Baking up a name for herself

 
Kathleen Brooks
SHE’S been called the “Bentley” of cakes by Gordon Ramsay and was in the kitchen of her flat when she received the orders to make wedding cakes for Madonna and Pierce Brosnan. Mich Turner has spent the last decade building the Little Venice Cake Company (LVCC) that is now a by-word for luxury.

She partly credits her success with her time as a pastry buyer for Knightsbridge department store Harvey Nichols where she worked from 1996: “This is where I learned how far a brand can take you. Once you describe yourself as premium, the bar is raised.” It was the day of the 1999 total eclipse that Turner decided to go out on her own: “As the lights went off, the light went on for me,” she says from her Buckinghamshire home where she lives with her husband and two young sons.

It takes a long time to become an overnight success and after 10 years LVCC is on the cusp of becoming a household name. Turner recently signed licence deals with both Tesco and Sainsbury’s and has designed a range of baking equipment that will be on sale from February next year. “It’s not enough to make cakes every day. You have to have the passion to drive the business forward,” she says.

Her proudest moment was when she was informed she was awarded an MBE, which she will collect from the Queen (for whom she has also made cakes) on 25 November.

Turner’s artistic flair has changed the wedding cake from a rather-sad looking thing pushed into a corner at a reception, to a lavish creation that takes centre stage. But her business acumen has also helped LVCC to flourish. She has always been cautious about funding the business; it has no debt and is owned 100 per cent by Turner.

“When I came out of university I had an overdraft of £1,500, after I cleared that I said I would never get into debt ever again.” LVCC averages about 15 bespoke orders a week. But it’s not a cheap business to run: “We need to make £40,000 a month just to stand still,” Turner says.

LVCC won the coveted Walpole Brand of Tomorrow in 2009. This offers luxury companies with turnover of less than £2m per year advice on how to grow the business. One change LVCC’s Walpole mentors suggested was to scrap its online service. “People just don’t like to buy luxury food online,” says Turner.

Turner could talk about her business all day and its success is all down to her hard work. She gets up at 4.50am, has breakfast with her children, and drives them to school before heading into her Marylebone office for 9am. Building a successful brand has had its sacrifices. But she understands what it takes: “We don’t spend our weekends socialising with friends and we’ve probably missed out on some of the holidays that other people would take, but I have no regrets. We have this business that we have built, it wasn’t a family business, we did it by ourselves.”

CV | MICH TURNER

Age: 40
Lives: Buckinghamshire
Studied: University of Surrey, BSc in food science and nutrition
Car you drive: Land Rover Reading: The Girl With The Dragoon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
Favourite cake: “The Queen Elizabeth date cake. I made it for the Queen’s birthday.”