Thursday, 22 September 2011

Somewhere in the Middle – Part Two

September 2011

I wrote my first blog entry on Sunday 25th July 2010 in order to chart the progress of change in my life through leaving my career to starting my own business. Now 15 months later it's time to recap, review and update you.

Nagging Niggling Voices

I wanted to feel free. This feeling lurked in the pit of my stomach nagging at me particularly when I took a break from work. The nagging would get even stronger as the creeping dread of going back to work became real. This was often brought into sharp focus when spending time with successful friends and family who from my perspective managed to incorporate their genuine interests into their careers. 

The nagging voice would ask a simple question; you are successful and hard working, so why can’t you apply the same work ethic to something you enjoy and make a living from it? We all face self doubt and fear, but the simple answer to this question is that there is no reason not to try. For me the tipping point came from asking another question, if I don’t do this now will I regret it for ever?

The first question was easily answered. The things that I really enjoy are baking, growing, sales, people, creative craft. The freedom that I wanted to feel was not about being less busy or feeling less responsible. It was about the freedom to make your own choices and decisions and to work hard for yourself creating something that you love.

This is what so many people with whom I have shared my experiences about this project identify with. Many of us, myself included, fall into jobs that pay the bills and offer a career path which is so far away from the dreams we have for ourselves when growing up. There is nothing wrong with this, unless you are unhappy in your job and know that you could do something else that would improve your life in all aspects. When you feel like this, then surely you need to listen to the nagging voice in your head and be brave enough to plan your own change. 

I found myself in awe of creative people such as artists, craftsmen and bakers enjoying what they do for a living. To me these people made their own decisions each day about what they would do and were able to work truly self motivated.

My business motivation is not to make the most money I can. It is about creating something beautiful, dare I say magical*, that provides a service people love and fulfils my life.


Part of this blog is to share with you how I feel as well as what I am doing. I am allowing myself to feel excitement, speaking with you on Twitter @want2bakefree and on this blog helps that excitement grow every day. I am also worried about the possibility that my latest venue is not secured and won't be until early 2012. There is so much work to do in the coming months and I know from bitter experience last year that it could not work out in my favour. I have put those fears aside, knowing that January will either be bleak or the best month of my life.

Up to Date Update

On a lighter note (enough of the feelings mushy stuff!) here is a quick look at what has happened since I posted in July 2010 and what you can expect to read coming up in the next few weeks and months. For a more in depth look check out my interactive timeline HERE it's marvellous.

PAST - A brief run down of the key moments in the past 15 months that have brought me to this juncture;
  • Decision - June 2010
  • Resignation - August 2010
  • Coach House Hope - September 2010 (read more HERE)
  • Business In Focus Advice - September 2010 (read more HERE)
  • Purchasing - 2010/2011 (read more HERE)
  • Starbucks - November 2010 (read more HERE)
  • Coach House Doom - January 2011 
  • Brighton - March 2011 (read more HERE)
  • Project x - February 2011 Onwards (read more HERE)
  • Bake the Menu 1. - Victoria Sponge Video (watch the movie HERE)
  • Today - Thursday 22nd September 2011 
FUTURE - What you can expect to see and hear from me on the blog, via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook in the coming weeks and months;
  • Bake the Menu – New Video Episodes: Lemon Tart, Scones, Meringue, Carrot Cake, Treacle Tart, Chocolate Cake, Fruit Cake, Biscuits 
  • Supplier selection – Tea tasting, Coffee choices, eggs and butter anyone? 
  • Much more procurement fun
  • How to setup and run a website truly for free
  • Project X – Venue 2012 announcement 
  • Marketing with social media
All I can ask is that you stay in touch, comment on my posts, get in to discussions and be part of the fun. See you in the future, somewhere forward of the middle.

*the term 'magical' is not owned by Apple despite the best efforts of their marketing department

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Bake the Menu - Video Blog

September 2011

Early in a start up business you need to decide what to deliver to your customers and the most cost effective way to do that. This decision making process is crucial and must take into account, consistency of delivery, quality and pricing to name but a few. I will deliver a high quality product in a comfortable and classically vintage tea room.

There are three excellent reasons to 'Bake the Menu'. Firstly for quality control; to ensure that menu items are of the best quality and recipes can be tweaked where necessary. Sadly this also means that i'll have to eat the menu too. Secondly I need to work out the exact costings of each menu item, to set a fair price and identify the cost of sale for each menu item. The third reason to 'Bake the Menu' is so that I can keep a video log to update the website with all the mouth watering and delicious home baking that my tea room will serve.

My rules for this film series are simple and I will guarantee you the following:
  • Films will be kept short and snappy
  • I'll highlight our favourite tips
  • Everything is 100% home made where practical 
  • We always wash our hands!
  • Recipes are available on request, unless they're family secrets
In return:
  • If you have something to say, post it on the blog or subscribe to my Channel on Youtube
  • If you have some of your own top tips, then let us know
  • Get involved & be inspired
Without further ado I bring you Volume One...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Bring Back Don't Ask Don't Tell

September 2011

Project X - Venue 2012 How it Happened and Some More Hints

Welcome to all my new readers as well as you regulars. After last weeks lightning bolt revelation that I may have found a venue for my tea room, which is available in Spring 2012, I feel it is only fair to give you some background. I will intentionally remain cryptic because this venue is SO very good I cannot risk someone else swooping in and gazumping me. When I reveal all on the 1st December take a look back through these words and reminisce but for now as long as you don't ask I won't be tempted to tell all. On with the story...

