What does Teesside mean to you?
I am from Sheffield originally and moved up to Teesside 10 years ago. I have worked in different parts of Tees Valley, Darlington, Yarm and Middlesbrough. I feel really privileged to call Teesside my home now, its such an amazing place to be, I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without Teesside. The community here are so friendly, positive and enthusiastic. Its easy to make a connection with the area, amazing views all around and amazing places to visit.
Why do you think independent businesses are so important for an area like Teesside?
I think independent’s can play a key role in changing a town, it makes it a more interesting exciting place and visitors care more for the small independent businesses. Keeping things local can really boost the economy with more of independent businesses money staying local it’s a win win. With Teesside’s reputation on a national scale, not being great, it really gives us a chance to shine and take pride in our own area and businesses, we can be different and stand out.
What peoples reactions been to your business since you started?
Peoples responses have been fantastic. Baker Street Kitchen was already a successful established business, but since making changes, customers have been so supportive and seem to love it. The support for independent businesses is incredible. It is like the whole team is part of a community with our customers, who we really get to know well. It is quite comforting when you stand back and appreciate it.
Whats the story behind your business ?
I have worked in the hospitality and catering industry for 16 years and even as a child I wanted my own restaurant. After opening and managing Cena for 3 years I decided with was time to take the leap and take on my own business. I saw Baker Street Kitchen advertised and I took the leap! Baker Street Kitchen was already trading as a café and I saw potential to build on what the previous owners had created and develop it further. 2 years ago I invested heavily, giving the business a full refurbishment which was really exciting to take it to the next level. It has really taken off since then and I have now taken the leap to take on a second business. I am in the process of taking on a new wedding venue, hotel & restaurant which I am hoping will be able to launch mid summer, and will be based in the Tees Valley too. Wedding enquiries welcome!
Why do you believe that Teesside gets such a bad reputation in the media?
I think the national media can always lean towards focusing on negativity. Teesside does have some statistics that don’t necessarily stack up well to other areas of the country, and this gets the focus, on a national scale I think it’s hard to get the coverage past this. There is so many amazing things about Teesside that we need to get the focus on. Locally, there are lots and lots of advocates for Teesside, organisations, politicians, media outlets, influencers, business groups etc, all shouting about the positives of Teesside, the question is how we get that narrative though the media to change perception. Teesside is such an exciting place, with close links to the coast and countryside, and so much energy to develop the area, you only need to look at the Teesside Airport in Darlington and Boho X in Middlesborugh for examples. The Big Weekend and similar events really give us the chance to change the narrative, only Teessiders can do this with passion and tenacity.
Where can people find your business online ?
Our website is www.bakerstreetkitchen.com, we are also quite active and engaging on social media, you can find us at www.instagram.com/bakerstreetkitchen, www.facebook.com/bakerstreetkitchen or www.twitter.com/bakerstkitchen We are always grateful for new followers, comments, likes, shares etc. All of which is really important for all small independent businesses. If anyone wants to get in touch, we will happily message over social media if that is a customers preferred method to contacting us.
How did you come up with the name Baker Street Kitchen ?
As an established business when I bought it, Baker Street Kitchen was already named and trading. I think the name reflects what we offer, a kitchen, is the social hub of the home for relaxing food. I like to think we are the kitchen of Middlesbrough, and by naming it after Baker Street, it links well to the logo which is styled similar to the London Underground signs, like Baker Street Station.
Whats your advice to anyone wanting to set up their own business in the Tees Valley?
Do it! Teesside is a great place to start your own business, there is a lot of support, and enthusiasm for new independent businesses to succeed. Councils, government website, Tees Valley Combined Authority will all support you, and there are so many organisations talking up Teesside that will help too. I think the most important aspect in starting your own business, is to have passion and love for whatever project you are about to embark on. Starting your own business takes a lot of hard work, time and effort, that passion you have will keep you going in the tough times. I would also say confidence, have total confidence in what you offer as this will come across to customers in your business. Be prepared to be multi-talented, you will need to be ready to play many roles covering HR, health & safety, marketing, sales, book keeping, there is lots of work to running a business behind the scenes. Make sure you know your market before you start, experience in what you are entering really helps, if not then make sure you do plenty of research. The rewards of working for yourself are amazing, it is hard but definitely worth it.
What type of products and services do you offer your customers?
We are best known for our tasty; breakfasts, brunch, lunch, light bites, cakes & coffee, with extensive good quality options. I think all our customers come to see the friendly team here too, my team certainly are a huge asset and make Baker Street Kitchen the success that it is. All our menu options are served all day everyday including breakfast! On Sundays we offer a tasty classic Sunday roast lunch, alongside the regular menu. All these options can be enjoyed in our spacious bistro our on our outdoor terrace… weather permitting! We try our best to source locally, most of our many different suppliers are not far away, our coffee is from Middleton-In-Teesdale, our cakes are from a bakery in North Yorkshire, our cleaning supplies are from Darlington, and our general food supplies are from providers based in Middlesbrough too. It’s really important to us, to ensure we support our local economy and community.
Sporadically through the year we hold special events, these can include jazz nights, gin tasting, murder mystery and themed food nights like Thai etc. We also host private events, such as engagement parties, corporate events, Christmas parties etc. All our menu items are available to take away either for collection, or by delivery through UberEats, Just Eat or Deliveroo. We also offer a delightful afternoon tea available Monday – Saturday from 230, pre-booking required. Our customers always give us positive feedback for our extensive drinks range with our own blend coffee, loose leaf teas, seasonal flavoured drinks and our new range of superfood drinks! On occasions we can also offer food for outside events which some regular guests have requested previously. If customers want to treat someone special, we also sell gift voucher which can be bought on our website or in person, we also sell bags of our coffee, our re-usable coffee cups and loose-leaf tea, which are always ideal gifts too.
How has the covid crisis effected your business?
We closed following the government guidance. Unfortunately, due to the sort of market we serve, we haven’t been able to offer a take away only service that would have been financially viable, which has meant the full team of 18 employees have all had to be furloughed, which does place a certain amount of burden and guilt on me as an owner, I really value the team, so their well being is important to me. We were un-lucky when it came to the government grants, they offered £10000 for businesses with rate able value less than £15000, and offered £25000 to those with a rateable value between £15000 and £51000. Our rateable value is £14750, meaning, disappointingly we missed out on the bigger grant by a small margin. This has meant taking out a further loan to sustain cashflow for wages, and also pay any residual bills that have not been able to be cancelled or deferred. However the help that has been provided by government has been hugely helpful to us all. We are all really looking forward to be back open, and are ready to get back as soon as we are allowed.
What do you think of the development of baker and Bedford street ?
The development has been a real success for Middlesbrough, it has created a hub of small independents for visitors to Middlesbrough to get off the high street and find something a little different and exciting. The Orange Pip Market which is usually held on the two roads along with Albert Road, monthly, is a really exciting event too, a kind of mini festival shouting about small businesses and encouraging people to visit Middlesbrough where they may not usually. There is a real focus from the council and other stakeholders to re-energise Middlesbrough and this is just one aspect in making it a vibrant place to visit, along with plans for Albert Road, Boho X, train station etc, its hard to not be positive about it.
Interview by Chloe Tempestoso