There are small businesses and then there are the very small businesses, otherwise known as micro-businesses. Microbusinesses generally have less than two founders and operate on a smaller scale than other businesses. Whether you’re just starting out, or running an artisan enterprise where you can have full control over your product, there are lots of reasons why small can be extremely mighty.
Tika Stefano is the founder of Sourdough Mess, baking and selling hand-delivered, slow-fermented sourdough bread and vegan cookies. We chat to her about how she single-handedly runs her microbakery.
Got an amazing food startup? Our competition Virgin Foodpreneur is now open for 2017 entries! Find out more.
Tell us a little about your business
I run a micro-bakery from my flat in Dalston. I started making sourdough bread, which is made with organic flour from Shipton Mill in the Cotswolds, and all the other ingredients are organic and locally-produced. As the business evolved I was asked to bake cookies. I made a range of different cookies but the ones that were the most popular were the vegan cookies, so now I mostly make vegan cookies.
I love the challenge of veganising recipes. The bit I enjoy the most is the challenge - once I get it right I want to start something else. Some coffee shops have started asking for muffins and cakes. I am also working on vegan macarons and marshmallows, but haven't got it perfect yet.
Where do you currently make your product – do you hire a kitchen or use your own home?
I bake from my flat in Dalston, East London, but I am starting to think about finding a bigger place as demand is increasing.
What does a typical day look like?
A typical day is really busy as I work as a digital designer three days a week and run the business seven days a week.
Because I want to grow, I accept as many orders as I can. This means that my production system is not very effective right now - I am at the stage when I have to expose my products to as many people as possible. I’m often baking until two or three am, even if I’ve worked a full day.
I am also always training for a marathon, which means I have to fit in several hours of running every week too. My training has been a bit patchy as a result – I’m running Boston Marathon mid-April and I’m a bit worried that my time won't be as good as I would like it to be.
Who are your customers?
I have regular customers to whom I deliver bread every week. My customer base keeps growing by word of mouth.
I supply to several coffee shops. Three in Hackney (Healthy Stuff, Footnote and Nkora); one in Brixton (Tandem Ciclo Café); one in Crystal Palace (Officina Cafe), and Pattern on Caledonian Road, King’s Cross. I am trying to expand more so if you know a good coffee shop, let me know!
I also sell at various Food Assemblies - Kings Cross, Hackney Downs, Roman Road and Old Street.
Do you want to scale up someday and how will you do this?
I would love to scale up but first I need more customers. I think that scaling up will help me as I won't have to bake the same things time and time again – I could do more in one go. I love to develop the recipes and experiment, and wish I had more time to do this.
What is the best thing about running a micro-bakery? What is the biggest challenge?
The best thing is that I make stuff that people love eating. It makes me super happy when I go into a coffee shop to take in the cookies and the people greet me with the biggest smile and tell me that they were waiting for me. The appreciation from vegan customers is amazing too.
The worst thing for me at the moment is the lack of time. Until my business grows and I can work on it full-time, I can predict many sleepless nights ahead!
We've partnered with intu to bring back Virgin Foodpreneur for 2017! If you're a food and drink startup, we want to hear from you. Find out more and apply here!