March 2011

Saturday nights in your late twenties onwards seem to revolve more around either being away at weddings, birthdays, christenings, other social occasions or at home having an early night so that you can enjoy the perfect Sunday. So a night out to a bar in central Cardiff on a Saturday is certainly not the norm for me. A very fabulous friend who writes a very fabulous blog, moved away from Cardiff earlier this year. To see her off we had a party! It was one of those weekends where events collide; most importantly my very dear school time friend was due to visit from Exeter. After a little cajoling my partner and I convinced her that she really did want to go to a Lesbian farewell party in Cardiff on Saturday night. Fortunately for me neither the X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing had started on the telly yet!

It is important to give you an insight into my frame of mind at the time. Almost every person in my life, both personally and professionally has some idea that I was planning on starting a business opening in Spring 2011. As I make no secret of this fact, indeed I am actually promoting the journey right here, so I certainly cannot complain when every person I meet asks how it is going and more importantly why I am not open yet. The novelty of the introduction “Oh my Gosh, Dave is starting a tea room…” wears a little thin, even when you are as passionate about your project as I am. Having had a few knock backs this year in March I was still struggling to be enthusiastic 24/7 particularly when you don't have much news to update with.

One of my traits as a sales person is the need to tell a story in detail leading to a poignant climax. When people ask about the tea room, I usually base how much detail to go into by judging how interested they appear. On Saturday 5th March 2011 I wasn’t up for going into much detail particularly as the majority of guests were strangers. One of the guests at the party was particularly interested in the tea room and so myself, my partner and my best mate ended up chatting through the Tea Room saga from the initial decision right through to the loss of the Coach House a few weeks earlier. It is always nice to meet someone who seems genuinely interested in finding out about my project and, despite my negative frame of mind, it was a really lovely evening discussing the stresses of being back to square with my venue search.

Out of the Blue

I didn’t think anything else about that evening as I trundled off to Brighton the next day; into week two of my corporate filler job. Tuesday morning that week I received a call from my other half telling me to check my Facebook private messages of all things and there it was. On Tuesday 8th March 2011, about 10 minutes before I was due to meet a very important client in my new job as Director of Sales, I had this message…

“Dave!!! Great News! ... has got a potential place for your tea shop!! In the ... , it’s being refurbished so you wouldn’t have to pay for that and they might want a traditional tea room!! Call me if you’re interested” Megan

Back in the Game

It isn’t in my nature to be mysterious however over the coming months I am going to be a bit shy with information. The reason for this is simple: this unit is not in the bag yet. In fact I won’t know if I have it until about the 23rd December 2011. I am entering a process that is competitive and for that reason I have decided to keep quiet about some of the details. Because I am actually dying to tell the World about how much I love this option I have decided that it should be safe to go public on Thursday 1st December 2011. On that date I will reveal all. The site is being developed in the coming months and I intend to record this transformation in several formats, including photos and video. This serves the purpose of documenting the process and, if I am successful as I pray I am, will serve as a great way to look back in a years time and recall the struggle.

Next Time

As 2011 is rushing past at a pace, it is time to start turning my attention to all the fabulously exciting jobs yet to do. Including researching suppliers, procurement, writing the menus and most importantly Baking the Menu! Stay tuned for updates and if you are a potential supplier or can recommend one drop me a line. You can expect new images soon in the gallery along with my very own Youtube channel coming soon!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

AAA Business Rating - A View, A Brew, A Loo

and An Exciting Update Too

February 2011 – Today (September 2011)

This blog post is rather exciting for me as it finally brings you up to date with where my tea room plans are at right now! From writing my first entry well over a year ago it has taken me this long to fill you in on the trials and tribulations of the past 18 months. I am now inching closer to achieving my dream and this blog paves the way for the radical news that I may have found the venue of my dreams.
This is bittersweet news for you as I need to remain rather cryptic about the details, but read on and in the coming weeks I promise it will become clear.

NOTE: Later today I will add a timeline which will provide a chronology of the journey so far and some key upcoming dates, including my new target opening date! UPDATED Timeline is HERE

February 2011

When you set up a business you find that people want to give you advice, after all your friends and loved ones usually like to be helpful. We all like to impart knowledge and we all have exciting ideas that we just love to share. Don’t worry this is not going to be a rant about how well-meaning folk stick their noses in to your business, as I learnt a long time ago to listen carefully to advice. Surprising information can come from sources you never thought likely to help. It is the helpful sayings and clichés that I particularly love and the best that I have heard relating to what makes a successful attraction for tourism came from a chap working for Visit Britain;

“The goal is to get people to spend their time and money with you’; their needs are few, a view, a brew and a loo.“ Visit Britain

This may seem a little coarse but the sentiment is truthful; to fulfil the basic Human needs, both spiritual and physical. Our spiritual needs are personal and subjective, however our physical needs are simple and yet so easy to get wrong. Many of my friends myself included will, regardless of how good a venue is, site the condition of the water closet as the make or break for a positive review. Suffice to say to find the perfect tea room venue this is stella advice.

I Want to Bake Free on


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