CATHERINE De Groot (29) left architecture for baking when the recession hit. Five years later she is running one of Dublin's most loved bakeries, and about to open her second shop in Dublin's Dundrum Town Centre.
"I joined a small architecture firm after graduating from college but the economy tanked shortly after. The phones got very quiet, my friends were being let go, and I realised it would be wise to find an alternative. I was floating a few ideas around – giving photoshop lessons or doing dress alterations as I've always been creative – but fell into baking, something I've always loved.
"I started off alone from my kitchen, without even a dishwasher. I had planned to do a course in baking beforehand but the timing was wrong, so I ended up just buying books and practising.
"I built a (questionable) website, registered as a food provider with the HSE and was in business. Starting that way meant I could keep costs down, keep things lean.
"At first I just sold to friends, building up a reputation by word of mouth. Wedding cakes proved particularly popular and soon I was so busy that I just couldn't manage in my tiny kitchen any more. I found a space in Blackrock and funded it with a credit union loan.
"Now BakeMyCake sells originally designed cupcakes (in 24 flavours), milkshares, various other sweet treats, novelty cakes and wedding cakes. Everything is made to be striking. Our chocolate brownies even won a gold star at this year's Great Taste Awards.
"The business became profitable last year. Wedding cakes are the biggest earner – they have good margins – even though we sell, in terms of volume, a lot more milkshakes and cupcakes.
"I had no experience of cake decorating before I started the company so it's been a steep learning curve and a real joy – making a five-tier masterpiece for someone's big day, or a cake that looks just like a shoe for someone's 21st, is really special.
"When you start a business on your own, there's always the temptation there to try to do everything on your own because you are so conscious of costs. When I started out I looked after the accounts, marketing, everything, all on top of the actual baking.
"But as orders began to build up it became clear that I couldn't do everything. I opened the Blackrock shop with just one person helping out but the staff has grown to five full-time and four part-time employees. They come from similarly diverse backgrounds, everything from former beauticians to advertisers. Three more staff will join when we open the second shop in Dundrum on Monday. The shopping centre has a lot of traffic so should give us lots of opportunity to expand, we're very excited."