AT just 19, Flora Shedden became the youngest contestant to reach the semifinals in The Great British Bake-Off [GBBO].

At 21 her debut cookbook ‘Gatherings’ was published, and in the same year she opened her Perthshire based artisan bakery ‘Aran’. And just last year, ‘ARAN’, her second book was published.

Now aged 24, Ms Shedden has opened a second store in the historic village of Dunkeld, just across the street from Aran. And there’s also talks of another book on the way inspired by the new endeavour.

Selling store cupboard goods and fresh produce, ‘Lon’ opened in July despite the economic setback of lockdown. What some may view as an ambitious venture – particularly in the current climate – Ms Shedden simply describes as a lifestyle choice.

When asked if she considers herself business orientated, the young entrepreneur laughs: “I am so terrible businesswise. I’ve had to learn on the cuff with everything that I’ve done…I’m more social than I am business minded – I think that’s been a help and a hindrance.”

Business savvy or not, Ms Shedden has amassed a recognisable brand in each of her ventures. Blending a signature style of white minimalist aesthetics, her bakery goods and recipe books have helped attract a sizable generation of supporters, particularly online (she has over 43.8k followers on Instagram).

Aran – the Gaelic term for bread – is a micro bakery offering Ms Shedden’s trademark homemade croissants, cakes, pastries, and sourdough breads and focaccias. Queues down the street are common at Aran, and the bakery often sells out of products before 3pm.

After sampling the bright lights of London, a stint hosting a food programme on BBC Radio Scotland, and writing a regular food column, Ms Shedden soon missed the comfort of home.

“A lot of what I was doing was cooking food, but it would just be for a photo or for recipe testing and I missed being able to cook for actual people,” explains Ms Shedden.

“So, it made sense that I would do it at home where I knew everybody rather than trying to set up somewhere where I wasn’t sure of the community.”

Fortunately, ‘home’ was the historic Perthshire village of Dunkeld. Over the last five years, the small town has gained notoriety for its quality of independent establishments. As a result, a steady stream of tourists continue to flock to Dunkeld, many currently making Aran Bakery the first stop on their staycation road trip. A factor, Ms Shedden admits, is both a benefit and a disadvantage for business.

 She says, “There isn’t a huge amount of choice [in Dunkeld] in terms of coffee shops and bakeries so that definitely plays to our advantage. It is really tricky in terms of seasonality; we really notice it’s much quieter in winter which you wouldn’t get so much in a bigger city. And also getting produce from suppliers can be more difficult… a lot of people don’t want to deliver or stock this far north which can make the range of choice limited.”

After buying the bakery in 2016, the historic building required a complete refurbishment. A successful crowdfunding campaign raised £10,000. These funds paired with grants from the SSE windfarm community fund, a bank loan, and proceeds from her first book, made Aran bakery a reality.

Equipped with a team of nine, the local staff members work in the bakery, Lon store, and the production kitchen situated in the industrial park in nearby Birnam. Before lockdown Aran would, on average, take in 200 transactions a day.

With steady revenue Shedden set up her new business ‘Lon’ in July. “We spent a lot of time discussing if we wanted to proceed with the shop and open it as we were sort of halfway there with it,” she admits.

“We had to decide: do we spend more money on this? Or do we cut our loses? We muddled through it. It wasn’t what I’d initially planned but we’re adding as we go and learning on the job.”

Inspired by Lon, Ms Shedden’s latest project will be starting her third cookbook, which focuses on cooking seasonally with store cupboard goods. To help curb the effects on revenue since the pandemic, Aran and Lon are currently only open Wednesdays to Saturdays, and no additional summer staff have been recruited this year.

Despite her expanding brand of micro stores and popular cookbooks, Ms Shedden is a firm believer in quality over quantity when it comes to adopting a business model.

“I have that really lovely personality trait of being a complete control freak,” she laughs.

“I think a lot of the time you can really lose sight of what you’re trying to do or trying to create as you get bigger.”

“I don’t see the bakery as something I would like to do forever. We’re going to do it for as long as we enjoy it, and as long as other people enjoy it. I suppose it’s more about the lifestyle, rather than a mindset of what to do next. I just spend most of my time trying to make it as good as it can be, and there’s a long way to go yet. It’s never going to make me millions, but I get to see and talk to nice people every day.”