‘I sell my Bon­fire Night parkin all year round’

Prima (UK) - - Ladies Who Launch -

When Char­lotte ‘Lot­tie’ Shaw, 44, from Hal­i­fax, needed a busi­ness to fit around her fam­ily, her greataunt’s recipe gave her an idea.

‘Some things are sa­cred at this time of year – a roar­ing bon­fire, a great fire­work dis­play and a chunky piece of York­shire parkin to keep the au­tumn chill at bay. At our lo­cal Scouts’ Guy Fawkes Night, I’m happy to say I’ll have all three – and I’ll be bak­ing enough parkin to feed ev­ery­one else there, too.

Parkin has long had its roots in this part of the world, where oats were a sta­ple food, rather than flour. It was my favourite treat as a child, baked from a fam­ily recipe passed down from my great-aunt, who opened a bak­ers’ shop in Hal­i­fax in 1913. I’d al­ways loved the sticky blend of gin­ger and oat­meal mixed with trea­cle and syrup and now, as a grown-up, it was my pass­port to self-em­ploy­ment.

I’d taken re­dun­dancy from a mar­ket­ing job and wanted to start a busi­ness that would fit around my chil­dren – Thom, now 12, and Evie, now 10. And, af­ter a pay­off from my job, I had £4,000 to get the busi­ness off the ground.


My daugh­ter was still young when, in the au­tumn of 2008, I armed my­self with a batch of parkin and went to all the farm shops in the area ask­ing them to taste it and give feed­back. A few agreed to stock it, and I nur­tured my lit­tle busi­ness, Lot­tie Shaw’s, with dreams of cre­at­ing a whole range of bis­cuits and cakes along­side my trea­sured parkin.

In June 2009, I took a batch to a fine-food trade show in Har­ro­gate and couldn’t be­lieve the re­sponse. I’d mas­sively un­der­priced them, which meant that they sold like hot cakes!

Around the same time, I took it to the team at Chatsworth House in Der­byshire, which gets nearly 650,000 vis­i­tors a year. Af­ter tast­ing it, they agreed to sell it. It was an ex­cit­ing mo­ment – be­ing able to drop in the Chatsworth name to other po­ten­tial cus­tomers was worth its weight in gold, and other stock­ists soon came on board.

I’m lucky the old fam­ily bak­ery still had a unit that made bread for sand­wich shops and cater­ers. Us­ing that made it eas­ier to scale up the busi­ness. In our first decade, my busi­ness hit around £250,000 turnover a year and has grown so much that we opened our own bak­ery to cope with de­mand. That was a huge cost. We found more than half the money our­selves, got a loan from the bank and tapped into the grants avail­able for small busi­nesses that em­ploy lo­cal peo­ple.

I now sell Lot­tie Shaw’s York­shire Parkin all year round through farm shops, re­tail­ers and web­sites such as no­ton­the­high­street.com. This year, we’ve been taken on in 50 Mor­risons stores and are avail­able at Ocado, too. I dreamt big from the start and those plans are com­ing to­gether. We also sell bis­cuits and tray­bakes – in­clud­ing flap­jacks, tif­fin and mil­lion­aire’s shortbread – as well as bake thou­sands of Christ­mas mince pies, but York­shire parkin is still at the heart of what we do. I’m proud to be in­tro­duc­ing my great aunt’s au­tumn favourite to a new gen­er­a­tion.’ • lot­tieshaws.co.uk

Lot­tie’s parkin is made us­ing a fam­ily recipe

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