Wife of Irish rugby player Devin Toner in running for €250k prize for bakery start-up
Mary Toner (née Scott) has long stepped outside her Irish rugby star husband Devin Toner's spotlight - but never more so than now.
The experienced chef's new business has landed a coveted finalist spot in the AIB StartUp Academy Competition where €250,000 is up for grabs.
'Bakers & Cakers', essentially a confectionery directory for both consumers and cake sellers, is in the running for the top prize with 13 other impressive finalists.
But Mrs Toner (29) is determined to focus on first place after coming second in TV3's Head Chef programme in 2011 under the watchful eye of Conrad Gallagher.
This position would secure her access to a mentor programme from industry experts and allow her business funding to customise, build and grow.
"When I was in Celebrity Head Chef, I thought 'if I aim for second, that would be a pretty good place to be' and then I ended up in second place," she told independent.ie.
"So now I'm not selling myself or the business short - I'm aiming for the top slot!"
From a Business and German undergraduate course in UCD, then Ms Scott attended an 'intense' Ballymaloe cookery course followed by an 'amazing' internship in the Chapter 1 restaurant kitchen.
"I absolutely loved it in there... I even got to help out on the Queen's dinner. I trained under the pastry chef but I got to see little bits of the kitchen and really fell in love with the patisseries section."
Mrs Toner then landed a position as brand manager for upscale Parisian bakery Ladurée and said she was lucky enough to train with their pastry chefs in London and Paris.
"While I was working there I started my own bespoke cake business, for weddings, christenings, birthdays, communions. I completed ordered for a number of PR companies, including American Airlines, but I started getting enquiries for orders I just couldn't match," she said.
"That's how 'Bakers and Cakers' came about. People were asking me to advise them where else to go as they couldn't tell if a different supplier was good or available. I was acting as a referral service."
Mrs Toner found that in baking chat rooms online, cakers were looking for business and customers were looking for suppliers - but they just weren't finding a way to meet each other in the middle.
Her new website not only connects 'those who want to buy cakes with those who love to make them' but also helps the supplier discern exactly what the customer requires in the initial correspondence - and aims to relieve the accountancy headache for bakers with a 'Price My Cake' function. This means that the supplier can quote accurately, including labour costs and overheads, so that they can run a viable business.
"I am hoping to give the bakers and cakers a more profitable and financial sense around running the business," she said.
"They are artists, they are not accountants - and at the moment there's nothing out there to help them focus on what they're good at."
The site itself is customer faced with those wanting confectionery able to search a list of baker profiles and send a detailed request of what they desire and they price they expect to pay. The cake makers get to establish a profile and gallery section and have a calendar which will be marked out if they are busy baking on certain dates.
Finalists make their last pitch in the AIB Start-up Academy Competition tonight, April 20, at the Light House Cinema in Dublin.