A tale of two bakers


I met Joanne (not her real name) during a temping assignment one summer.

We would stop for a chat in the kitchen, or me at her desk as I had to pass it to get to the lifts.

Somehow or other we got on to the subject of her being fed up with her job, me as usual asking what she would like to do?

Well, without hesitation or skipping a beat her face lit up and she started telling me about how much she loved baking.

Early or late, it didn’t matter what time of the day it was, she was in her element when she was at home in her kitchen.

She thought nothing of doing a full day’s work, going out for the evening socialising, then come home and turn the oven on to make a pie from scratch.

Or she would get up early to produce some homemade bread for breakfast for her family.

Wow, I thought, that is dedication and most definitely love of doing it!

And she really loved it!

She adored making cakes, and pastry and bread for her family, her extended family and her friends, and they loved what she produced.

She often provided the catering for family events, weddings, christenings and often for free.

She said

“I would love to spend all day doing it professionally, I could give up my job and start a catering business from home”.

“Great”I said, “why aren’t you doing it?”

And then I could hear the fear rise up in her voice.

“Ah well, I am not really good enough and I would need to do training, and I don’t know about what I need to get going and I haven’t got my food certificates, and, well, I can’t afford to give up my job and I think I am a bit too old for it now!”

She was probably mid to late 40's and more than ready to get started in my opinion,but,

She had built up this massive wall of reasons as to why not?

I was thinking “why not” in the very opposite sense.

She was born to do it!

I thought about it for a while and next time I saw her I was armed with suggestions, convinced she would think they were brilliant, be thrilled to bits and implement at least one of them immediately.

She would realise there was a way to do what she loved, start her own little empire  and keep her job until she could sustain an proper income.

In my head, the plan for her was...

...she could start small and not even for money to begin with, more for confirmation of her skills as she really needed some serious confidence building.

She didn't seem thrilled to bits...

...she thought her family and friends would say they loved it, because of just that, they were family and friends and duty bound to provide praise. She thought they wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings.

I completely disagreed with that notion and told her so.

A couple of weeks later I invited to her lunch in the workplace cafe.

I wanted to have more time to speak with her instead of just bowling past her in the lift lobby.

I wanted to explain I had been thinking about what she had said to me and I had 4 ideas for her to implement in a very specific order, just so she had some structure and didn't become overwhelmed.

  • Bake for her colleagues (free)
  • Bake for the office charity (charge)
  • Bake sale for her children’s school (charge)
  • Children’s (girls) birthday parties (charge)

Bake for her colleagues for free


So she could casually bring in things now and then or as often as she wanted and listen for compliments.

The object was to quietly quickly solicit opinions without really asking for them in an obvious way, or letting people know why she was asking.

Of course, if she felt brave enough she could come right out with it.

There was no charging either so she didn't have to frighten herself half to death by asking.

This seemed to be a big problem for her.

Bake for the office charity and charge


I suggested this as the next action because it gave her an opportunity to bake for money that wasn’t for herself to begin with, but she could get used to asking for people for it.

Again, people will be free with their compliments and she should be listening for them and learning from what people say.

Bake for her children's school and charge

Why the bake sale?

The next option was so she could bake, again not for money for herself but she would be exposed to a different group of people who were not family or close friends and she could solicit further opinion in a non-obvious way.

People would pay for her goods and she could get more used to the idea of charging, as her next option was to bake as a business for herself.

Bake for children's birthday parties and charge

This was my final suggested idea and for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, she had mentioned she had a wonderful conservatory on her house, ideal as it led into a lovely garden with space.

She also told me her kitchen was big enough to house the parents if the weather was bad and the children were all in the conservatory playing.

She had youngish children herself and they were girls and she always glowed when she talked about them, she was a born mum.

She was the sort of person who was going to give them a beautiful childhood.

She often had friends round at the house with their children so she was used to the hullabaloo.

So I suggest why not profit from the time and space she was already using anyway and make good use of her love of baking at the same time.

What little girl wouldn’t love to put on her best party dress and sit and have cakes with her friends and feel like a princess.

She could open her home to parents to host their little girl’s birthday party.

She would bake small fancy cakes, make lovely sandwiches, dress the conservatory in a lovely themed way, have pretty tablecloths and child friendly but pretty cups and saucers plates and so on.

The party could go on for 2 or 3 hours, the other parents would probably help her clear up and everyone would have a great time but she knew they would then leave, unlike adults sometimes.....lol!

The garden was there for playing outdoors during the summer months, they could put up tee pees and tents and  the parents could have a breather.

There was a lot of scope here then for trying out in different ways if she wanted to be in business without a massive outlay.

If it went well, and she loved it and it was profitable she could move out from her home and find premises to create a children’s tea shop and then the world was her oyster.

She could host more children, she could offer more cakes for sale, perhaps even have etiquette lessons for children, it is a popular addition for parents.

She might even go on to create a children’s bakery school, write a cookbook for children or one about how to host children’s tea parties so others could do the same.

She might sell children sized portions bakeware or sell children’s kitchen equipment.

The possibilities could be endless, all because she had the courage to give it a go with some fairy cakes and the use of her conservatory.

Which road did she choose?

In the end, Joanne did love the ideas but she didn’t do anything about her dream.

She was too frightened of failing in front of people, and she couldn’t overcome it.

I haven’t seen her since but I suspect she is still at her desk, doing the same old job, crying inside because she hates being there.

And a shame really because she had a lovely personality and everyone would have loved her.

She was a natural people person and children would love to have been around her.

Such a shame that she never even tried, let alone allowed herself to maybe become successful, fear got the better of her.

Don't let that be you, at least try!

What is that famous quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Quote Mark White

Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it time runs out

Baker number 2 on the other hand


Meanwhile, co-incidentally on the same floor at round the same time I met baker number 2 in the kitchen usually as we made a cup of tea or washed up our lunch boxes, and we would have a bit of a general chit chat over the fairy liquid.

A lovely man, around mid 50's who had no such worries.

He was equally as interested in baking but rather than say “I can’t”, he said

“well I am going to have a go, what is the worst that can happen?”

He didn’t need any help at all in pursuing his dream and he didn't seem to have any fear at all about stepping forward and off the cliff edge, because let's face it, sometimes that is how being brave feels.

The simple upshot of his bravery was an application and acceptance to appear on the

“The Great British Bake Off"

He was quite successful, lasted a good six or seven episodes and he got to be on National Television and produced his own gluten free cookbook.

The Great British Bake Off Episode

He now does appearances at food events  and various local shows and has turned his passion for baking into a second career after retiring from his job.

He seems to being do quite well and it is wonderful to see.

And all because he had the courage to do something bold, and to just have a go anyway.

Well done Howard.

The moral of the story is

You must believe in yourself and not allow fear to get in the way of your path.

If people are saying you are good at something, are you listening?

If people want you to do something for them because you are good at it, are you paying attention?

If people constantly ask your advice, are you noticing it?

We ALL have gifts that could be put to better use, are you looking for yours?

There is a quote that may explain where Joanne was in her head:

Marianne Williamson said

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us