Jen Perry - founder of pop-up tearoom, Room Forty
- Credit: NOT Archant
WE visit the award-winning baker from Warrington
When Jen Perry turns up with her Nissan Qashqai jam-packed with vintage china and delicious home-made cakes you know you're in for a fun time.
Jen is a tea lady with a difference. Her pop up tearoom Room Forty is a runaway success and as she reveals, it all really happened on a whim - and a prayer.
Based at her home in Warrington, the afternoon tea and baking business has propelled her into Good Taste Magazine's power list of the top 100 women in the food and drink industry.
Yet, until she was 40, her passion for creating pies and cakes amounted to reading cookery books in bed.
'I remember around 19 years ago, at my son's first birthday party, making some cakes and my husband, Jonathan, and his friend using them as missiles to throw at each other they were so awful,' recalls the mum-of-two who has Jordan, now 20 and Sophie, 11.
'But as I practiced more, I became more confident and it gradually became a passion. I've never made any big birthday-type cakes, instead I decided to concentrate more on smaller patisserie - well if you drop one, you've always got another one!'
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It was when she found herself unhappy in her council marketing job that Jen had the idea of setting up her own tearoom but after trawling around for premises decided to go mobile and create bespoke pop-ups instead. Now she caters for everything, from corporate events to funerals, and over the past three years the tearoom has won a number of awards including this year's Best Mobile Afternoon Tea & Baking Company at the Northern Enterprise Awards and Leading Northern Provider of Baking Workshops which are run by her friend Mitch Poole.
'There are a lot of people - my family included - who said I was nuts because there is no model for what I do,' she says.
'But I was determined. My advice is do it and if it doesn't work you've learnt from it.'
Besides this business is about more than just money.
'When I worked at the council nobody ever gave me a hug and now I get them all the time. I've even had a round of applause from people at the end of the afternoon. It is bloody hard work, but it is really rewarding.'