Grow Exeter | Apr 17, 2019 | 0
Nikki Trevaskis – Frandie Macaron
Written by Kate Williams
Photos supplied by Frandie Macaron
In the midst of economic uncertainty, trading ambiguity and Brexit unpredictability, the business world must still carry on and it’s great to see our youth being brave and forging ahead. Like young baker and business woman Nikki Trevaskis.
Starting out in business is not for the faint-hearted. Starting out in business in the current economic climate is not for the feeble. It is for the courageous and the intrepid. Nikki Trevaskis is one such young business woman, full of gumption as she takes the reins of Devon baking company Frandie Macaron. But it has not been an easy journey for Nikki, 27, having worked hard to accomplish her dream of owning her own business.
Leaving school without much in the way of direction, Nikki went to college but left after a year when she wasn’t enjoying any of it and continued with her supermarket job. She moved on to a “boring” office job, assessing benefits, which she held down for six years before she realised she had a hidden talent.
“It was whilst I was doing that job that I found baking. I started making some novelty cakes for family and friends. I made a birthday cake for my dad – it was a Formula 1 car and it was quite good,” smiled Nikki.
“Then I thought, I’m actually quite good at this! I don’t know where the baking came from – I’d only ever made a Victoria sponge with my mum. But, suddenly, I started making these celebration and wedding cakes for people I knew and realised I loved it.”
Friends and colleagues urged Nikki to set up her own business creating celebration cakes and, although it was her ultimate goal, it was a daunting thought. With no finances behind her, it was not an option that Nikki thought she had. She explained:
“I wanted to start my own business doing cake decorating, but it wasn’t that easy, financially. I wanted to do wedding cakes, and to learn to make pastries and bread but the course was very expensive.”
In 2015, Nikki’s dad sadly passed away. When she inherited some money, she knew exactly what she was going to spend it on.
“I went to Ashburton Cookery School to do a diploma in patisserie. I grew up with my dad telling me that I can do whatever I want. My parents were always really supportive in saying, ‘If you want to do it, get on and do it!’. I was looking at the cookery school for a good two or three years before I managed to get there because it was quite a lot of money and you couldn’t get a normal student loan for it and I couldn’t afford the repayments on a bank loan. It just wasn’t do-able. So when we sold my dad’s house, I knew that was where the money was going to go. It cost £15,000 and it was quite hard to even get in. I had an hour-and-a-half initial phone interview with them asking all sorts of questions about what I wanted to do and why.”
Graduating with a distinction in 2016, Somerset-born Nikki went straight into a job at Saunton Sands Hotel in Barnstaple as a pastry chef. Nikki commented,
“I was only there for a few months as I was under the impression they were going to push for Michelin star but it ended up being more ‘pub grub’.”
Fine dining was where Nikki’s passion lay, so she went to work at a French patisserie in Dartmouth, adding,
“It was called Saveurs – which means flavour – and I really enjoyed working there, I learned a lot.”
For personal reasons, Nikki left Saveurs for a job closer to her home in Newton Abbott at Ilsington Country House Hotel which she loved as she was working again with fine desserts. The twenty-seven-year-old recalled:
“It was whilst I was there that I began to think about starting my own business and I was looking into business loans and looking to set up my own bakery. Whilst looking around, my search brought me to this [Frandie Macaron].”
Nikki set up a meeting with one of the three then co-owners of East Devon baking business Frandie Macaron, which was for sale. Nikki explained:
“I sat there with my list of business questions as I chatted to her and she said I was the only person they had seen who had come with questions – and I was the only one who had actually made macarons before!”
Macarons – not to be confused with the coconut biscuits macaroons – are a sweet meringue-based confection and are notoriously difficult to master, so being a pastry chef and having the experience with the speciality bakes was an instant winner.
“I think they were quite happy to sell to someone who was passionate about baking and had the experience,” Nikki said.
“It’s a great business, everyone knows the name, they’ve got a lot of followers on social media and they do a lot of food shows. So I handed my notice in. Basically, I had to ‘guesstimate’ how long the purchase would take to go through. When we knew when the handover would take place, I had to work up to as near to that time as I could so I knew I was still getting some wages in. I had a couple of weeks off before I started which I spent researching. Once handover day came, it was literally just go, go, go – straight in at the deep end. I started in September last year, and there were markets booked for every weekend.”
The three previous owners worked with Nikki for the whole of September, showing her the ropes. She recalled:
“We finished signing everything the day before and September 1st, my first day, they had a market! I just went along as if I was just helping them out! Then the following week, I think, I was meeting one of the guys at then unit and he said, ‘What time do you want me here? It’s your business!’. The first day on my own was quite nice. Although it was nice to work with them, it was good to come in and have it to myself. But it was very daunting as well, it still is sometimes. I’m still very much learning as I go.”
Nikki’s partner is happy to help her every now and then and she has friends who will step in to help at bigger markets but, currently, she is running the Frandie Macaron show by herself.
“To start with, I found the accounts quite difficult as I didn’t know what I needed to do! I roped in my other half’s accountant and she was brilliant, set me up with spreadsheets and was really helpful. I am still learning a lot with the paperwork and invoicing side of things.”
Starting out with her own business by herself at a young age has not deterred the gutsy baker. She added, resolutely,
“If you want to do it, it becomes easier, because you enjoy it. I love being in the kitchen, I love doing the big macaron towers for weddings. That’s my aim for this year, to move forward with the weddings side, push that a little more. And I love chocolate work and tempering chocolate so I’d like to add in boxes of chocolates, maybe later this year. The first few months was just carrying on and getting my feet on the ground. This year it’s my plan to push it a little further.”
Nikki is rightly proud of how far she has come from leaving school ten years ago with no real plan. She said, “I am really proud of where I have got to. The first few months were very surreal, it didn’t really feel like I was doing it. I think it was when I started doing the accounts and I realised I was doing this all on my own. From the start, when I was first cake decorating, I’ve wanted to have my own business and I am really happy I’ve managed to get here. It’s just finding my feet and getting going a bit more now!”
Passionate and spirited about her new company, Nikki’s advice to other youngsters thinking of starting out is to go for it. She concluded,
“Just do it. Do it now before you regret not doing it! I was really proud I ended up at the cookery school, stood there in my chefs’ whites. I never thought I would do anything like that. I never went to uni, I never thought I would have a diploma or anything like that. And now I do have a diploma. With a distinction. And don’t be afraid to ask anyone and everyone for advice, there is no such thing as a stupid question! Any business owners you know will have all been in your position before and be more than happy to help because they know what it is like. So, you just have to take the leap, get on with it. Be brave.”
To find out more about Frandie Macaron, visit their website.