Beki subsequently opted to study a sports-based degree but could never shake the feeling that cooking was what she was destined to do. Following her graduation, she found work with NCASS member Spectacular Goat and fell in love with street food and the engagement it enables between trader and customer. Whilst working for Spectacular Goat, Beki had the idea to begin selling her now legendary brownies and found they sold out every single time. Soon after, Beki’s Brownies launched and in its first three years, traded solely at markets; when in 2018, Beki decided it was high time she apply to street food events such as Digbeth Dining Club which had informed her love of street food in the first instance.
Beki’s journey hasn’t been plain sailing; aside from the fact that her teacher, the very person who should’ve encouraged her passions dissuaded her following a career in catering, 2018 was also an admittedly tough year “I am happy to admit that unfortunately 2018 wasn’t a very good year for us.” Our Caterer Motivator features focus on NCASS members who are doing great things and Beki is testament to the fact that success rarely follows a straight line; there are highs and lows but if you come in to the industry for the right reasons – with a love of creating and sharing your food then there is a place for you, even when things feel a little bleaker than expected.
Just two months in to 2019 and Beki’s Brownies is triumphing with a permanent spot at DDC; something they had long dreamed of. We caught up with Beki fresh off a well-deserved holiday to Australia, to discuss how she balances a full-time job alongside her successful business and all things brownies!
Hi Beki, thank you so much for chatting with us today. Let’s start at the beginning – what inspired Beki’s Brownies?
Thank you for having me! I’ve always been passionate about food. I grew up in a family where food was made by hand with a lot of love and as a result, I had always wanted to train as a chef. However, when I went to sixth form, I was told I wasn’t clever enough to study the relevant course at university so I studied a sport based degree instead. I went home after three years at university and still couldn’t shake the feeling that this is what I was supposed to do so I secured a job with a caterer, Spectacular Goat, a wood fired sourdough pizza company. Whilst working there I started selling my brownies and they sold out every time so after a couple of years I made the leap and dedicated myself to Beki’s Brownies!
You’ve gone from being told not to pursue your dreams to being an official trader at Birmingham’s premier food event, Digbeth Dining Club. That must feel pretty good.
It feels amazing, it was always my dream to get Beki’s Brownies in to DDC one day. When I worked with Spectacular Goat at DDC, I fell in love with the event and with mobile catering in general. We were a market only trader for three years and then I launched the street food set up in May 2018 and did a few test events before applying to DDC.
As well as running Beki’s Brownies, you also have a full-time job at Daylesford Farm. How hard is it to run the business alongside another role and what was behind your decision to do both?
I have always worked full-time and have managed Beki’s Brownies on evenings and weekends. I’m happy to admit that 2018 wasn’t a great year for Beki’s Brownies, on top of which I was working within local government in a role that wasn’t enjoyable. I decided that if things weren’t going well with the business or in my other role then I would go after a job I really wanted which is when I applied to work at Daylesford where I have been since September.
At around the same time I started my new job, the brownies really took off again, not only with DDC but with other events contacting us requesting we trade and lots of private orders. I’m not going to lie, running a business alongside a full-time job is SO hard but I’ve been doing it for so long now that it just feels like second nature. My mum also runs the business with me and she’s been helping me out since day one. She will normally start baking when she gets in from work and then I join her around 7 when I finish. If we’re not baking then I’m normally doing admin until 10 pm most nights; it’s a long day but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
What a year you’ve had; I think the fact that Beki’s Brownies is now doing better than ever is testament to the fact that not only do you have a quality product but that you can weather a storm and come out stronger than ever! Talking of quality, I know all of your products are handmade. How laborious a process is this and how long does it take you to prepare for an event?
I make the brownies in small batches and I wouldn’t have it any other way, no matter how long it takes! One batch makes 2 trays and we get 12 or 9 brownies a tray (depending on whether it’s a market set up or street food set up) and it normally takes one hour from start to finish to make one batch. We make several batches at a time which does speed up the process a little. For a big event such as Warwick Food Festival, we will take an average of 400 or more brownies and this can take over 2 days to make if you include the ingredient buying, prepping, baking and then cutting! Yes, we also cut all brownies by hand too!
What do you think the appeal of mobile catering is?
For me, I love the social aspect of the street food scene. I have met so many amazing and inspiring people along the way who I really look up to. There is also nothing better than watching people eat your food with smiles on their faces and see them coming back for more!
Do you think dessert based traders and ‘main dish’ traders have different experiences of the industry?
Having worked for both myself and Spectacular Goat, I would say no, I don’t think we do! Both types of traders work just as hard to make sure their product is unique and delicious.
What has been your proudest moment with Beki’s Brownies?
By far the proudest moment for me was moving into our own small bakery in 2017 and becoming an official DDC trader. Moving to the bakery from a domestic kitchen has enabled us to do so much more, I don’t think we could’ve got to this step otherwise as there’s no way we could’ve catered for DDC in my mum’s kitchen!
How has NCASS membership helped with Beki’s Brownies?
I joined NCASS early last year and I have had a great experience. I have used it for training purposes, and we use it to secure work opportunities too which is awesome. Our account manager has been in contact frequently to see how we’re doing and if there is anything they can help with which has been fantastic.
What would be your advice to people who regularly attend street food events and think ‘I could do this’?
My advice would be that it’s a lot harder than it looks. You have to be so passionate, 100% dedicated and really believe in what you do because if you don’t, it will translate in to your food and you should want nothing but the best for your customers!