Baker Gemma has found her happy place
FOR GEMMA HILL, following her passion was a road she was thrust into rather than one she carefully set out, but nonetheless her start up baking business is thriving.
The turning point came as her second maternity leave drew to a close and she got the news that she was to be made redundant. In the height of the recession in 2011, this was not a prospect that Gemma relished and she set off on that path known to many of having CVs rejected and often not even acknowledged. During this time, she decided to focus on being at home with her children, and it was at this stage that she started baking.
‘I started baking and sending little cupcakes and treats in to school with my little girl anytime they had an occasion to celebrate. Isabella was turning three and asked me to make her a mermaid princess cake. I was clueless as to how fondant and decorations worked but I managed to make a two-tier cake that to me was very amateur but to Isabella it was the best,’ Gemma explains. Fast forward to February 2013 and Gemma, having built up her confidence in the kitchen, started doing baking classes and baking birthday parties for children and ‘Little Gem’s Baking Academy’ was born.
‘I quickly registered the business name and I found a fantastic premises with a full kitchen ready to use. All my classes take place in The Bridge Centre on the Wexford Road in Arklow and I’m also registered at home,’ she says.
In recent years with the influence of TV shows such as The Great British Bake- Off - baking, and in turn cake decorating, an artform in itself have exploded, so Gemma’s timing was pretty much perfect.
‘ There’s literally been a huge ‘cake explosion’ in the past couple of years. I love to see the ideas people have and create the perfect cake for them. It’s a talent I only found when I was getting close to my forties so I really believe that anything is possible. Cake decorating while therapeutic and enjoyable, is an art and often it takes several hours to create that perfect cake. If you’re arty or creative at all its worth a try.’ Looking ahead, Gemma hopes to take on more corporate work and private classes which are becoming increasingly popular as social events.
‘I would love to take in more classes in other schools in the area to include their special needs units as it is a fantastic skill for any child to have. Other plans for the near future include more advanced classes for my regular kids and some basic cake decorating classes for adults. I’d love to teach others what I’ve learned. I’m completely self taught so I’ve had the disasters and the triumphs.’ The community in which Gemma works is all part of the appeal of running her own business and the support she has received has been wonderful.
‘I bake for anyone who asks for charity events and I really feel like I’m part of a fantastic community here in Arklow. I grew up in the area but emigrated at a young age so spent years away. I never thought I’d be back and I never thought I’d be gappy to settle back in this small town but I’ve found my happy place. I can’t see myself making millions but there’s more to life than that. If you have a passion in life I say just go for it.’
Gemma Hill of Little Gem’s Baking Academy.