True story – A few weeks ago, I was sat in Karma Bread Bakery enjoying my cinnamon bun and cuppa tea and I got talking to Tami who owns this lovely little bakery and who I’ve met a few times before. She casually introduced me to a friend of hers sat next to me who works for an organisation called Women in Tech – a platform that gives women a voice in the world of technology, and over the next half hour we had a really interesting chat about her work and the concept of women in the business world.
Sat on the bus on my way to The London Food Social, I realised that some of my favourite places to eat or things to do in London are run by some bad ass women and as we have just celebrated international women’s day, I thought what a better time than now to celebrate those women I’ve met and have them tell their stories.
Over a series of posts this week, there are 5 women I want to introduce you to that I think are really inspiring and I’m very lucky to have had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing.
Today we’re starting with Alice Boyle founder of Luminary Bakery – a social enterprise helping socially and economically disadvantaged women gain transferable skills through the art of baking. I met Alice at the bakery one morning and after a chat and cuppa tea and I went away with one of their famous ‘Benjamina’ pear and almond cakes and a big smile on my face.
Here is her story.
How did The Luminary Bakery come about and what’s the story behind it?
A few of us working in Kahaila Cafe on Brick Lane in 2014 had noticed a lot of deprivation locally, with homelessness & sexual exploitation sadly being common in the East End. We wanted to do something in response to the need we saw for women in particular who have had a social and economic disadvantage because we had met some of these women and felt they had huge potential. So we started to use the skills we had to run baking classes in a local women’s hostel, to see if they enjoyed it, and to test whether the idea of a social enterprise bakery creating job opportunities for disadvantaged women could work – and it went well! So we slowly built it – from something casually run by volunteers to the fully-fledged bakery & cafe it is today.
What are the best bits about The Luminary Bakery?
The cinnamon swirls?! But even better than them, Luminary is a business with social purpose & female empowerment at it’s core, run by women for women. The best bits for us are seeing the bakery buzzing with people – customers supporting us, women enjoying the training programmes & graduates from the programmes in the kitchen creating beautiful baked goods. Our celebration cakes range are new & something we’re also really proud of.
Do you/have you faced any challenges in the business? If so, what and how did you overcome them?
We face daily challenges & a lot of the time doing our work feels like an uphill battle. Starting a social enterprise is different from starting a for-profit business as we didn’t have investment so have to do everything on a shoe-string budget, relying heavily on the generosity of volunteers/donations. The women we support are obviously the most rewarding aspects but they themselves have their own challenges to overcome in order to become fully independent. Our aim is to support each woman into work to become financially independent, but the government doesn’t make moving from welfare into work very easy! I think the way we are able to face these challenge is by having such a strong sense of purpose, and a great supportive team. Celebrating the successes is really important too as a way to encourage us when things are tough.
Being responsible for a social enterprise means you aren’t often able to switch off completely, but in order to sustain this work for a long time I’m a strong advocate of having boundaries. I try to create a culture where rest is valued & think it’s important to model that. There is always too much to do but someone wise once told me to accept that 90% sometimes has to be good enough.
What are your interests outside of work?
I love music & am in a band with some friends – writing songs is a great way of processing thoughts. Other interests… oh my cats, I’m pretty obsessed with them.
What advice would you give someone else opening up their own business?
Gain as much experience as you can from elsewhere so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And get a little team, even if it’s just for advice – people that have your back.
What’s next for Luminary Bakery?
We’re aiming to open more sites soon so we can provide employment & training for more women.
A big thanks to Alice for taking the time out to speak to me and tell Luminary’s great story. x