Diana’s lecturer Stuart Fitzsimmons drops into Bhaile Craft Bakery in Ayr
Diana Parusheva, a former student on our bakery course, has followed her dreams and passion for bread and set up her own business; Bhaile Craft Bakery.
Pronounced B-à-l-æ, it means “My Village Bakery” in Gaelic. It’s an artisan bakery and coffee shop in Ayr (behind Aldi) and on 27 August a new shop was officially opened in Ayr Street in Troon. With their first year anniversary coming up in a couple of months since opening, the artisan bakery has been winning awards as well as winning the hearts of the locals.
How did it all start?
My love affair with bread began with a five-day bread-making course at Lesleys Kitchen Bread School in Muirkirk.
Lesley is a really passionate teacher, and her enthusiasm rubbed off and I was hooked. I started to experiment by making different products, and I took them into my daughters nursery and everyone just loved them. I was encouraged to take a stall at the local farmers market, and the demand for my bread just grew from here. The busier I became the more I realised that I could open up my own shop. I came to Ayrshire College and completed a one year bakery course. I learned new skills and learned to work in an industrial kitchen. My experience helped me to raise my aspirations even more, and when I left college I was ready to make my dream a reality.
Who are your customers?
My location in Ayr means that I don’t have passing trade, so customers have to seek me out – and they do! Most of my customers are from Alloway and they are very loyal. 50% come in every day and we’ve got to know their names. We are like a big family exchanging happy banter. Word of mouth is the way I am growing my business. Once people discover us and taste our products, they come back for more. Every day there is something new and we love surprising our customers with new ideas. Our products are great looking and they taste phenomenal. I love how proud my staff are of the products they bake. It’s my happy place, and it’s a great feeling to be part of such a creative team.
What makes your bread unique?
It’s made from scratch – just like my grandmother used to make. All that goes into my sourdough is flour, water and salt. Start with beautiful stoneground locally milled flour, add flaky sea salt and crisp Scottish water, mix until the dough comes together and then let nature and time take its course. About 40 hours later, we have a delicious loaf. There are no additives or chemicals, which means the bread is good for you. There is nothing else like it in Ayr.
Were you really inspired by your grandmother?
She didn’t teach me to bake, she was a science teacher and I spent a lot of my time growing up in the school. I learned about the importance of a work ethic and never giving up on your dreams. My daughter will be the same and will grow up around this business – it will help her to be more grounded. This business is everything to me, nothing else matters.
You have a good business brain – did you come from a family business background?
No, my parents were both doctors, so I come from quite an academic background. Running a business is all new to me, and I am learning something new every day. When I reflect on what I have done in the last year, it’s actually quite scary. But, I just get on with it. When you are doing something you love, time passes so quickly, you become energised and find you develop a “can do attitude!”
I received a little help from Business Gateway and got advice on setting up my premises. I am currently experiencing some challenges as the planning department are questioning the retail side to my business because I am based in a retail park. I have received so much support to keep us open, I employ 14 people and we have a successful business. There are so many reasons to keep going on this site. It is stressful waiting to hear the outcome.
I have designed and built my own website and I have enjoyed this side of my business too.
Where do get your ideas from?
I trained as an artist and photographer so I am a very creative person. I have nurtured and developed a fantastic team who just love to create something new and are constantly bouncing ideas off one another. We get inspiration from what’s seasonal, what’s trendy, magazine features, recipe books and the internet. We like to try new combinations and our customers love to try our samples. It’s important to always innovate.
I hear you really are a breadwinner!
Yes – In the last nine months we have achieved amazing success in regional and national competitions. We are winners of:
- Great Taste Award 2018 – for our French Sourdough
- Chamber of Commerce Most Entrepreneurial Business of the Year
We are finalists for:
Ayrshire Chamber Business Awards 2018
- Start up Business of the Year
- Ayrshire Food and Drink Award
Association of Scottish Businesswomen National Business Awards 2018
- Most Innovative Start-up of the Year Award
- Most Enterprising Business of the Year
What are the opportunities in your sector?
There are so many opportunities to help me develop my business. One option is to diversify into the wholesale market. However, I don’t want to do that, as it will dilute my product and I want to remain in control of my brand.
There are opportunities to enhance my products with bread making technology. I would like to learn more about how technology can help me develop my products in this niche market.
I am interested in exploring international markets so that I could sell my products in Europe. My bread has a European style with Scottish influences, so I believe there would be a market for us there. I am a member of the Scottish Bakers and we’ve made connections with members of the Department for International Trade to help us enter new markets.
Right now, my priority is opening a new shop in Troon. It’s a great location next to other artisan food shops, and I am excited to bring our new concept artisan bakery and coffee shop to our customers in the heart of Troon. On 1 September the Troon Art Club will be exhibiting their work in both bakeries. It’s a great opportunity to combine my love of baking with my passion for art.