Name: Catherine Lawson.

Age: 49.

What is your business called?

Barefaced Food.

Where is it based?


What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We’re a vegetarian and plant-based bakery and coffee house with a focus on fresh, sustainable and nutritious food. We produce artisan plant-based cakes, breakfasts, brunches and lunches which we serve in-house and deliver to homes and workplaces. We also provide catering services for private and corporate events, specialising in grazing boxes and gourmet salad bars, and we host workshops to introduce people to the world of plant-based food.

To whom does it sell?

Vegans and non-vegans alike, customers interested in exploring plant-based food, coffee connoisseurs, those interested in their personal health and the environment and all-round foodies who enjoy the independent café culture.

What is its turnover?

Just about covering our costs….

How many employees?


When was it formed?

I started as a sole-trader in January 2020 and switched to a limited business when we took on premises in April 2021.

Why did you take the plunge?

I burned out of my teaching career and decided that with at least another 10-15 years of work life left in me it was time to do something I felt passionate about and that was always going to involve food. I’d done different things in the past relating to food; patisserie courses, cooking competitions, catering and cake making ‘on the side,’ food writing and food photography. It was only a matter of time…

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I taught for 25 years, initially as a secondary English teacher but for the most part working with young people who had additional support needs and challenging life circumstances. It was a job I loved but in the end I lost faith in the education and wider social care system and knew that it was time to do something different.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I started out making Buddha bowls in my kitchen at home so initial outlays were minimal. A small local authority ‘ambition’ grant helped me buy the equipment and food packaging I needed to get going. I lived off savings and tightened my belt.

What was your biggest break?

Having just started when Covid hit I worried that the business would end before it really began. However, lockdown launched us in many ways – people became more health conscious and there was a demand for nutritious food to be delivered direct to peoples’ homes. I quickly outgrew my kitchen and in May 2020 Bill Costley from Costley and Costley Hotels in Ayrshire (who I’d met when I reviewed his patisserie in Prestwick for a ‘cake critic’ reviews in The Herald) offered me kitchen space which was sitting unused due to lockdown and which he shared with us for over a year. His support and generosity enabled us to grow, build a team, develop our product range, create our brand and eventually take on our own premises.

What was your worst moment?

I’ve had several very difficult personal situations since I started the business but March this year was the real low point for us. I lost my Mum and that was a very traumatic time. It brought home to me just how fragile the situation can be for a start-up in terms of the impact of a closure – even a few days can mean the loss of momentum and income which you have to work hard to recover. We’d only been back open after our bereavement for a week when myself, my son Rory and his partner Denise (the core Barefaced team) all went down with Covid which meant another closure. It was a very worrying time.

HeraldScotland: Catherine Lawson of Barefaced Food, centre, with her son Rory and his partner Denise, who help her run the businessCatherine Lawson of Barefaced Food, centre, with her son Rory and his partner Denise, who help her run the business

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I get to do what I love most – I bake, I cook, I make it all look pretty and then I feed people. Nothing brings greater pleasure than seeing someone enjoy something you’ve made. I also have the privilege of working with my son and his partner. They bring so much joy and energy to the business.

What do you least enjoy?

I’m not a natural risk taker so the lack of certainty (particularly in terms of finances) isn’t something I particularly enjoy.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

Like most other small independent businesses survival is the number one aim right now. Between Covid, inflation, the hike in fuel and food costs and the impact of Brexit on the workforce, overcoming the external challenges is critical. Fortunately the shift towards plant-based food is huge right now and given the wealth of research around the impact we can have on our personal and planetary health by reducing meat consumption it’s only going to get bigger. Our aim has always been to showcase the best of the plant world through our food and our workshops; to surprise people with the range of colours, flavours, textures and fragrances you can find in food without meat. Looking ahead we’ll be extending our products and services beyond Ayr and continuing to build the Barefaced Brand.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Build a network around you.

How do you relax?

Depending on my energy levels I either sleep, stroll along the beach with a coffee or head to the dojo for karate training.