Many blessings make an 8/10 day

3 November 2010 score:  8/10

The reasons:  baking at The Clink; talking to the deputy head of the East Sheen primary school; Ms Marmite Lover, her Aga and her underground Christmas market; Pete telling me what I am doing is amazing; Erlend telling me not to give up; Helen Conford from Penguin Books coming next Wednesday; Emma and Samantha from Storyvault believing in me; Guri from Unltd investing in me; Barnes village; Resurgence; my mate Rose; the eccles cakes from St John.

Ok, there is a lot in there but that is because my mate Rose convinced me (and she is right) that I have got to keep a record of my progress as a social entrepreneur or, for those of you who hate business jargon, as a business person who plans to set up and run a highly successful business whose function is to give a lot back to society.  This is the first installment and so it is a bit long.  Apologies.

For all the miserable moments of self doubt and lonliness in this journey from partner in a strategy consulting firm to craft baker/social entrepreneur (and there are many) there are also high points and today I have many high points to list (recent and not so recent) to remind myself of how far I have come, and that there are blessings all around me.  I told Pete in an e mail that I felt overwhelmed and his response was that all of “this” was a gift and sometimes a surfeit of gifts WAS overwhelming.  That is a nice way to look at it.  I need to digest these gifts rather like a goose digesting grain (of its own free will, of course) and look forward to more with an open heart.  In fact, I do and I am.  I am digesting as I write, ready for more. was founded earlier this year and the web site, twitter site and facebook fan page went live in July 2010.  Since then I have focused on raising awareness, forging links into my local community, developing opportunities to use bread as a catalyst for social change, and working to commercialise the whole thing.  I have received setbacks and gifts and here are the gifts:

1.  Amy from Samphire, the PR agency I hired to outsource the bulk of the task of building awareness of obtained an interview with Al Crisci (head chef, The Clink) and Chris Moore (CEO, The Clink Charity) in the hopes that would be allowed to bake bread with the prisoners at High Down prison where The Clink is situated.  Even better than that, Al has invited to do a baking session with the kitchen staff of The Clink because he is a bread enthusiast and would like the kitchen to bake its own bread.  I am honoured by his confidence and over the moon at the opportunity of working with Al to develop a bread culture at The Clink and among its staff. 

2.  Helen Colbert, deputy head at the school, and I spoke today.  We are currently diarising my first baking session with the children.  Cannot wait.  I need to be trained on the new Neff ovens they have there, and the representative is going to come in specially to do that (they are super amazing – far more sophisticated than anything else I have baked in or on) and I need to get a CIB check.  Grr.  Hate that because of what it represents (suspicion, cynicism, big administration…) but recognise it is a part of life to be survived.  Wha’evah.

3.  Ms Marmite Lover is a super experienced social media user and gave me some excellent coaching.  She also alerted me to her Christmas market and will allow me to fry drop scones and pikelets on her Aga during the market.  I can taste them already!

4.  Pete told me what I was doing is amazing. That message came at a good time.

5.  Erlend told me not to give up. He message also came at a good time.

6 and 7.  Helen Conford from Penguin Books is coming to see me on Wednesday for a chat about books.  I am very hopeful that I can provide her with what she is looking for in the realm of bread and its role in our lives.  This was suggested by Emma and Samantha of Story Vault who believe in and our take on bread

8.  Having written the 10 page application form, suggested two referees and undergone a one hour interview, UnLtd., an orgnanisation established 10 years ago to support social entrepreneurs to develop businesses that they believe have legs, awarded me £5,000.00 as a Level One grant.  This is the largest sum they award in Level One and I cannot describe how pleased and proud and thankful I am.  Thanks Guri for helping me through the process.  Thanks Erlend and Sam from the Social Sardine for being my referees.

9.  If you think there are no communities in large cities, think again.  Communities exist, whether or not we engage with them.  They come to visibility only when we are ready to access them, kind of like tatoos.  In my part of London, there is a strong community for those who wish to enter.  It is not exclusive and it’s easy to join.  You just have to be willing, open hearted, and prepared to invest a little at the start.  Having made an effort, I now have a sense that I am a contributing and receiving member of a lovely community that anyone could envy.  I have:

– a barter system going with Two Peas, the fruit and veg shop (old fruit and veg in exchange for bread and cakes) and the Real Cheese Shop (an outlet for Virtuous Bread and a generous provider of cheese and other things and a lender of ball dresses in exchange for bread, cakes and good cheer)

– a delivery system in Seals, the butcher:  They take in bread from 06.00 on Thursdays which the Real Cheese Shop then collect.  They do me a favour and ask NOTHING in return.  In fact, they gave me some eggs “on account” last week.  I clearly need to bake a cake for them tomorrow.

– Secured a local outlet for the flour I use.  Michael Stoate from Cann Mills is where I buy flour.  Kevin (and his little son on this occasion) delivers to me for free and I have arranged for Two Peas to also stock his most excellent, organic, stone ground flour.  Win Win Win.  It’s there just in case I run out!

– made friends with the Barnes Community Association who kindly suggested I publish an article in the local magazine:  to great effect.

10.  Satish Kumar at Resurgence kindly invited me to write an article on “bread craft” in the October/November edition of Resurgence.  This, and the few words I said at the conference on 31 October have prompted a wonderful response from readers and listeners.

11.  If all else fails, spend time with a friend eating a lovely meal.  In this case it was eccles cakes at St John but in the company of a friend like my mate Rose, you could be eating a slice of bread and butter down a mine and still have a great, uplifting time.

The lesson for an 8/10 day?  Speak to those you love.  Count your blessings.  As a first diary post this is pretty good.  Long may it last.  I am going to write more about these topics later and for now will go to bed and dream sweet dreams.  I hope you do too.

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