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“W&H inspired me to carry on baking”
Alice Freshney, 55, is a Nurse and lives in Lancashire. She’s married, with two grown up children. Finding gluten free recipes in w&h meant that she could carry on baking after she was diagnosed with coeliac disease five years ago.
I’ve always loved baking – I’m seen as the baker among all my friends because I always have something freshly made for when they’re coming round. But since I was diagnosed with coeliac disease five years ago, I’ve found it more of a challenge. I struggle finding good gluten free recipes – and my first few attempts at making cakes were complete disasters! They always came out dry and crumbly. But when I saw a three-tier lemon and yoghurt gluten free cake on the cover of Feel Good Food last year, I thought “That looks amazing!” and I just had to try it.
For the first time, I wasn’t tearing my hair out – the recipe is really easy to follow – there are only four steps and it took me less than an hour. When I’d assembled the three tiers, layering lemon curd and whipped cream in between, I stood back and thought “Wow!” My family came round that evening and they were all really impressed. I was so proud that, before I cut into it to share it with them, I took a photo and shared it on Twitter. We all agreed it was delicious and the ground almonds in the cake mixture mean the sponge isn’t dry at all.
Now I bake whenever I have spare time and I love sharing what I’ve made – I recently made the w&h’s gluten free white chocolate and raspberry blondes. It’s really lovely when I take cake to work and the girls say, “Ooh do that again!” It’s so nice to see people enjoying it and no one says, “That doesn’t taste quite right,” because it’s gluten free, they just say “That’s a good cake!” – that’s encouraging.
I do miss going into restaurants and choosing whatever I like but now, when the weekend comes, I’ll invite my friends and family round for dinner and make a nice dessert instead. I’ve just downloaded w&h’s Feel Good Eating Smart app – there’s a great selection of gluten-free recipes I can eat and I’ve seen a dark chocolate brownie cake topped with fresh cream, raspberries that I’m going to make. I’ve had to change my diet dramatically since being diagnosed and at one point, I thought I might have to give up baking altogether, but w&h’s gluten free recipes mean I can carry on doing what I love most.
“W&h helped me feel confident to make my ‘biz on the side’ take centre-stage”
Effie Moss, 37, lives in Surrey and is married with a four year old daughter. She started ‘Just for Tiny people’ (JFTP), creating hand-made dens and hideaways when she worked full time at Skype and featured in our New Directions about a ‘biz on the side’ in October 2013
“I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial and I had the idea for my company Just for Tiny People or JFTP when I made a teepee for my daughter’s bedroom. I drew my own pattern, which is the pattern we still use today, and that Christmas I hand-made 20 of them.
Featuring in W&H New Directions was our first national exposure and a massive confidence boost. Afterwards, our online community grew by about 10,000 and that Christmas I made 300 teepees – and had to turn away 585 orders!
I was so inspired by the possibilities that a few months later I decided to leave my job and concentrate on the business. I was earning a six figure salary at Skype and leaving was scary because I am the sole breadwinner and my husband is a stay at home dad but I had enough evidence to believe it would work.
I also decided to apply Dragons Den – and was over the moon when we were accepted, although I had no idea what being on the show would mean. Deborah Meaden invested 50K in return for 25% which was such a confidence boost, and she has been a very positive influence.
I started worked on developing a brand that went beyond the original product and extended the range to include things like bedding, beanbags and floor mats. By April we’d hired a team of 18, and used the Dragon money to re-launch the website.
After the show everything went a bit mad. We gained 20K followers and I had to close order books. But still, we made the mistake of over trading last year and although we made 3000 teepees last Chistmas sadly there were still some orders we couldn’t fulfill because we expanded too quickly. Obviously it was awful to be in that position and it was a huge learning curve, to say the least.
As a result I’ve spent this year redesigning the business model: having previously made to order we now sell ready-to-buy teepees. We’ve cut the team back to 23 from 45 and, slowly, we regained the trust of our community. The business has grown significantly and we now have an annual turnover of £500k with over 200,000 Facebook followers.
Ultimately, I’d love to go international but for the moment I am focusing on making sure we deliver everything we’ve promised – and that I don’t have to work Christmas Day!”
“The w&h forum sparked a new group of friends”
W&h subscriber Gillian Dodd, 52, lives in Nottingham and is a senior IT support analyst at a furniture manufacturer. She’s married, with two sons aged 22 and 17 and is organizing the Nottingham Forum Fest in September.
I’ve been a subscriber for seven years and but only joined the forum a couple of years ago, mainly because my sister, who I am very close to, moved to Scotland. I realized I didn’t have many girl friends in the area and thought it would be a good way of making new friends.
Never having done anything like that before, I ended up lurking for six months before plucking up the courage to become an active member. But when I got chatting I found I really enjoyed meeting the other online who all seemed very like-minded.
After a few months a member called Looby lou who has a friend in the area suggested meeting for coffee. It’s a bit nerve wracking to begin with meeting up with a stranger, but we really hit it off and got talking very quickly about everything from work to family and everything in between. We met up again three or four times and it was always great – a real breath of fresh air.
Then she suggested I come along to last year’s Forum Fest in Liverpool. There were a dozen women going but I’d only met Looby loo, so agonised about whether I’d enjoy it or not. But in the end I decided to seize the day and went along – and it was absolutely fantastic. There were a few other ‘newbies’ too, and a wide range of ages from mid 30s to mid 70s. I started out worried that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about, but the chatting started on Friday, over drinks and a meal, and continued until Sunday when we left feeling we’d known each other forever.
Over breakfast we started talking about the next forum fest and someone suggested Nottingham as a good central location. I’d been so inspired by the community of women I’d met through woman&home that weekend I said I’d help organize it. Looby loo and I have since arranged a group rate for the Hilton and booked a meal there for Friday night as well as information about art galleries and shops. We’re expecting 13 so far, including two ladies from Spain and one from Belfast and we are all really looking forward to it as a lovely girlie weekend.
Meeting everyone I’d chatted to online in person really made me realise I had met some new friends. If I had a problem I know I could quite easily phone or email them and they’d listen to me if I just needed to talk. The w&h forum definitely filled the gap that I hoped I’d fill – I’m so glad I took that first step!
The Nottingham Forumfest is on 11-13 September. Go to the woman&home.com forum and search for ‘forumfest’.