It takes a brave person to set up a business with their sibling!
But sisters Claire Harrison and Holly Hodge, the creative talent behind The Isle Bakery, Ely’s newest cake shop, assure us there are no food fights in the kitchen when they’re busy baking!
The two Ely women love whisking up “beautiful cakes that taste as good as they look”.
So when they thought about turning that passion into a business, having each other for inspiration and support was the icing on the cake.
Growing up on a farm, Claire and Holly have many happy childhood memories of baking with their mum and siblings but it wasn’t until they reached adulthood that they discovered a passion for cake decorating.
They set up Isle Bakery at the start of this year, after baking for family and friends for several years.
Their first order was an exquisitely decorated unicorn cake, which proved an instant hit.
Since then they’ve conjured up magical custom made cakes for a number of occasions, including special birthdays and milestones, as well as quirky and unusual creations.
Claire says: “We’re currently working on a cake that combines two friends passions, princesses and superheros, on one spectacular cake.
“The cake will feature Batman and Belle themes and hopefully make two little girls very happy.”
Holly and Claire had each played with the idea of turning their baking passions into a business – but in the end decided that the best way to have their cake and eat it was to join forces and set up Isle Bakery together.
“We both love baking and trying out new decoration ideas. We had both considered starting our own businesses and it seemed like a good idea to do it together.
“This way we can bounce ideas off each other and take on larger orders which we work together on.
“We each have our own areas of interest and that helps us offer a broad range of designs, techniques and styles to our customers.”
Setting up a business with a sibling isn’t for everyone – but luckily Claire and Holly’s partnership does not turn up the heat too much in Claire’s kitchen!
“Fortunately we are a very close family and have always got on really well.
“It is great to have someone to bounce ideas off and to share this incredible experience with.
“It certainly felt less scary starting a business with each other than it would have done on our own.
“Working together also means we can cover each other for holidays and we always have back up if one of us is ill meaning our customers won’t be let down.”
The two sisters don’t have a limit on the number of people they can cater for and work on a case by case (or cake by cake) basis.
“It really depends on the intricacy of the design, the shape of the cakes, number of tiers and how many other bookings we have on at the time. We are happy to consider all order sizes.
“One way people can increase the number of servings is to add cupcakes to a cake order.”
Isle Bakery caters for different diets, accommodating people who are dairy or gluten intolerant as well as vegetarians and vegans.
“We have made egg free cakes before. We both have personal experience of food intolerances and passionately believe that there is no reason why people following special diets should have to put up with inferior quality cakes.”
Before they even set foot in the kitchen, the bakers plan out each creation, discussing each customer’s order with incredible attention to detail.
“Some people come to us with really specific ideas, even photos, of what they want. Others have a general theme in mind or are open to suggestions.
“We work with customers to refine their ideas, going back and forth until everyone is happy with the proposed design.
“Time spent planning a cake varies hugely depending on the complexity of the design. Modelling is usually the most time consuming part of a project and some projects we have to start weeks in advance.”
Holly juggles a full-time job in public health with her passion for baking while Claire is mum to Kessie, six, and Layla, four.
Juggling motherhood, jobs and a small business takes a lot of planning, Claire says.
“It is challenging at times. We make sure not to take on more work than we can manage as the quality of our finished product is paramount.
“Being organised is incredibly important and we have a lot of spreadsheets on the go!”
Muffin ventured, muffin gained – and Claire advises anyone seriously thinking of starting their own business to give it a whirl.
“Make sure you are prepared for lots of hard work. Having the support of family and friends has made the start of our venture so much easier than it might have been.
“We have also been delighted by the fantastic support we’ve received from the local community.
“I guess at the end of the day you won’t know if it’s for you unless you give it a try. We’re glad we did.”
If you knead a bit of inspiration, be sure to check out Isle Bakery’s delectable creations by clicking here.