheeses. “A photographer in the next unit at the wedding show asked me how long I had been in business. ‘Ten days’ I replied. Her expression was priceless. I had crowds of people round my stand. They were really interested in what I was offering.”
Although there are other companies doing cheese wedding cakes, Cheshire, who launched her business 10 months ago, feels it’s her unique package that sets her apart from the rest.
“There were a few companies around the country already making cheese cakes, however I mostly saw ads for cheese towers carefully dressed with flowers and fruit which featured the statement ‘decorations and base not included’. There’s my USP – include everything.” And this includes Cheshire setting up her innovative designs, many of them including Yorkshire cheeses, at the venue.
Although she will design cheeses for any celebration, wedding ‘cakes’ are her biggest seller. “A lot of couples these days are looking for something different from the traditional wedding cake made out of fruit cake,” she says. “Anything goes these days and I think cheese was the next stage in that evolution.”
She can also add Yorkshire pork pies to her towers and can include fruit, chutneys and crackers. Cheshire also welcomes input from her customers – who she then names the cheese tower after. “I do have a series of set designs which people can pick from, but others want something even more individual and I think it is nice to name their cheese after them. I then put on a little note next to the tower.”
Two of the cheese towers are named after her daughters; Violet and Lillia, who sadly died at birth two years ago, which is why her cheese has feathers to represent an angel.
Building a celebratory cheese tower is not as simple as it might appear. “Depending on numbers, the type of event and people’s preferences you have to work out what cheese and how much and in what order. Cheeses tend to come in one size of wheel but some are hard and heavy and some are soft and lighter, so you have to be careful how you put the tower together and make sure that the base can support it.”
Once she has the preferred cheeses from her trusted supplier – there’s a choice of 500 cheeses many of them English – she then adorns them in flowers to fit in with the customer’s colour scheme.
“My biggest fear when I stepped away from my events and modelling life was losing my identity and falling off the industry radar. Now I’m just excited to see where I am this time next year.”
Rachel Cheshire is organising a charity ball on March 14 at Aspire, Leeds, to raise money for Charlie’s Angels Foundation for bereaved parents. A black tie ball with professional fashion show and cabaret act. Email [email protected] for tickets.