Venetta Leyland – Bread Angel, philanthropist, baker

Venetta Leyland – Bread Angel, philanthropist, baker

Posted on 14. Dec, 2012 by in Bread and conversation, Bread Angels

Venetta Leyland did the Bread Angels course to learn how to set up a home baking business earlier this year.  Soon after completing the course, she founded The Tiny Bakery in her kitchen outside Milton Keynes.  She is proof positive that anyone with passion and drive can run a successful bakery from home, winning prizes, praise and a feature in January's Red Magazine (on sale now)!  We caught up with Venetta and learned what makes her knead at three in the morning...

Tell us a bit about you...

I grew up in Kent with my Mum, Dad and brother.  I never thought of myself as being particularly interested in food, but I did turn vegetarian aged 11, much to the annoyance of my parents as they happened to be BBQing our lunch at the time!   Looking back now, I realise that becoming a vegetarian was an early attempt by me to control my diet.  I developed an eating disorder when I moved away to university, but thankfully I eventually realised that somehow I had to turn the problem into the solution.  So, about 10 years ago I got seriously interested in nutrition and learned to cook my own food as a way of helping me recover.  Now I love to source seasonal and local foods, seeking to meet the producers wherever possible.  My husband is also very passionate about food and we spend a large amount of our free time planning what we are going to eat, shopping for ingredients and cooking together to share our love of food with each other and friends.

Why baking...

I spent 14 years working in Banking & Professional Services as a Recruitment Manager.  But for the last few years, I knew that I wanted to quit the day job to get out of the long commute and the long hours working for a purpose that I no longer believed in. The stress was affecting my life and I wanted to follow my dream which has, for a long time, been to work with the food. Initially I imagined I would run a cake business, as I love the science of baking but the finesse of decorating a cake is not my strong point, although they tasted great! Then I went for a bread baking course with Leith's School of Food and Wine and I was hooked. Not only did I love baking wonderful tasting bread but I also found peace in the process. There is something very 'in the moment' about kneading, I find it calming and mediative.  Allowing the dough to rest and prove, for me, is a reminder to slow down, stop rushing to get to the end point...it will get there when it's ready!

I spent months baking for my husband and me,  for friends and family, in fact for anyone who would eat my bread.  Finally the stress at work was too much and I resigned late in 2011. During my notice period I did some research on bread making classes, and that’s where I came across Virtuous Bread.  The Bread Angel course encourages bakers of all skill levels to set up a small bread baking business in their local area. Becoming one of the Bread Angels was the turning point for me, I set up The Tiny Bakery with a simple mission to bake the tastiest bread with the best, most nutritious and local ingredients to sell to my neighbours and friends.

Where is this taking you now...

I now run The Tiny Bakery full time, still from my house and my tiny kitchen, and with my focus still firmly on my local community and wonderful customers. I have also branched out by supplying two local coffee shops that share my values.  One of the shops sells my loaves on from their deli, and the other cafe uses my breads for all of their sandwiches.  The Breakfast Muffins and Chelsea Buns have been particular favourites!

I absolutely love what I do.  There is something almost spiritual about taking four simple ingredients and turning them into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. I think it’s fascinating that people can always share their favourite story about memories of bread as a child, the smell, the taste, making bread with their mum, or granny....amazing French or Italian bread on holiday.  Bread has a positive effect on people, creating happy memories.  I also love how I have become so much more involved with my community since starting the bakery.  I now know all of my neighbours and regularly trade hand made bread for home grown veggies, eggs or cakes.

Tell us about your philanthropic work...

My husband and I founded Use Your Loaf earlier this year, not long after starting The Tiny Bakery.  The idea came to my husband in the shower, where all great ideas are born, following asking our customers for their help in making our bread available to all people within our community. We partnered with the Milton Keynes Food Bank as they already distribute to families and individuals in food crisis in the area.

We put a Traditional Cob on the menu and the deal is this - for every one a customer buys, we bake a second, exactly the same and give it to someone local who cannot afford to feed themselves or their families. Buy a loaf and give a loaf. Our customers get the same great bread that they love, and they share that passion with someone local who really needs it. It is about local people taking responsibility for everyone in their community and delivering great nutrition to people at a time when they need it the most.

Even though we have only been running Use Your Loaf for a few months, we were recently nominated for a Pride in Milton Keynes award. We made it to the final three, in the category of Fund Raiser of the Year and attended a dinner for all of the finalists. We were in a room full of amazing individuals who were all there for something that they did for someone else - a humbling, and at the same time a really life-affirming experience. The organisers, the MK Citizen, hosted a fantastic evening and just taking part of made my husband and I feel like winners.  Every finalist had a chance to tell their story, so no one lost out. We didn't take the top award this time but the honour of being a finalist will stay with me forever.

What's in your future...

In five years we want to see every community baker in the country having a scheme to share their bread with every part of their community. We’d love other bakers to join the cause, become a member of Use Your Loaf and show their community how they can Buy a Loaf to Give a Loaf.

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2 Responses to “Venetta Leyland – Bread Angel, philanthropist, baker”

  1. Joy

    24. Aug, 2014

    Fantastic!

  2. Joy

    24. Aug, 2014

    sorry, correction to my site

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