Kate Wilson in a baking uniform holding a rolling pin

Rising to the challenge of opening her own baking business

March 26, 2024

From Classroom to Career: Kate Wilson

Kate Wilson was working in a bakery when she decided to take a step further and pursue a professional designation through VIU’s Baking and Pastry Arts program. She graduated from the program in 2020 and is now the owner of Pink Bow Patisserie, which sells wholesale cakes and pastries. Follow her on Instagram @pinkbowbakes.

“If you told me when I finished school that I’d be supporting myself with my baking business a few years after graduating, I wouldn’t have believed you,” she says. “Having the confidence of my program behind me, the connections and network I’ve developed along the way, a supportive partner and my passion for baking has led me here!”                                                                                 

We caught up with Kate to learn more about her business and what’s next.

Why did you choose VIU for your education?

When it came time to take the next step in my baking career and go to school to pursue a professional designation, I was so relieved there was an affordable option on Vancouver Island. I grew up on Vancouver Island and didn’t want to have to leave to be able to continue my education and move my career forward.

I was working in a bakery whose owner had their Red Seal in Pastry Arts, which made it easy for me to register for my apprenticeship at VIU and continue working towards a professional designation.

Tell us a bit about your experience at VIU.

I challenged the first-year baking test and started at VIU in the second year. Having not done the first-year program with my classmates, I was happily welcomed by everyone and my instructors were great at helping me get up to speed on where everything was in the kitchen. My class size was great, and the program’s kitchen has great equipment and tools.

Were there any unexpected benefits you discovered after becoming a student? 

Being connected to a network of bakers has been a great benefit moving forward after the program. I have a group of classmates and instructors who I can reach out to with questions and continue to be inspired by. I recently put on my business’s first tea party event in Nanaimo and one of my instructors came and supported me! Even though I graduated four years ago I still have a bunch of people supporting my career path.

How did your program prepare you for your current role?

Going through the VIU program helped me learn a lot faster than if I had not gone to school. I got experience with machines and equipment at school that I didn’t have at the bakery I worked at, which helped prepare me for later jobs. Completing my program also gave me confidence in my field and gave potential employers more confidence in me because of my professional designation.

Can you share an experience where one of your profs, or the learning community you were in, made an impact on your learning experience?  

I feel so lucky to have had both Chef Nolan and Chef Christine as instructors during my time at VIU. Chef Nolan is a fantastic teacher who is passionate about baking and teaching. He was always happy to continue conversations with me about the science of baking beyond what was required for the course and exams. Chef Christine radiates her passion for baking by creating such a positive fun environment for learning. If you are not excited about baking, being around her will get you excited!

What’s next for you? 

My next steps are opening my own bakery to serve my local Nanaimo community and visitors. For three years, I’ve been working on growing my business – Pink Bow Patisserie. I started with hosting an online baking show on Twitch, taking on food and recipe research and development contract work. Currently I am renting commercial kitchen space and selling wholesale pastries and cakes. I can’t wait to move into my own space and bring all my ideas to life and create a special space for my community to come to. I also want to be able to hire VIU baking apprentices and help other aspiring bakers achieve their baking dreams on Vancouver Island!

What advice would you give other students? 

If you are considering baking as a career path, the VIU Professional Baking and Pastry Arts apprenticeship program is a great place to start. With the help of apprenticeship grants, going into the trades is a great way to get an education without going into debt. This is an industry that isn’t going to go away anytime soon and it’s something you can do anywhere. You can find a baking job that works for you whether it be in a huge hotel, a grocery store, a local restaurant or bakery, selling at farmer’s markets or starting your own business. The opportunities are vast.

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