‘I sell my Bonfire Night parkin all year round’
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.
THE PRICE OF SUCCESS
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