In March 2016, Luminary Bakery successfully raised £16,387 from 263 supporters to complete work on and open the new premises for their bakery. Aiming to provide a safe and professional environment for women to grow holistically through the encouragement of ambition, restoration and second chances, Luminary Bakery uses baking as a tool to take women on a journey to employability and entrepreneurship.
By equipping them with practical and transferable skills for the working world, the team at Luminary aim to break the generational cycles of abuse, prostitution, criminal activity and poverty which currently stand in the way of these women from reaching their potential. Registered under the charity Kahaila, Luminary Bakery offers courses, work experience and paid employment within their bakery to empower women to build a career and positive future.
We caught up with Alice, Project Co-ordinator at Luminary Bakery, to find out about their Crowdfunder journey and what has happened since their project closed in 2016.
Can you tell us a little bit about your Crowdfunder journey and what has happened since?
Before we acquired our current premises at Allen Road in Stoke Newington, we were using temporary kitchens wherever we could find! We started out in a church kitchen in Bethnal Green, but we soon outgrew that. We then moved on to a cafe that had a kitchen that they weren’t using very much, and then after this went to Limehouse whilst building was going on at our current premises. Unfortunately, we outran that lease before building work was complete and we had to go to another temporary location at a church kitchen in Hackney. So we moved three times before finally being able to get in here!
We’d got a bit of funding to start doing the current premises up, and when we started running out of this money and realised we still had lots of work to do, we started considering crowdfunding to see us through to launching. We had over 300 supporters in the end! I couldn’t believe that people who didn’t live close by were pledging as they couldn’t even claim their rewards, which was amazing as they clearly believed in what we are aiming to achieve.
After our Crowdfunder campaign, we had a lot of obstacles still in completing work on the premises, so it took us almost another year to get open! However, when we did open, we initially just opened the cafe for the weekends as a trial to see how it went. It was soon after that we went full time to open seven days a week; the team had been here during the week anyway for baking, so it was just opening to the public and since then it has suddenly grown so much.
What do you think worked well throughout your Crowdfunder campaign?
The fact that our product is very photogenic worked really well. We have a friend who makes documentaries for Channel 4 and they offered to make our video; having a good video really helped. I think that good visual content and regular updates were really important throughout our crowdfunding journey, through which we tried to make the most of the followers that we already had and as a result, we have a really strong following now.
I also think that doing lots of research beforehand and looking at other people’s projects and promotion worked really well. It meant that we could be creative when putting together our strategy for social media and what we were going to plug, including which rewards to talk about when.
Crowdfunder themselves had really good guidelines that helped to create a successful campaign, so I tried to follow that to a tee! Even things like making sure you have ten people ready to go before you launch wider made a huge difference.
How did you find the rewards and people coming to collect them?
We had to wait a really long time until we could offer out the rewards to our supporters that pledged. That was tricky to manage as we had to keep explaining to people who had given money and were expecting something straight away that there would be a delay.
This was because the building work took longer than anyone could ever expect. The property was a library before and it took a lot of renovation to get it to be a commercial kitchen. We have also converted downstairs so that we could have training rooms down there, and we needed to make sure this was compliant with regulations. There’s so many things to think about!
Part of your mission is to offer employment to vulnerable women through your training course. How has that gone so far?
We’ve been doing that from the get go before we even had the property. When we opened here, we were able to bake more and open up more job opportunities. We’ve employed 7 of our graduates now within the business and then we train cohorts of 7 at a time in the training rooms downstairs. We overlap the courses, so we do one group on a Wednesday and one on a Thursday. We have a small team supporting them. We try not to take on too many at once! They will graduate in April.
It’s a 6 month course, one day a week, as obviously there’s lot of other life commitments. It’s enough time to get to know them really well and build on their knowledge. We cover basics to begin with like cookies and tray bakes, and then we build on that with cakes and breads, lots of different techniques, and they do food hygiene as well which increases employability. We also cover life skills, so that people can be the best that they can be – something that you can take for granted if you’ve been in a job for a long time.
They are referred from different agencies which may be to do with supported accommodation, mental health services, charities, homelessness, criminal activity support services – there’s lot of different referral points. Now that word is spreading, women approach us themselves, and the women we’ve trained tell their friends.
Initially building relationships can be quite hard, but they form lifelong friendships and look after one another, connecting outside of the bakery as well. At the end of each course, they have a graduation during which the women wear graduation gowns made by past graduates – they are amazing! It’s such a special evening. They spend the whole day baking their favourite product and invite friends and family in the evening to eat it – it’s their showcase. They get handed a certificate and it’s a chance to say thank you to those people for also supporting them.
What’s next for Luminary Bakery?
We would love to have more sites across London. If we had more reach then we could create more job opportunities and more work for the Bakery. We have a market stall at Borough market which is great, but it’s obviously quite far from here. So we’d like to have more presence at East London food markets, and then another permanent location eventually. It’s been such a journey getting this place, but we see a lot of potential for Luminary to flourish, so we’re just trying to navigate that without taking on too much – but still pushing ourselves.
What are your top tips for anyone thinking about crowdfunding?
Plan really well and don’t go into it thinking it could be a quick way of raising money. There’s guides out there so read them and take advantage of the people who have done it and know it really well and put those tips together, because it will pay off. Think really carefully about it, and probably saying this also to myself, but don’t be scared! With crowdfunding, you aren’t asking people to give, you’re asking people to buy something, which is what we do in the cafe anyway – it’s a win win situation.
• Want to know more about Luminary Bakery? Check out their Crowdfunder project page here.
Forward Enterprise Fund
Do you have an idea or early stage enterprise to create jobs for ex-offenders or people in recovery? We have £100,000 to support charities and social enterprises that prioritise creating jobs for ex-offenders and people in recovery, two groups mainstream employers are least likely to hire. Find out more here.