Camilla Stephens is Founder and Chief Pie Maker of Higgidy. She lives in West Sussex with her husband James and their two children, Kate and Jack. In 2003, after developing the food range for the Seattle Coffee Company and Starbucks, Camilla set up Higgidy, making handmade pies with a home-cooking philosophy and kitchen cupboard ingredients – values which continue to guide the business and her recipes today. We find out how she got started.
What inspired you to give up a successful career and start your own business?
In 2001 I was freelancing and the opportunity came up to develop some pie recipes. I realised that the pie category was a particularly neglected area in the supermarkets, and having seen brands like Innocent, Green and Blacks and Kettle Chips emerge, felt there could be a market for high-quality pies.
Is there anything that gave you the confidence from the start that Higgidy would succeed?
Making things ourselves. We’ve benefitted so much from learning and deciding how everything is made – it’s given us the control to work to our own values: using ingredients like you’d use in your kitchen at home, taking the time to cook things as they should be cooked, and keeping as much as possible handmade.
What have been your biggest challenges? How did you overcome these?
I think one of the biggest challenges for a small food producer is to move from a cottage industry/farmers market scale to supplying the supermarkets. It takes risk, it takes huge levels of investment before you see any sort of return and there are no guarantees that the supermarkets will get behind you. We asked lots of people for advice – we found it so helpful and discovered that people love giving it! We have tended to go to people ‘older and wiser’, and every conversation has provided us with a learning.
How do you juggle your business and family?
Friends and family say that I am super organised. I love lists, I’m good at time management and I’m not afraid of delegating; all of these things help.
What’s next for Higgidy?
We love our Sussex home and have just invested in a new bigger kitchen so we can stay here, growing sustainably and finding new things to make. We are always looking for unloved things to bring back or new things to try. When we started making quiches, there were people who said they would never work – it is so satisfying now to hear our customers saying ‘I don’t usually like quiche, but I like yours’.
What advice would you offer to other woman thinking of going into business?
Be wholeheartedly determined and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
Why did you decide to write a cookery book?
From a very young age I loved to cook, and late at night I would secretly read cookbooks by torchlight under my duvet covers. I never dreamed I’d get the opportunity to write one of my own so, when the opportunity came up to celebrate ten years of Higgidy by doing so, it just seemed like the right time.
Love Higgidy pies? Learn to make your own! Camilla has recently published The Higgidy Cookbook – 100 recipes for pies and more.