Brother and sister duo Dale and Jodie Barbour have pushed themselves to make a success of their business, and as a result, have employed their first staff member – their mum.
Launching their business Breer Pie Co. in August last year, the pair never envisioned they would already be requiring the additional help, with demand for their artisan pies continuing to grow over the the past few months.
And it most certainly has been a family affair since the get go as their dad, Bruce, converted his beloved garage in Blackburn, Aberdeen, into a commercial kitchen where Dale now cooks up all of the pies.
Their mum, Julie, who the siblings recently took on as their first member of staff, has also lent a hand since the business began, and their sister, who is a nurse, is always on-hand to keep everyone fed.
Jodie said: “Talks of the business stared back in June/July time last year. As a family we’d always laughed and joked about starting our own food business as our lives had always been focused around food, especially at special occasions.
“There wasn’t anything specific about pies, but we knew what we liked and we thought it was something we knew we could put our own spin on.
“A pie is something that is quite humble, it is simple, and having had bad experiences in the past, we wanted to reflect our home cooking and make the best pies we could using ingredients from local producers as the heart of the pie.
“Where possible we’ll have a local producer as the main ingredient and build the rest around it. We want to ensure the business isn’t just for us, but to help other businesses, too.”
Hundreds of pies
Both continuing to work full-time jobs, Jodie refers to the business as a ‘side hustle’ for now, but has recently realised the demand for their pies has continuously increased throughout the pandemic.
At just six months old, the duo are already producing hundreds of pies a month which are available in numerous stores in the local area including Hammerton Store and The Gourmet Cheese Co.
She said: “It is a side hustle at the moment as both Dale and myself are still working. My background is business project management and Dale works for a catering company which is a little quieter with Covid-19 just now.
“We launched in August and started working with Grace Noble of Aberdeenshire Highland Beef and we went and took part in our first market at Chapleton in September, which was a great success.
“We then realised we had a product people wanted and would pay the money for. It is a premium product and is a treat. It has that local element to it as well and the whole family has been super supportive.”
While Jodie and Dale have been at the forefront of Breer Pie Co. since its inception, the duo say they couldn’t have achieved what they have in the timeframe they have without the support of their foodie family.
“My dad supported us while he was on furlough and built us our kitchen which was really useful. We weren’t sure if we should hire a kitchen unit or convert a cabin, and after weighing up all of our options our dad offered us the chance to convert his garage, which is his pride and joy, so that came as a real shock.
“We came up with a plan and we converted the outbuilding at my parents’ house in Blackburn and Dale just works from there. My dad has also now got a new shed. Dad also made our event stand – he’s the crafty one we can rely on for those sorts of things.
“My mum has now left her job and we’ve taken her on as our first employee this month. That was a real proud moment. The success has taken us by surprise and with both Dale and I having jobs, we needed that extra support. It is the perfect set up, especially for my mum now!”
Sweet and savoury
With British Pie Week taking place until Sunday (March 7), Jodie outlined that it is one of Scotland’s favourite pies, the macaroni cheese pie, which is their most raved about product on social media, with customers across the north-east sending them pictures of their pies on Facebook and Instagram.
She added: “Surprisingly it is the macaroni cheese which gets the most love and reaction. I don’t know if it is just the higher expectation of what you’d normally expect a macaroni pie to be, or the surprise element, and we also get good feedback on our chicken and the Highland beef one, too. I would say the Highland beef is the biggest seller, but people on social media love the macaroni pie.
“We’ve toyed with the idea of sweet pies as well. The intention is we’ll offer them as the larger family-sized pies (which feed four to five people) that we do but we’re also thinking individual, too. There doesn’t seem to be anyone really offering this locally really. Flavour-wise we know my mum has tried and tested Bakewell tart. You also can’t go wrong with a decent apple pie or original flavours.”
Bringing the pies to the people
Unable to attend the farmers’ market events which they had based their business model around, Jodie and Dale got thinking about how they could get their pies to customers easier, and decided to investigate delivery options.
After teasing on social media that they would run a delivery service for one month, they launched a selection box which saw their products travel as far as Oldmeldrum, Westhill, Durris, Stonehaven, Newmachar, Bridge of Don to name only a few.
Jodie said: “We weren’t sure how it was going to be received and gave people the opportunity to try flavours they might not have before. We have put in the macaroni, Highland beef, chicken, ham and leek and our new Highland steak mince and haggis.
“There’s been so many people asking where they can get pies and our biggest limitation just now is not having enough outlets for people so we thought with everyone at home, that we’d bring the pies to the people.
“We selected different areas from feedback we got on social media and based our delivery routes on that. We selected a different area every week of the month.
“There’s 30 selection boxes per area with four pies in each one so we’ve delivered nearly 500 pies in one month which is great, especially seeing as we’re such a small operation and have been servicing other customers at the same time.
“Week one sold out in three hours and people were ordering four weeks in advance. It has been hugely successful. We think we’ll probably do it again in April before restrictions are lifted a bit.”
Looking to the year ahead with restrictions still in place, Jodie hopes 2021 will bring more opportunity for Breer Pie Co. and will allow them to start focusing on their wholesale side of the business when hospitality reopens again.
She said: “Farmers’ markets were a big part of our business plan so as things are starting to open again, we are hoping more of the markets will make a return. We’ll be back at Chapleton’s event in May all going well.
“We want to work more with our local suppliers again like Louise’s Farm Kitchen so she is going to be taking back our family pies on her order books as they were a huge success at Christmas. Her website back page didn’t close down so people could still order pies and we ended up with around 80 huge pies to be delivered at Christmas. We were expecting 10.
“We’ll be looking to get our name out there as much as possible and focus on wholesale, too. We’re hoping we can work with hotels and restaurants with the same support local ethos as us. We’ve got pies in Hammerton Store which sell out most Fridays as people wait for them to be delivered. It is amazing to have come this far in such a short space of time.”