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Blackburn pie maker’s turnover is set to rise after Boost support

Zanaib Bilal Pie Mezzanae web

A Blackburn-based home-made pie business aims to smash its three year turnover target after gaining support from Boost – Lancashire's Business Growth Hub. Pie Mezzanae was set up by Zainab Bilal, a qualified science teacher and former biomedical scientist.

It is the business behind the award-winning Pie Heroes brand and focuses on innovative recipes such as lamb tikka pies, burger pies, samosa pies and chicken taco pies. Zainab started the business baking pies in her home kitchen.

Since gaining advice from Boost, she has relocated to a purpose-equipped unit in Blackburn and is receiving on-going support from Boost to develop a funding application. She has already started to build a team to support her and is looking to recruit more people as the business continues to grow.

Zainab was introduced to the Boost Growth Support Programme through Enterprise4All. Boost is Lancashire's Business Growth Hub and is led by the Lancashire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and Lancashire County Council and supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Yusuf Musa, growth explorer for Enterprise4All, said: “Zainab manages her pie production between working as a support facilitator at Blackburn College. She aims to work full-time on the business but is seeking support to learn more about the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market and distribution in particular, and to determine how much investment she needs to make along the way. “Zainab benefitted from the Boost Launchpad workshop and various masterclasses through the Growth Support Programme as it fits with her needs and aspirations for the business.

“The interest generated by her creative pie recipes has certainly been quite overwhelming. Since starting the Boost programme demand for her authentic Pie Hero brand has significantly risen.” In March 2017, four of Zainab’s pies won silver medals at the British Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray, and she believes she may even be the first award winning halal baker at the contest. Zainab said: “The Boost workshops and advice has been brilliant. Preparing a strategic plan changes your perspective and thinking. It makes you explore your ideas and tap into other areas you may not have considered.

“The professional connections I’ve made though Boost have also really helped me. Being able to get in touch with Yusuf for advice is like having another little door I can knock on. Andrew Leeming from Boost introduced me to Lancashire Forum, a peer network and business growth programme and I have really gained a greater business insight through this programme”

“I now have great plans including recruiting two more staff this year and developing a wider distribution network across the UK for 2020.

Matt Hutchinson, Lancashire Forum Programme Manager, Lancaster University Management School, said: “Zainab took part in the Lancashire Forum and gained access to a wide variety of topics relevant to the growth of her business – everything from leadership and finance to innovation and personal reflection, as well as opportunities to explore her value proposition and business model. In addition to the expert content, Zainab was able to build a deep-trust network with other business leaders from across Lancashire and share experiences with them, gaining invaluable insights to help her develop her own personal growth plan.”

Yusuf added: “Zainab has aspirations to grow turnover to £260k in three years. The Growth Support Programme has had a direct impact on helping her business grow, by providing a structure both operationally and strategically for her business and connecting her with relevant people and organisations. Zainab said: “Meeting people through Boost who are also starting up in business has also given me tremendous confidence.

When you first start out it’s hard to know where to turn or who to talk to. It’s so reassuring to meet other people experiencing the same thing. “Since Boost I have moved to a unit, my little pie factory! Now I want to smash turnover targets and double, even triple them over the next three years. I have great vision for the Pie Hero brand – it’s a Tasty adventure in every pie. My aim this year is to launch my pies at local Blackburn Rovers football club, as a true celebration of diversity and community. My dream then, is one day to see my pies on the shelves in Booths!”


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