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It’s our anniversary month

Find out how we met and built our business…

It’s our crazy month of a thousand anniversaries. Just like we seem to have all our family birthdays in January, July seems to be our month of first for everything else! Including our Escape to the Country with Jonnie and revisit episode.

 

We met when we were both living in London in July 2012 . The Olympics were about to begin and London was really a hive of excitement.

 

By pure chance, we both attended a music festival in Kings Cross and happened to be in a queue for cider at the same time. Luke opened with the snazzy line: “Hi I’m Luke, I sell cheese” and I immediately thought “You had me at cheese”!

 

Luke was working in central London managing a cheese store and I had been working in TV and film. Although our worlds were very different, we both shared obsessions with food, drink, quality, attention to detail and making people smile.

As the year’s past, we bought their first home together, welcomed our first child, got married and wondered “what’s next?”. We decided that what we really wanted was to create our own business and it had to be food and drink related. Both of us were very keen cooks. We’d spend all our free time in London wandering around the markets of London and seeking out the more unusual food that London had to offer.

 

We spent years fleshing out ideas, going into incredible detail, testing recipes, but nothing seemed to fit quite right for us. London was a very saturated market and we thought we’d be better off moving to a rural area to start a food/ drink business.

 

The BIG move…

 

Luke was working such long hours and I was raising our young daughter, so this made house hunting tricky. We thought the best answer was to take annual leave and hit the search for a new home. After a quick conversation with Luke’s mother (Amanda), I decided to apply to be on BBC 1’s Escape to the Country. We were immediately accepted over the phone and had the camera crew over to our London home to film us.

 

The following month we went to stay on the Norfolk/ Suffolk borders with the BBC film crew and filmed Escape to the Country with Jonnie, in search of our dream home. A few months later, we’d sold our house and moved up to a beautiful village on the borders.

 

I was pregnant with our second child by this point, so they decided to take some much needed family time out and work really hard on their business idea.

 

The “lightbulb” moment!

 

Luke had attended a famous food festival and had a lightbulb moment after seeing a family running a coffee trailer at the event. He decided the way forward would be to have a coffee trailer, selling one product that is the best of it’s kind and I (of course) said there has to be cocktails too (I’m a cocktail making fanatic)!

 

We had a long think about what product they could “own” and I recalled Luke’s mother (Amanda’s) famous brownies. The first time I met Amanda, it was at a family birthday party. Amanda would always bake a tray of brownies for whoever’s birthday it was and she’d spent years and years perfecting the best brownie recipe ever. This formed the basis of what we now know as our signature Triple Chocolate Brownie today. I could never forget this chance meeting because I polished the whole tray of 16 brownies off (and I could still do it again to this day)!

 

We then spent around 6 months baking tray after tray of brownies and creating hundreds of cocktails. Let’s not forget making more cappuccinos than you’d care to count. During this time, we also searched the length and breadth of East Anglia to find the perfect horse trailer to convert for our mobile cafe bar. We stumbled upon Beryl (our horse trailer) and lovingly restored her.

 

Covid impact.

 

Launching at the end of January 2020, we were immediately hit with Storm Chiara. We had a few “snow days” written into our business plan, but nothing of this scale. Almost immediately after that, they were then hit with the entire family going down with a very serious, mystery “respiratory flu” which we all now commonly know to be Covid.

 

At the time there were rumblings of a terrible virus sweeping China that could be on its way to the UK. Just three weeks before lockdown, we took the decision to close Beryl’s hatch temporarily over concerns for our families’ health.

 

As we were were fast approaching a “lockdown” scenario, I had a lightbulb moment: “why don’t we do some doorstep deliveries of brownies, they were always really popular?”. Luke thought I’d lost my mind, but he also understood how desperate I was to change our family’s situation. He agreed and I posted a note in our local community Facebook group and hoped for the best.

 

Within 3 days, I was travelling across greater Anglia, from North Norfolk, through to Cambridgeshire, Essex and Suffolk with my brownie boxes. It was a simple model, people would message me on social media and I’d deliver the brownies the next day to your door, whilst Luke stayed at home baking tray upon tray of brownies.

 

Fate bought them another new side to the business!

 

Things were definitely a struggle and sometimes I’d be lost for hours, driving around the east of England. On one such occasion, I popped into a post office to get some help with directions. I found them so helpful, I went to give them a box of brownies as a thank you. A couple of hours later I received a phone call from the owner of the post office (Robbie). He said he loved the brownies so much, he’d love to sell them! And so the wholesale business was born!

 

The business took off so well that after a couple of months, I was really struggling to take orders. I was on the road constantly, pulling 20 hour days. Luke was sometimes getting a couple of hours of sleep a night AND looking after our very young kids.

 

Something had to give as this was not sustainable. I got a website built and we decided to move onto a postal delivery model. We had never done anything like this before and there was a LOT to learn.

 

We went on Escape to the Country with Jonnie again!

 

At the same time as we launched the postal service, the BBC called again about appearing on a revisit version of Escape to the Country.  We jumped at the chance to film with our pal Jonnie Irwin again.

Filming Escape to the Country

 

The BBC came over and spent the day filming. We had no idea (at the time) when the programme was set to air. To our luck, the programme aired in the last week of November. This gave an enormous boost to our Christmas sales. Thousands of people took to the website to place orders. We are very happy to say that a lot of those people are still great customers.

 

Right now the business is divided into two halves: the e-commerce side and the wholesale side.  The e-commerce side deals with all of the corporate gifting enquiries as well as the online orders. The wholesale side deals with retail products going out to cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants and shops.

 

For the future, we hope to one day be able to have a team of bakers. We’d also love expand our range even further. To check out our brownie range, click here.

 

Filming Escape to the Country with Jonnie Irwin. Charlotte and Luke are at the front right of the image in their family kitchen. Jonnie Irwin is at the back left with an apron on and carrying a tray of brownies.