Stones Bakery is an artisan bakery and café based in Falmouth (Cornwall, England) owned by Rosie and Oliver Kingdon. I spoke with Rosie about owning her own business, owning a business during a pandemic and small business sustainability.
In conversation with Rosie Kingdon
Q. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your business…
After University Oliver, my now husband, and I spent some time working in various public sector roles and travelling in Mexico and South America. We then settled on Cornwall as the place for us and moved here in 2007. Stones Bakery started as a market stall and grew to become a shop in 2009. We moved to larger premises with a café in 2017 and last year we opened a new café at Krowji, a creative hub in Redruth.
Q. What led to you starting your business?
We were drawn to the idea of working for ourselves and food has always been a passion for both of us. Oliver worked for a time in a windmill and bakery in Lincolnshire which is where he learned to bake. Setting up our own place was a natural progression from that.
Q. What is the best thing about owning your business? And what is the hardest thing?
When you run your own business it’s all down to you which is both the best and the hardest thing. Everything from the wellbeing of staff when they’re at work to a broken mixer to making sure the bills are all paid is ultimately our responsibility. You can delegate tasks of course but the buck will always stop with you. The positive side of that is that if you want to do something new or suddenly change the course you absolutely can and you don’t need anyone’s permission. The downside is that the responsibility can be quite tiring.
Q. Do you have any advice for other people looking to start their own business?
I would encourage anyone thinking about setting up their own business to consider whether if it took significantly longer for the business to get to the point that they deemed successful, made them less money than they imagined and took vastly more effort would they still want to do it? I think almost everyone underestimates the challenges and over-estimates the financial rewards particularly in the early days. I love running my own business but it does need to be something you really want to do to get you through the tough times.
Q. Looking back on how your business has developed so far would you do anything differently?
Looking back over the last 10 years or so of running Stones I’m not sure we would do anything differently. Not that everything has always gone smoothly, far from it, but trite as it sounds you really do learn from every experience. Some things work out and some things don’t but you learn every time and that is ultimately how you go on to make better decisions in the future.
Q. What impact has the pandemic had on your business?
The early weeks of the pandemic were probably the most stressful experience of my life. Putting all of our staff on furlough and closing the shop with no idea when or if we would be able to reopen was heart wrenching. We set up a delivery service which we ran between the two of us and setting that up with no prior experience of running deliveries, no staff and two children permanently in tow was intense to say the least. Challenging as it was we came out the other side and we have expanded the home delivery service so that it now sits alongside the bakery and café as a permanent feature. Customers really appreciated our efforts getting bread and much needed doughnuts out to them at home during that first lockdown and I think the business is stronger overall.
Q. How do you feel people can best support businesses such as yours?
This is a tricky one as for the most part what businesses like ours need is loyal customers but I tend to think that it is the responsibility of the business to create loyal customers by being good at what they do. Perhaps if there is a small business you think is doing something great the key is to tell as many people about it as possible to help grow the potential customer base for that business.
Q. What does low waste and sustainable living mean to you and your business?
We have always aimed to take the environmental impact of everything we do into account when we’re making decisions. That doesn’t mean that the environment always wins as we have to balance a range of things. So for example we use organic flour in all of our products as we think this has the best flavour as well as being a more sustainable option but some of the other ingredients we use aren’t organic as the flavour difference is not significant and we would need to charge more which would conflict with our aim of being affordable and accessible for everyone. We have always thought about sustainability in terms of our team too; our full time employees work a four day week to enable a better work/life balance.
Q. In terms of your business, what is your biggest waste related frustration?
Waste wise our biggest frustration is leftover bread etc which goes in the bin. Over the years we have had a number of solutions to this problem but none has ever been permanent.
Q. In a post pandemic world (fingers crossed), what are your business and sustainability goals?
We have plans to expand later in the year (pandemic be dammed!) which will keep us pretty busy in the short term. Our aim has always been to create welcoming spaces where people can get good food and feel a part of their local community. This idea of community has come to seem more important than ever over the last year and its an idea that will continue to motivate us. Small businesses often have the freedom and agility to approach problems creatively and I am hopeful that this will enable us to think imaginatively about sustainability and how we can tackle some of the thornier environmental issues in the future.