My Inspiration: Suzanne Livingstone
Suzanne Livingstone and her husband Keith run Baked in Belfast. Their range of jams and relishes recently got the thumbs up from Dragons Den star Theo Paphitis on Twitter
Working for some of the top small businesses in Northern Ireland and seeing how people had built a successful business from a small start gave me the inspiration to set up my own small cottage industry.
A love of good food inspired me to try some form of catering and my business training and experience told me that people need to eat, like to eat, want to eat. The need to pay the mortgage inspired me to try and make some money out of it.
On a larger scale, I particularly admire Jo Malone, Anita Roddick, Emma Bridgewater and Josephine Fairley, founder of Green & Blacks, who took a product they believed in and turned it into a global brand.
With Baked in Belfast — which includes a tearoom and pottery called Shop Around the Corner on Orby Drive in east Belfast — we have a product we believe in: each of our marmalades, jams and relishes (under the name Shazzam) are made by hand. I devise all the recipes myself and they are thoroughly tested with sampling at shows — and by our trusty band of testers — before reaching our website and our growing number of retailers.
We use traditional methods, which we believe give the best results in terms of taste and quality and only natural ingredients go into our pots.
We believe in our product, we believe in the processes used to make it and we hope to make it a national brand. In running this small business, we have found a huge amount of creativity is needed to come up with new ideas and recipes to rise ahead of the competition.
Supermarket and deli shelves are stacked high with jams and chutneys, so we find it important to stand out from the crowd with interesting flavours, like our Gin & Tonic marmalade, Smashing Pumpkin chutney or our new range of Savoury marmalades.
Inspiration for our new flavours comes in any form, from any place and at any time.
Customers will also provide us with inspiration from time to time, asking if we could make something specific, and this is how our Belfast Relish came about. Asked to make something specific to Belfast, we came up with the idea of using ingredients my grandfather had grown in his city allotments and garden, so apples, tomatoes, onions, plums and garlic were combined with a little chilli — he never grew chilli but we guessed he wouldn’t mind a bit of poetic licence.
And the Belfast Relish inspired the Belfast Gift Packs, which are boxed with a Harland & Wolff cranes bowl, or a Titanic or John Kindness bowl — all of which I handpaint.
We are a small company and have grown our business slowly. We have also benefited from the support of Invest NI and programmes such as Design Development, which helped us create our eye-catching labels and logo.