Roots to Work: Spotlight on a microbakery owner
Real Bread Campaign ambassador, Sonya Hundal, speaks to the ‘Eel about founding her own wood-fired microbakery in Lincolnshire.
What kind of path brought you to setting up a bakery in coastal Lincolnshire?
I had no professional food background or bakery training before setting up Greenfield Bakers back in 2007. I was a drama graduate with a long career in retail and supply chain management and when my young family and I moved to Lincolnshire in 2002 I was still working in London.
As a self-taught baker, the bakery came out a desire to eat good food coupled with the availability of resources in my new home: an existing outbuilding, stoneground flour from a local windmill and my time. I went on a weekend course in Dorset with Paul Merry of Panary and the rest came from books and experimentation.
How has your diverse background influenced your bakery business?
Working in retail and supply chain management have had a significant impact on the way that I manage the business. Everything I do now is a scaled-down version of the business and management experience in my previous careers. I’ve also had a parallel career in writing and performing in theatre, which I think has given me the confidence to deal with people. I’m sure a bit of creativity has also become part of the bread!
What are the most rewarding aspects of what you do? And what’s most challenging?
Baking Real Bread has expanded my networks both professionally and in the local community. The connection with other people is a factor in both my baking and my writing life. Also, I really enjoy the commute – all seventeen steps of it to the bakehouse!
Being able to make friendships out of a commercial enterprise is something that means the most to me.
Regarding challenges – the timing of firing the oven to the needs of the bread is an ongoing challenge on a bake day and at some point, I’ll attempt to document what I do. A more general challenge is sticking to my belief that the bakery will always be a small business rooted in the local community. There is always the desire to do more, but the demands of two careers and a family requires a lot of flexibility and some balancing.
Any words of wisdom to share with potential bakers or small food business owners?
In order to make a go of running your own small business, you have to have a lot of resilience and determination. Customers vary, sometimes it rains all day and no-one comes to the market, you don’t always get positive feedback and you have to accept that making Real Bread in quantity is about aiming for good rather than perfect. Having the ability to learn new skills and to continue to challenge yourself is important.
I’d also add that baking is an ongoing learning experience. Connecting with other bakers, trade and campaigning groups, especially for a small enterprise, widens opportunities for sharing expertise and experience. My business makes no commercial sense on paper but it works with my writing jobs, provides a small income and good bread. I’m happy with that.
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