In Good Company!

nigella.jpgI’ve long since been a fan of Nigella Lawson….indeed, her influence has led to the purchase of Kitchen Aid mixers and blenders as well as a fabulous Magimix food processor. I love her style and I think that’s because she’s a cook rather than a chef – she makes food that anyone can make, eat and enjoy.

I joined her food forum,  a little over a year ago. I never thought I’d be a member of an oline forum but then again, I never thought I’d be writing a blog! But it’s given me chance to make some great new friends and explore some wonderful recipe ideas too.

So I was delighted a couple of days ago when Nigella’s Admin contacted me to say they would be adding Cottage Cooks to their list of UK baking stockists. So there we are…….up with the likes of Jane Asher, Montgomery Moore Chocolate and King Arthur Flour, and proud if it!


March 11, 2007 at 7:09 am Leave a comment

New Cottage Cooks Website Goes Live!

I’m delighted to announce the launch of our new look Cottage Cooks website, which can be found at or . A fantastic new colour scheme and improved shopping cart is bound to be a hit with customers old and new.

By way of celebration, I’m giving blog readers 10% off all orders placed at Cottage Cooks until 1 April 2007. Just enter the following discount code during the checkout process and you’ll be getting your kids cooking (or maybe just treat yourself!)


 Happy shopping!!

March 4, 2007 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment

From then ‘Til Now

So Jay was fully recovered by the end of January and back to work. The run up to Christmas was extremely busy for Cottage Cooks which is great…..lots of people wanting ot get their children into cooking.

Like many small businesses, January was extremely quiet which gave me a chance to think about where I wanted Cottage Cooks to go and how to achieve that. I was still working 2.5 days at the local hospital but really wanted to give that up and focus all of my time and energies on children’s cooking. Afterall, it has always been my passion.

So I firstly went back to Daneswood Solutions and asked them to modernise the website then go on writing this blog. And now the Cottage Cooks story is upto date, it’ll get really interesting!

March 4, 2007 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

Like a Casualty Storyline….!

So a few weeks of preparation, grovelling to the bank and mass expenditure saw me ready to go up to the Eve show on 30 November. The show was to run for 5 days so I decided to take all of my stock with me…..not really being able to gauge how much I would be needing.

 I run Cottage Cooks on my own but found a willing helper in the form of one of my nursing colleagues, Terry. She was going to come up for 4 days to help me run the stand and keep me company drinking wine in the evenings. Husband was charged with driving the van of stock up for me then coming back to look after the girls whilst I was away, hopefully making the first Cottage Cooks fortune.

So he came home with a big van which we dutifully loaded up and the three of us were all set to go. Jay was heading out first whilst I got together the last few bits and pieces. He set off but 5 minutes later, I had him shouting from the driveway. Thinking that some moron had cut him up trying to get the van out of our drive, I took little notice………until the shouting continued.

I ran outside and down the drive to find him slumped against a wall saying he’d been crushed by the van. I couldn’t quite grasp what had happened but as he fell to the floor, I figured that it wasn’t just a little bump and he wouldn’t be able to drive the van up after having some painkillers, as he first thought. In hospital later, it turned out that the van had crushed him and fractured his pelvis in 4 places……thank heavens for the presence of my trauma matron friend!

In a moment of self pity though, I watched my Cottage Cooks dreams flit passed me, just out of reach once again. The police came and impounded the van, with all of my stock in it so they could do safety checks and my big promotional ideas went down the drain. With no stock, a critically ill husband and nobody to look after the kids, I wasn’t going to get to Birmingham for this show.

February 24, 2007 at 5:05 pm 1 comment

Glossy Mags and The Times!

It’s all very well running your own business and paying vast amounts of money for advertising. To me though, what really counts is when someone phones you up out of the blue and asks for details so they can feature your business in their magazine.

The first was Eve magazine (for non UK readers, it’s a Good Housekeeping type of mag for 20-35 year olds). They wanted some information on the individual cooking kits we do so they could feature them in an article on children’s cooking. That was great – just a paragraph about Cottage Cooks and the cooking kits, courses, cookie cutters and aprons, but it was written by someone interested in my business!!

Then a journalist from The Times phoned up – they were doing a feature in children’s cooking parties and wanted to know all about our “DIY” themed cooking parties as well as the individual cooking kits. Unfortunately, that article focused on one of my main cooking party rivals (who’ve been established for some years now) but Cottage Cooks still  got a mention as an alternative supplier. A little write-up  in the Times was certainly not to be sniffed at.

Following on from the Eve magazine article, they then contacted me to see if I wanted to take Cottage Cooks to the first Eve Style Show at the Birmingham NEC in December. I was torn as it sounded fabulous but was costly for the stand and my previous experiences of shows weren’t great. But I figured it would be a great time to show off some fantastic products……..after all, a cooking kit or cooking course is a perfect gift for the kids who have everything!!

February 24, 2007 at 4:54 pm Leave a comment

Building It Up

Close to the end of my first year, I had children enrolled on my course but nowhere near enough to make it profitable. It was make or break time so I decided to invest in a website and was made, thanks to a wonderful man called Pete Weeks at Daneswood Solutions. He must have dreaded my phone calls and e mails asking really quite dozy questions but answered them all with good humour!!

The children’s cooking courses were good but I didn’t feel they were enough to base an entire website around so I racked my brains for what else would grasp kids imaginations (and their parents too!) and want to get them cooking. So cookie cutters, cake cases, pretty & practical aprons were added to our online store, along with a new range of individual cooking kits and cooking parties.

I was thrilled with my new website but the traffic didn’t exactly pour in so over the months, it got tweaked and adjusted. As a small business, I didn’t want to invest everything in the site but with hindsight, that’s what I should have done.

Another year of pottering along then a problem came up with the license on the e store. So Pete got back to work and rejigged the site into a much more workable format to give me in the format it is today. The time helped me to learn various aspects of running a website and as I became more proficient, the business expanded.

I finally started to believe that I could really make a go of it……’s very easy to lose faith when you run a business on your own, inspite of backup and support from friends and family. That took us to September 2006.

February 23, 2007 at 6:32 pm Leave a comment

A great idea – surely a piece of cake……

The idea was in motion – I’d planned the contents of my welcome packs, the first recipe cards and found a good place to advertise. So I figured, I had it made…….it was about the time Jamie Oliver started on his School Dinners campaign so kids and food were being propelled into the media spotlight.

The ads went out and I waited eagerly in anticipation for the first phone calls and orders. And the phone calls came – 20 os so queries in the first week which wasn’t bad as I’d advertised locally. But it wasn’t what the parents wanted.

Call after call came requests for somewhere to send the children to learn to cook. Excuses for not wanting to help them learn at home were varied – “…not enough time”; “can’t cope with the mess….”; “I just want someone else to teach them…”. And therein was my biggest stumbling block. Parents simply didn’t want to spend one afternoon a month helping their child to learn to cook – a pretty essentil life skill.

On the next round of enquiries, I made a point of saying that the recipes were for the whole family – Baked Cod with Three Cheeses, for example. This wasn’t a course teaching kids to make Krispie Cakes, it was about seasonal wholesome food. And people gradually started to enroll their children on our postal cooking course.

February 23, 2007 at 12:43 pm Leave a comment

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