A talented jewellery-designer-turned-cake-maker is bringing a little sparkle to her Northumberland home town in time for Christmas with the help of a five-figure investment from the North East Small Loan Fund Supported by The European Regional Development Fund.
Autumn Rabbitts has been running a bespoke cake-making business from her home in Alnwick for the last seven years, creating luxury wedding cakes and other celebration cakes under the Plumb & Rabbitts brand for clients across and outside the North East.
Having often thought of owning her own bakery, and having been inspired by the magical associations of nearby Alnwick Castle, Autumn has now opened Sweet Solstice on Bondgate Within in the town centre, which offers a range of home-made pastries, patisseries and traditional British cakes.
Autumn worked with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to secure the £24,500 Small Loan Fund investment needed for the project, which has been used to furnish the new bakery, bring in the equipment needed to make the cakes and support a marketing drive around the opening.
Four new jobs have been created at the bakery, which has a magical theme to both its décor and its product range, while Autumn will also continue to create celebration cakes under the Plumb & Rabbitts brand.
The business was introduced to NEL by Jonpaul Heron of Advance Northumberland.
Autumn Rabbitts holds a degree in Jewellery Design from Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design, as well as a Master’s degree from the Royal College of Art in Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery.
She says: “I’ve loved baking ever since I was a child, and when I was working towards my Master’s degree, I could see how the skills I was learning could be applied to icing and sugar work in cake baking too.
“Plumb & Rabbitts has grown through a combination of word of mouth and our social media presence, and has become a successful business in its own right, but I’ve always felt there was a gap in the market here for something which reflected some of the sparkle that Alnwick has gained from its film and historical connections.
“We imagined Sweet Solstice as the sort of bakery into which characters from JK Rowling’s books might step and will be carrying on with the magical theme, with new cakes being created every week that will each come with their own spells written on pieces of parchment.
“Being in the shadow of the castle is certainly helping to create the right kind of atmosphere and we’ve had a great response from both local people and visitors to the town in our first few days.
“Working with the NEL team was a very straightforward process and their investment has enabled us to put all the plans we had in place for Sweet Solstice into action in time for the most magical time of the year.”
Abigail Cook, investment associate at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “Autumn has paired her baking and design skills in a truly unique way to build one successful business and it’s exciting to be part of her plans to create another one.”
Part of the £120m North East Fund and aimed predominantly at smaller SMEs, the £9m North East Small Loan Fund typically offers loans of between £10,000 and £100,000 to businesses in Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland.
It is designed to assist with the creation of over 1,200 new regional jobs in more than 320 SMEs over the life of the fund.
The overarching £120m North East Fund will provide financial support for more than 600 businesses, creating around 3,500 jobs and delivering a legacy of up to £80m for further investment into the region.