Having noted the local popularity of her Caramel Krispie slices, the coffee shop's sandwich supplier asked if she would be able to start providing him with a weekly batch of ten trays.
Ten trays quickly become 100, which soon swelled to 1,000, until in 2003 Howe shut up shop and, with the help of her mother and best friend, started baking her cakes and traybake products full time in a small local unit.
"We used to sit in deckchairs by the fax machine waiting for the orders to come through," she says. "Then we would scamper about madly for the next few hours trying to fill them."
Little more than three years later and the days of deckchairs are a
distant memory. In March 2004 she attended a Budgens Meet the Buyer Event, where her innovative recipes and handmade products won her a contract to supply a small range to a handful of local Budgens stores.
The contract with the retailer sparked a chain reaction, and just over a year and a half later, her company More Food employs around 20 people including her mum, who handmakes all the traybake products; dad, who helps with the labelling; and brother in law and best friend, who handle the piles of office work and accounting.
As well as garden centres, farm shops, and a number of other small retail outlets, More Food has gone from supplying eight Budgens stores on the south coast to 70 stores across south London. The company has won several new contracts recently, including seven local Waitrose stores.
Until a few months ago Caron's business was handling all its own
deliveries, a feat that was not only taking up a vast amount of time, but also placing a considerable strain on Howe's purse strings.
Budgens' bakery category manager Nick Hill put a stop to that when he organised for a large articulated lorry to collect orders from More Food's unit three times a week.
"The first time I saw that massive Budgens lorry arrive in our road I burst into tears. I simply couldn't believe how far we had come. In many ways I still can't," Howe says.
Despite More Food's ever-increasing production output, she has resisted attempts to move away from the handmade provenance of her products.
Although 5,000 sq ft in size, her bakery unit still has the appearance of a domestic kitchen.
The company has recently completed an extensive rebranding exercise - swapping its girly bubblegum pink packaging in favour of more mature coffee-coloured livery. This better reflects the product's positioning at the premium end of the cakes market, which Howe believes is still relatively untapped.
And while her days of getting sticky in the kitchen are becoming fewer and further between, Howe's culinary wizardry is still being put to good use in dreaming up innovative new recipes. "Any manufacturer will tell you that it's vital to keep diversifying your range," she says. "We try to produce a new cake every season to keep the interest there." This autumn consumers will be able to purchase More Food's latest offering - Blackcurrant and Apple Crumble Cake - while for Christmas they can look forward to a White Chocolate and Cranberry Sponge.
And for those who want to eat a slice on the go, More Food has delved into the snacking market by offering single-slice portions to Budgens customers, a feat that went from concept to reality in just four weeks.
Howe sees her next challenge as streamlining the company's production flow. She is currently looking to recruit an operations
manager to add to her ever-growing team. This now includes a master baker and newly recruited piping and confectionery specialist - brought in to help the business expand into the
celebration cakes market.
Meanwhile, a meeting with Waitrose has been scheduled to talk about rolling out More Food lines to other stores. Howe says she doesn't have a master plan, but she is pretty sure about one thing: "I won't stop until I see the Waitrose lorry turning up in my road - that really is the ultimate goal. Then I'll be happy."Timeline
April 2003: Caron closes coffee shop
in Chichester to start More Food with only one wholesale customer and a
700 sq ft traybake production kitchen
November 2003: Sponge baked products supplied to wholesalers
March 2004: Caron attends a
Budgens meet-the-buyer event where she secures a contract with the retailer
September 2004: More Food moves to larger, 2,000 sq ft premises
February 2005: Company starts supplying eight local Budgens stores
May 2005: Products launch into
a further eight Budgens stores in
the London area
June 2005: Caron lands contract to supply the Wimbledon tennis Championships with her cake bars
September 2005: Products launch into all Budgens stores in the retailer's southern region
November 2005: More Food runner up at annual Sussex Business Awards, and named Manufacturer of the Year
December 2005: Company moves to larger, 5,000 sq ft premises
May 2006: It starts to supply
Waitrose stores along south coast
October 2006: More Food begins supplying its Hallowe'en range to Budgens stores across the UK