With the return of our #IAmEnterprising competition with City of Liverpool College for the second year running, close on the horizon, what better opportunity was there to catch up with last year’s winner; Kate Johnson! Kate went on a roller coaster journey with us last year and was crowned the first ever winner of the #IAmEnterprising competition, receiving a £3,000 prize package which included £1,000 cash from Morecrofts Solicitors to help her get her business underway. We sat down with Kate to find out what she’s been up to and how she found the #IAmEnterprising competition!
Want to win big like Kate? #IAmEnterprising is for all City of Liverpool College students to enter! If you’ve got the seed of a business idea and want to turn it into a reality, then you’ve got to get involved! You could win a £3,000 prize package, including £1,000 cash from our wonderful headline sponsors, Morecrofts. The journey is starting soon, so if you are a student yourself, or know someone who is, be sure to tell them about #IAmEnterprising. They can find out more using the contact details below!
If there is one woman who can wiggle her way into the Pastry Kitchen of The Savoy Hotel in London whilst there for afternoon tea, it’s the talented Kate Johnson! Kate, the winner of our #IAmEnterprising competition with City of Liverpool College and founder of Gallery Cocoa and maker of fine chocolates and patisserie has such a passion and energy for her craft that we weren’t at all surprised that she wiggled her way into the professional pastry kitchens for a look around!
The Women’s Organisation first met Kate back in February of 2014 when we were part of City of Liverpool College’s Enterprise Club and she was completing her NVQ Level 3 in Patisserie and Confectionary. She then found out about the #IAmEnterprising Competition that we were running with the college, giving students the chance to win a massive £3000 prize bundle to help them start up their own businesses. Following Business Bootcamp, Kate worked closely with Melanie Williams from City of Liverpool College's Enterprise Club. Then followed a nerve-wracking pitch in front of judges, business experts and #IAmEnterprising sponsors, Kate was crowned the winner of the competition, and has been working hard all year on her business, Gallery Cocoa.
We finally got the chance to sit down and have a chat with her about her journey, the #IAmEnterprising experience and the future of Gallery Cocoa.As well as running her business, Kate also works in museum and gallery education and has done for the past 15 years, at the moment she is splitting her time between this and developing her own business.
But how did it all start? Where did her passion come from? ‘It started with me just experimenting at home, using cookbooks and TV programmes and I started to do more and more. At that time it was mostly baking, and then I found out about a 6 week course at City of Liverpool College, run by Claire Lara, the winner of MasterChef. I took her 6 week fine dining course, and that’s how my relationship with the college began’. After this she took another 6 week course before signing up to Level 2 ABC Pastry and began thinking about setting up her own business, although she says; ‘The timing was just never right for me to do it at that point.’
Although things began to align when she signed up to complete her Level 3 at City of Liverpool College, a day time session, meaning she dropped one day at her other work and spent one day a week with her tutor; Siobhan Sweet, expanding her knowledge and skills of patisserie and pastry. When Kate saw our signs for the #IAmEnterprising completion, she knew she should just give it a go; ‘The competition just forced me to go and do it. Rather than thinking about it all the time.’ Kate herself admits that she is the type of person who likes to plan and plan rather than dive straight into something. ‘Especially with my own business, I was worried about getting it wrong.’
But she didn’t get it wrong! Kate attended our Business Boot Camp and went away again to develop her business plan further using the templates and guidance from friends and her tutor, Siobhan Sweet who she says; ‘Is an amazing chef and brilliant support.’ Kate then pitched and made chocolates for the judges to try so they could see her work. And what was her reaction when she found out she had won? ‘I was over the moon! It was so reassuring to know that other people thought that my business idea was strong enough and believed I could do it. It was a massive boost! The support from the sponsoring businesses has been brilliant.’
Since the end of the competition, Kate has been working closely with The Women’s Organisation and Senior Business Adviser, Francine Taylor, as well as attending nearly all of Bernie’s Social Media training courses! ‘Francine has been great and the support here has been brilliant.’ As well as this she has been busy developing (and tasting!) her products, sourcing her lovely packaging and starting to think about the brand of Gallery Cocoa. Next year will have even bigger plans in store for Kate as she will soon out-grow the Production Kitchen she’s installed in her own home and will need larger premises to be able to properly store and make her delights! ‘I would also like a retail shop or premises; I think there is a space for that in Liverpool, so that’s something to think about for next year too.’
So is Kate glad that she made the jump and entered the #IAmEnterprising Competition – we think so. She says; ‘The instant support network that it created, of people who are so willing to help, has been brilliant! It’s also made me think about areas that I would not have previously thought about and forced me to actually get on with it and put together my business.’ And getting on, she is!
We can’t wait to see what the next year holds for Kate and Gallery Cocoa and are delighted that #IAmEnterprising, City of Liverpool College and The Enterprise Club helped to make her plans and ideas into a reality!
Want to enter #IAmEnterprising?
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And check out Enterprise Club
And check out Enterprise Club