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Case Study: Turning loss into legacy

The night before Elaine Rémy’s first meeting with a New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) mentor, she had a “flash of inspiration” about an idea to start her own business. Elaine’s mum passed away in 2018, she took the recipe her mum used to make rum cakes and created a business around that, to turn her loss into legacy, and Vie’s Jamaican Rum Cakes formed.

Prior to starting her business, Elaine lived in France for over 20 years, and was a trainer, then later a coach, mainly for international companies.

Elaine offers 3 types of rum cakes; Rummy with 35% rum, Rummier with 40% rum and Rummiest, which was her mum’s original recipe, with 63% rum. There are gluten free options and more recently a local rum range available. Ginger Bakers make the rum cakes from the original recipe and are validated by Elaine. She also packages them as she felt strongly about using eco-friendly, biodegradable wrapping.

She heard about Cumbria Business Growth Hub after her initial NEA meeting. The NEA scheme is a business support programme offered through Department of Work and Pensions and aims to help those claiming certain unemployment benefits to become self-employed.

Following on from this, she signed up to Cumbria Business Growth Hub’s Business Start Up Support (BSUS) scheme, which offers free support through one-to-one meetings with a business adviser, a three-day course covering business basics, training, help with a business plan and membership to Cumbria Chamber of Commerce.

Talking about the three-day workshop, she said: “the thing I’ve most put into practice is accounting, they made it really accessible. We also worked on our sales pitch which was helpful.

“I wrote to the Chamber saying, ‘I’m struggling’, can you please find me someone that can help me in the food industry.” In March of this year, Elaine was pointed in the direction of Adrian Luckham, one of the Growth Hub advisers.

“There was too much going on at the same time and I was struggling for support.” As well as advice, Adrian helped with her business plan which had been pushed aside after the initial launch a year ago.

With Adrian’s connections, he also introduced Elaine to The Cartmel Spirit Co. She has now created a cake with their rum, as well as a limited edition rum cake with Jefferson’s 1785 Extra Fine Dark Rum of Whitehaven, and a cake with Whitehaven Spiced Rum from Richardson’s of Whitehaven. “He’s made me money through his ideas, and everything has picked up.”

Elaine has 2 sponsors in the form of holiday homes in which Vie’s Jamaican Rum Cakes are supplied. She is currently looking for stockists in the Midlands and down South. With family all around the world, Elaine is thinking global for her business, wanting to “conquer the hearts of Cumbrian’s first of all.”

Not only on a business journey, but an educative one too. She holds the values of remember, honour and celebrate at the centre of her work, not only her mum, but the slaves who powered and built the rum industry.

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The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Sellafield Ltd., Carlisle City Council, South Lakeland District Council, Penrith Industrial BID and  Cumbria LEP.  The Growth Hub is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The BSUS project is receiving up to £1,112,686 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.