Profile: Apples Cookery School

A cookery class with franchising in mind
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The Independent Online

Apples Cookery School launched in July 2003 (www.applescookery.co.uk; 01295 750720).

Ruth Tuthill, 29, has a degree in food science and nutrition and a postgraduate certificate in education. While working as a teacher she became aware of childrens' eating problems.

Others, most-notably Jamie Oliver, brought this issue to the nation's consciousness. But Tuthill's reaction was different: the farmer's daughter decided that "children need to learn how to cook with nutritious ingredients".

Within two weeks the entrepreneur had handed in her notice. But she did her homework, including a three-day Business Link course on starting a business and a cookery course. Armed with market research and a sound business plan, Tuthill then hit her first hurdle: a lack of suitable local premises. "We looked everywhere," she says, "but the search proved a real challenge." Undeterred, she opted to convert an existing building among other family businesses.

Apples Cookery School opened its doors in July 2003 with courses aimed at five- to nine-year-olds, and 10- to 16-year-olds. These were offered during school holidays and as after-school clubs. Her approach was to combine cookery with an understanding of fresh produce. Each class gets to harvest produce from the school's kitchen garden. "The children love picking vegetables and herbs," explains Tuthill, "and they also enjoy planting new crops."

This approach has proved very popular and Tuthill now offers birthday parties and other themed events. But her commitment to the welfare of children hasn't been compromised by the need to run a successful business. She now works with Dr Catherine Dendy, a clinical psychologist with expertise in childrens' eating disorders.

As her business has grown, so has her family - she now has a young daughter and another child on the way. But asked whether this business growth can continue, in the face of competing demands, her response is typically entrepreneurial. "I plan to spend less time in the classroom," she says, "and launch the business model as a franchise."

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