A scientist turned teacake-maker has become a sweet sensation after being crowned winner of a challenge to find Tyneside's next big entrepreneur.
Durham University chemist Casey Lam swapped her white coat for an apron to promote her new business TopHat Teacakes through The Journal’s If We Can You Can Challenge 2013, run by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.
The 27-year-old, of Gateshead, came up with the idea after entering a Gingerbread House competition. After winning a prize in the contest, she got a taste for baking.
Lam will be presented with her prize of up to £17,000-worth of investment, mentoring and practical help from sponsors Yorkshire Bank, Ward Hadaway, Onyx Group, PwC and Rivers Capital at the Forum’s Awards Dinner at the Hilton NewcastleGateshead Hotel on September 20.
She said: “Ideally I’d like to combine my passion for baking with my scientific knowledge and possibly become a food scientist.
“I’m really excited after winning and my friends and family are too. It was a big decision to change direction, but I always said that after I retired I’d like to set up my own tea shop!”
Lam launched TopHat Teacakes using research skills she’d learned at university to come up with a range that uses the best of British organic products, including free-range eggs, and Fairtrade sugar.
With the likes of Costa launching a teacake this year, Lam believes the treat could be the next big cake phenomenon and she is already attracting interest from investors to expand.
Now in its sixth year, If We Can You Can 2013 opened for entries in late Spring. A shortlist of five candidates were chosen from the dozens of entries and had to present their businesses to a panel of experts. The finalists – including AIM Dance Group and Mesma education software – went head to head in a public vote, with Lam being chosen as winner from a combination of Journal readers’ votes and the judges’ assessment.
Chairman of the panel Ian Smith, of Surreal Creative and IWCYC winner in 2009, said: “We were all very impressed by the three finalists, who were exceptional this year and are all leading really outstanding businesses.
“Casey stood out for us for having everything we wanted to see in an entrepreneur – passion, enthusiasm and energy, innovative products, a strong brand, a great understanding of their market place and a clear vision of how the business could grow.
“There is a lot of potential in TopHat Teacakes, and in all the finalists’ businesses. The Forum will be offering them as much support as they need to continue growing and to take their enterprises to the next level.”