Cake with a cause
Laura Cartledge finds a Worthing café that is serving up sweet treats and strong social links.
For many people gaining a PhD and becoming an aunt would be big enough milestones but Lauren Roffey decided to add a third.
With her environmental social science course at an end, Lauren returned home to Worthing in January 2012 and that is when she found the inspiration to launch Baked – a café with a cause.
“I loved my boss, I loved the work but I felt there was a disconnection,” she recalls. “I feel work often gets in the way of the things that are important, like family.
“Then my little sister told me she was pregnant and I was like ‘there is no way I am going anywhere now’.
“It was scary,” Lauren confesses, “but to me it made sense, I needed a job, the café was here and I wanted to prove a point. And I really like baking.”
Having studied the power businesses have to make a positive impact Lauren was keen to make the theory a reality.
“It’s not different from starting up a business, there is just a layer of complexity to it,” she smiles. “The only difference is what, at the end of the day, happens with our profits – with us 100 per cent goes into our social mission.”
So how did Lauren chose who Baked would help?
“Because I had worked with young people while at university it just made sense to start there,” she replies.
“I started looking at what was available in Worthing but found it was really fragmented and underground – so if we can work as a hub that would be great.”
Despite only being open for five weeks when I meet with Lauren, Baked is already living up to its promises by providing employment, training and ‘skills development opportunities’ as well as a social space and somewhere for local community groups, charities and businesses to be championed.
“Everyone has been really lovely and the comments have been great, I think it is something different for Worthing,” says Lauren of the reaction so far.
“I don’t want to say Monday night will be a knitting night, and Tuesday night will be this, because that is what I think would be nice and chances are that is wrong.
“Instead of what I want, or what we want, it’s what the people want,” she adds. “I want to ask people what they would like and turn things on its head.”
This sense of involvement has been at the heart of Baked from the start with the whole revamp of the premises in Rowlands Road being made possible thanks to ‘crowdfunding’ – an initiative which sees funds pledged to get new ventures off the ground.
“I was cynical at first, but a few people have said it is a good way to raise funds for community initiatives,” reveals Lauren.
“You start by tapping up your friends and family, the people who have said ‘this is an awesome idea’ and from there it spirals.
“People who pledged £100 get a box of goodies for six months, for £10 they get tea and cake for two,” she explains.
“People like feeling part of something, but I was aware it would be really embarrassing if it didn’t take off.”
Lauren openly admits ‘it wasn’t all peachy’ and made sure to show the hard times as well as the good.
“It was difficult, it was tough and there were moments when I thought ‘what on earth am I doing?’” she confesses.
“I had set a deadline for the funding, because people like something to work towards. It expired on the Wednesday night and on the Tuesday we had raised half of it.”
Then something happened.
“Each time I refreshed the page the total went up,” Lauren smiles.
“It went from about £1,300 to £2,695 smashing our target of £2,500. I got really emotional – all these people have invested in me and it was a case of ‘gosh here we go’.
“It really gave us the boost we needed and fitting the shop out took 12 weeks,” she adds.
“What I was keen to make sure was, from the start, that the coffee and the cake were good, and then, if people want to get involved with the social cause that’s great.”
There’s no doubt the cake is proving a hit and a great conversation starter.
“People are really stunned that we make everything on site and they think it is really lovely.
“I bake for three to four hours a day here. The tough bit is running the business so the baking is the fun bit,” explains Lauren.
“Caramel shortcake and chocolate brownies are the best sellers, trays have been popular for offices too.
“Online ordering is another big thing, we’ll be doing hampers of mince pies and fruitcakes, plus I’m doing a wedding cake – it is about keeping our eyes open to all the possibilities.”
It doesn’t sound like this will be something Lauren will struggle with.
For Baked to go from an idea to opening took just 16 months so I can’t help wonder what the future will bring.
“A grand plan? I am looking at a year plan,” Lauren grins.
“I think people think the natural thing is to open more cafés, but I would have to measure up what you would lose by not being unique.
“It couldn’t be going better and I am far happier than I have been in a long time,” she adds.
“But the idea is that the model will work without me, it is bigger than me. I am trying to keep things open, it’s exciting.
“I’ve read a lot of business books and, it sounds cliché, but the main thing is you have to remain positive.”
To find out more about Baked, 31 Rowlands Road, Worthing, call 01903 216343 or visit www.bakedworthing.co.uk
November 16, 2014 Food and Drink