To most 24-year-olds in the fledgling stages of their business career, the idea of running a company with two dozen staff members might sound like an ambitious aspiration for the future. But for Rebecca Henderson, it’s reality.

The Strathaven native is at the helm of Cakes By Rebecca, a bakery wholesale business that has grown dramatically to supply more than 120 stockists across Scotland, including convenience stores, coffee shops and garage forecourts.

But where did it all begin? Forget recipes handed down through generations; Rebecca’s love of baking was instead inspired by a teenage infatuation with the American reality TV show ‘Cake Boss’, which chronicles the ups and downs of running a bakery in New Jersey.

“I would run home from school every day to watch it – I was obsessed. And then for my 18th birthday I got given a set of cupcake lessons and it just started from there. I made myself a Facebook page and I started making a few cakes, just for people I knew. 

“My dad has a butchers in Hamilton, so I started putting some of my cakes on sale in his deli, then a shop in Larkhall got in touch to say that they had seen my cakes and asked if I could supply them as well. One thing led to another and that was it.”

Rebecca initially began baking from home in her family kitchen. But as her business grew, by age 19 it became apparent that she would need to expand into a commercial kitchen premises. 

“I was studying at the time, in my second year of doing Hospitality Business Management. But I was also already supplying a few convenience stores, so I was working every hour under the sun trying to keep up with everything.”

Eventually, Cakes by Rebecca grew a portfolio of 42 different products, ranging from individual cake slices to cupcakes, traybakes and cheesecake pots. And although she admits that she now spends most of her time answering the phone – rather than baking – every few weeks Rebecca takes the opportunity to imagine up new limited-edition cakes.

“I just love creating things,” she says. “And I’ve found that the limited-edition cakes do really well on social media, both on the Cakes by Rebecca Facebook page and the Facebook accounts of my individual stockists.”

In a truly 21st-century business model, Rebecca admits that she has grown awareness of her brand through social media and word of mouth alone, never once investing in formal advertising. 

Her products – with decadent decorations and colourful icing- certainly appeal to the ‘Instagram generation’ of younger shoppers, and, as a young woman herself, she understands better than most businesses what millennials are looking for.

But even as a relative youngster, Rebecca has already learned the value of preserving her brand. She packages her products in custom-made ‘Cakes by Rebecca’ boxes, to ensure a consistent level of quality while raising awareness of her company. 

“I’ve found pre-packaged cakes to be a bit of a bulletproof system: you’ve got the best before date on it, all the ingredients are on it, and its sealed to preserve the quality. Whereas, if you supply a store with a full cake, it might be left lying out, then if a customer has a slice they might find it to be dry – even though that wasn’t our fault.”

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. When lockdown was announced in March, Rebecca felt that, as a non-essential business, it was wrong to tell her staff to come into work. Instead she furloughed all 23 of them.

“Sometimes it can be overwhelming as a business owner. Especially at the start of lockdown when everyone was looking at me for answers that I couldn’t give them. I was closed for about five weeks, but my stockists were phoning me non-stop asking when I was going to be baking again.

“When we did re-open we split the shifts, so some people started at 4am and some didn’t start until 4pm. But the staff have all been brilliant. They all respect the work that I’ve put in.

“At the start, people perhaps didn’t expect me to be the ‘Rebecca’ behind ‘Cakes by Rebecca’, especially because I have a bit of a baby face. But now that the company is bigger I am much more confident.”