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Meet the Bakery Team - Founder Mariella Heyn

Published on 29/03/2022

2022 sees 10 years of Skinny Bakery and in the month celebrating International Women’s Day, we wanted to bring you a very special interview with Skinny Bakery founder and cake enthusiast Mariella Heyn.

Mariella launched Skinny Bakery from her mother’s kitchen back in 2012 with a desire to create treats and bakes to be regularly enjoyed by all regardless of their dietary requirements or nutritional needs. From there the business has grown and grown, having moved premises twice to accommodate a bigger team and larger kitchens.

From the original flavours that Mariella started with, over the 10 year period, the menu has grown to see more than 80 flavours tested and sent out to Skinny Bakery’s loyal customer base. From limited editions such as Pink Champagne Pearls (featuring real edible gold leaf) to new staple flavours such as Made Without Gluten Raspberry and Coconut Pearls, this decade has seen a wealth of bakery innovation.

Read on to learn more about Skinny Bakery creator Mariella and what inspired her mission to shake up the baking scene.

  • What first inspired you to start baking low-calorie cakes and where did the baking first start?

I’ve been baking since I was about 12. I love the science behind it, experimenting with different ingredients, especially those you wouldn’t expect to find in a cake. I love seeing the cakes rise in the oven – weird, I know!

 

I didn’t want to just have cakes as an occasional treat, so although I enjoy baking all kinds of cakes, biscuits and so on for occasions, I started to make healthier treats as something to enjoy more regularly.

  • What was the hardest part and the most enjoyable bit of setting out to run your own business?

The hardest part was not giving up when I hit stumbling blocks along the way and couldn’t see a way forward at times. It’s hard starting a small business. At the beginning, I did everything from baking, to sales, social media, VAT returns, hiring, I wasn’t good at all these things. When I started the business 10 years ago, I was just 24 so I didn’t have a lot of experience and I had to learn how to do these things myself. It’s much easier now having a great team around me 🙂

 

The most enjoyable part of running your own company for me is the people you meet along the way. I’m a social person and starting a company I needed a lot of support, so found myself meeting so many people in the process. From accountants to buyers, plumbers and neighbours, having a business involves meeting a lot of people to help build my dream.

  • You have worked with some incredible companies since Skinny Bakery was established in 2013, from Vivienne Westwood to Adidas. What have been the highlights of working with these businesses?

It’s been a huge honour to work with such big names. One of my favourite collaborations was with a Belgian company called T-Sugars. They wanted me to develop a range of recipes with reduced sugar in them. It was great fun putting forward my ideas and they were happy for me to do my thing – we had cakes with aubergine in them. I also loved working with Women’s Health magazine who approached me to do a range of festive traybakes for a feature of theirs – we had baklava, tiramisu and even Skinny Christmas cake!

  • With such a busy company to run what do you do to relax?

I like to get outdoors with my husband and daughter to switch my mind off work. It’s so important for me to have a change of scenery to take my mind off something. I’ve recently moved to Buckinghamshire where there are so many beautiful walks. My daughter is 1 year old and fascinated by nature, it’s so much fun seeing the world through her eyes.

  • Do you have any role models or people that have inspired you in or outside the culinary world?

A lot of the women in my family have their own business, from interior design to music, medical, another bakery, wellness and Pilates – I joke that we’re simply unemployable! In all seriousness, I’m lucky to have a lot of close female role models who made it “normal” for me to pursue my passion and turn it into a business.

 

  • What was the first flavour Pearl you developed and why?

The first Pearl was the chocolate one. It was actually the frosting that I made first and then the sponge casing followed, bizarrely. Even if I do say so myself, our frosting is so delicious I could happily eat it on its own with a spoon. Chocolate is one of those tastes where nothing else will do if you’re really craving it. I wanted our Chocolate Pearls to be rich and decadent despite being made with almost 50% low fat dairy and tofu. I used Callebaut chocolate and their range of cocoa which has a rich, intense flavour. We still use the exact same Belgian chocolate today.

  • Do you have any advice for women like yourself looking to set up their own business?

I would say be original and don’t worry too much about what other people are thinking and doing. In today’s society, it’s so easy to constantly compare yourself to others and then end up feeling inadequate, change track or give up. It’s a bit like when you’re driving and someone is tailgating you. If you keep looking in your rear-view mirror at other people, it can be distracting and super dangerous. I think it’s important to pick a passion, put your head down and just do what you believe in. When I started Skinny Bakery in 2012 healthy cakes were not commonly available, nor was food via mail order. If you believe in something that you would buy yourself and you even have a handful of really happy customers, you’re probably onto a winner – don’t give up!

  • Finally what is on the horizon for Skinny Bakery in the coming years?

We have an exciting new product range in development which is not a cake of itself but related to home baking. I would also love to do a recipe book one day – watch this space!

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