Skip to main content

Hospitality student shares her business start-up story

International Hospitality Management student Amelia Sutton has turned her final year coursework into a fully-fledged business in the midst of the pandemic.

Not only did her bespoke cupcake company win her first place in the Dragon’s Den competition, but she also completed her year with a first-class degree. 

The Vintage Baker allows customers to create a cupcake with their own choice of cake, filling and topping. Although currently only test-trading whilst working full time, Amelia plans to expand into event catering in the future. Keep an eye out for her build-a-cake experience at food markets and special occasions in the near future.

Amelia and other students from the school of Management on courses in subject areas of Tourism, Hospitality and Events were introduced to Propeller as part of an enterprise module offered to final year students. Students are provided a range of employment advice and many students find themselves entering an industry with high self-employment rates. As such, Propeller works alongside the course to offer various workshops including idea generation, pitching practice, financial knowledge and business plan writing.

Propeller helped Amelia to check the viability of her business idea, understand business finances, write a business plan and present her business to others. She also visited Propeller outside of the classroom, since she decided to develop the project into a registered business venture.

"I had already had my business idea for a while. Hearing the business mentors talk about their own experiences made me realise that I wasn’t alone. Everyone seems to find it difficult at first and having this support on offer really helped me to feel confident enough to give it a go."

Amelia Sutton, The Vintage Baker
Amelia Sutton, The Vintage Baker
Amelia Sutton, The Vintage Baker

The Dragon’s Den experience is a fun challenge offered by the course in order to practice pitching. As part of the enterprise module, students must write an assessed business plan. Lecturers introduced the experience to provide feedback during the development of these plans.

“The pitch was voluntary, but we were all advised to do it. Everyone in previous years went on to write great business plans, recognise areas for improvement and gain valuable experience. I think everyone should do it; it was very helpful. We hadn’t really done individual presentations before final year; so it has given me a lot more confidence with job interviews and presenting at work too.”

It was thanks to the Dragon’s Den challenge that The Vintage Baker really came to life. In order to create a full experience, Amelia dressed in her vintage apron and set up her cake-making station with various options.

“The judging panel was visibly excited before I even started pitching! I was able to express my brand, ethos, pricing and goals before giving each of the panels an example. Each chose one of my ‘baker’s choice’ pre-made cupcakes, but could also see how the build-your-own performance stand would work.”

Amelia is working full-time and works on her business on her days off. Whilst setting up the website for orders she has also trialled different packaging methods and began to refine her brand. Yet, even the trial and error stage has had unexpected outcomes! Testing different packages have led Amelia to develop her product range so as not to waste resources, providing ideas for development further down the line.

Once the packaging is refined, Amelia intends to launch the website officially and start promoting the business. Like many companies, she will start alongside her full-time job but hopes to develop the company into something she can work on full-time.

“I’ve found a lot of skills cross over from my course to the business, particularly with organisation and time management. Working full time, completing my studies and trying to run a business on the side, I’ve had to learn how to shut off ‘business brain’ from ‘work brain’. The thing that usually slips is self-care, so it’s important to fit that in there too!”

Once the website is officially launched, Amelia will turn her efforts towards events. She is really interested in getting to the point where she can create a unique event experience. As such, the next step will involve participating in food markets and expanding to cater for events such as weddings.

Related links