Baking-mad South Shields woman sets up mobile cake business in vintage van

An entrepreneur is proving a real ‘bake’ seat driver - after buying a van from which to sell her cakes and wares.

By Gareth Crickmer
Wednesday, 29 May, 2019, 14:43
Bessy's Sweet Bakes van at Sandhaven Beach. Owner Bethany Compton

Bethany Compton, 26, from South Shields, is on the road to success after making her business upwardly mobile by investing in a distinctive 1978 Citroen HY vehicle.

She is driving the motor – complete with roof-top solar panels to power her fridge - to venues across the North East to increase the popularity of her tasty homemade products.

To do so, the baby blue-coloured van has been specially adapted so goods can be hygienically stored and sold from a side sales hatch.

Her business, Bessy’s Sweet Bakes, launched last June and has already gained a strong reputation through online sales.

But Bethany hopes to expand by taking her refitted van, which also has tea and coffee making facilities, to venues to pitch her products directly at customers.

Bethany has already won a licence to sell at the town’s seafront, on a stretch between Sandhaven Beach and the Sanddancer pub.

Bessy's Sweet Bakes van at Sandhaven Beach. Owner Bethany Compton

Next month, she will drive her vehicle to the two-day Seaham Food Festival and the one-day Northumberland Live music event.

She said: “I used to go to a lot of food festivals and had seen horseboxes that had been converted.

“I liked the idea, but wanted to do something a bit different and which would stand out.

“I’d seen one other H van out and about, it really draws you in and get lots of attention.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“My van has been converted to have a fridge, tea urn, coffee machine – and even has solar power.”

Bethany added: “Baking and having my own businesses was pretty much always clear to me as the thing I wanted to do.

“When I left school, all I wanted to do was have my own shop, but I was too young and so I saved so that one day I could.”

Bethany, a former Harton Academy pupil, was inspired to bake by her late grandmother Betty Steadman.

As a child, she would watch Mrs Steadman cook at home with natural products, and accompany her on grocery shopping trips.

After leaving school, she gained a level 2 qualification in professional cookery and a level 3 in confectionery and patisserie.

While saving to launch her business, she undertook a two-year apprenticeship with South Shields-based bakers Akins.

And she also gained invaluable retail experience working in the Mason + Rye bakery, patisserie and cafe at Fenwick’s food hall, in Newcastle

Bethany cooks and prepares her products at home and her specialities include macarons, drip cakes, cake jars, cupcakes, brownies and stuffed cookies.

She operates at South Shields seafront during school holidays and when she gets free time from cooking and attending food festivals.

Her business also has expertise in creating food for weddings and other special occasions.

Bessy’s Sweet Bakes can be found on Facebook and Instagram.