Rachel Parker will launch The Frangipane Bakery after being announced as a Young Innovator Award winner last week.
The 29-year-old’s drive to set up a specialist, gluten-free patisserie with an employability programme to combat the disability work gap had all the right ingredients to impress judges at Innovate UK.
As part of the coveted award, she will receive a £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance to cover living costs.
"I was really excited when I found out,” said a delighted Rachel.
"I was convinced by somebody else to apply. I only submitted the application to get feedback on the idea from the judges – I wasn’t expecting to win.”
Now Rachel will divide her time studying at the Open University, and working with her business mentors to develop the social enterprise.
The Environmental Science student is hoping to open the bakery in Eyemouth later this year offering artisan, gluten-free products.
"I was quite unwell when I was at school, and the doctor said that to get better I would need to follow a strictly gluten free diet for the rest of my life,” Rachel explained.
“At the time the products available were not very pleasant. I had always enjoyed baking – I’d make scones with my granny and Victoria sponge cake with my mum. But it was a big push to start baking and cooking more food myself.”
It was a trip to Paris in 2014 that inspired Rachel to take it further.
“I’d read about this gluten-free patisserie there, which was like gold dust,” she said.
“When we arrived it looked totally normal, like all the other ones we’d seen all week with a display cabinet of colourful, exciting looking cakes in the window.
“We went in quite hesitantly and asked what was gluten free. The answer was everything.
"I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t used to having a choice of things to eat that looked so good. I want to share that feeling of overwhelming joy with as many people as possible.”
Inspired by her own life experiences following an autism diagnosis at the age of 25, Rachel’s bakery will run an employability programme.
"I discovered some really quite shocking statistics about the disability employment gap and it is something that needs to be changed,” she said.
"I do not believe that people with disabilities or who are autistic cannot do these jobs. We need people to be more accepting.
“It’s about harnessing and utilising those unique skills, and changing the perceptions of other employers.”
The Young Innovators Awards recognise 18 to 30 year-olds from across the UK with great business ideas who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs.
Rachel was one of 63 winning applicants in this year’s awards, with just six of the winners based in Scotland.
"I hope that this will inspire others to apply,” Rachel added. “I only applied because somebody I was volunteering with convinced me too.
“If you’ve got an idea, go for it. Somebody that is reading this now could be a winner next year.”
Commenting following last week’s winners announcement, Iain Stewart, UK Government Minister for Scotland, said: “From Aberdeen to Eyemouth, the innovation these young Scots have shown in developing their business projects is inspiring. Their ideas not only have great potential for growth, but could also improve lives and help build a more sustainable future.
“These UK Government-funded grants, combined with business coaching, will really help take these projects to the next level, and I look forward to seeing them progress."