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Proof is in the pudding for ProperMaid

Proof is in the pudding or at least, the cake, for ProperMaid.

ProperMaid is the brainchild of former school dinner lady and mum-of-two Allison Whitmarsh. Allison founded the Huddersfield-based company, which sells traditionally made additive and preservative free cakes, cupcakes, tray bakes and biscuits with a twist, in her home kitchen just four years ago.

After six months of working from home and having sold her goodies at local famers’ markets and food festivals, Allison’s growing order book led her to converting a retail unit into a bakery to keep up with demand.  A second move to a converted spinning mill came 18 months ago but over Christmas, Allison’s recipe for success was given an extra ingredient when BBC Dragon Deborah Meaden agreed a 25 per cent slice of the business in return for £50,000 worth of investment.

Appearing on the Dragons’ Den Christmas special, which was broadcast on December 23rd, was the icing on the cake for Allison as Deborah’s money has now enabled her to buy additional ovens, a £10,000 cutting machine to supply cakes pre-sliced and a wrapping machine.

Of her TV debut, Allison said: “I had three minutes to tell the Dragons all about ProperMaid and how we bake traditional cakes but give extra value with some unusual added ingredients. Our cake range includes a courgette and lime cake, beetroot and chocolate cake, a liquorice cake decorated with Liquorice All Sorts, and a Dandelion and Burdock cake, which won a Gold Star in the 2012 Great Taste Awards.

“I had actually been invited on to the show after its researchers discovered we were supplying a Christmas Dinner Cake, which contains all the trimmings minus the turkey, to one of our deli customers. It was this cake I took on the show and which the Dragons sampled. The cake is basically a carrot cake but as well as carrots includes parsnips, cranberries, sprouts, Christmas spices and chestnuts. The dragons loved it but I was left standing in front of them for 20 minutes before both Deborah and Theo Paphitis made me an offer.”

Continued Allison: “I decided to go with Deborah because Theo wanted a 40 per cent stake in the business although he offered me double Deborah’s investment.”

Besides the money, Deborah has also put Allison in touch with team of business experts to help her plan her growth strategy.

Back in Huddersfield, Allison has just launched a Valentine cake made with passion fruit and sweet potato and a beetroot infused tie-dye cake. She is also working on plans for a lower fat range.

Explains Allison, who now employs 13 fellow lady bakers and a deliveryman: “I couldn’t have dreamt four years ago when I baked my first cake for a customer in my home kitchen that in 2012 I’d have two Dragons vying to invest in my business! I’m extremely proud of our brand and everyone in the ProperMaid team for helping to make this possible. ProperMaid has come a long way in a relatively short period of time and with Deborah on board who knows how high our cakes will rise!”

ProperMaid is available from Total Foodservice’s Huddersfield and Clitheroe depots.

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