Life and Business Interview #2: Hannah King

October 07, 2015

Hannah King homemade chocolate cake

It has not passed us by that today is the The Great British Bake Off Final. And in honour of the brilliance of British baking, we interviewed professional cake maker Hannah King of Milk & Honey Bakes. Hannah sells everything from cupcakes and brownies, to wedding cakes and celebration cakes. Each month, she runs a pop up bakery day, where she bakes delicious treats and then delivers them around Bristol. As part of our Life and Business Interview series, where we speak to women who run their own organisations, Hannah chats to us about delivering cakes directly to customers and the best things about being a mum! 

What are your favourite childhood memories?
I grew up by the sea and loved going for long walks along the coast with my best friends. The walks where we would discover hidden coves felt like such adventures to us, and we never grew tired of exploring together.

Favourite drink?
I love coffee and over the years, I have got the perfect brew down to a fine art, using my favourite Monmouth coffee beans. I haven’t managed to find anywhere local in Bristol that sells Monmouth coffee, so I have to get them from London!

Night in or night out?
Night in every time! While I am an extrovert at heart, I love calm, quiet evenings at home with my husband after a busy day.

You are listening to…
I’m particularly enjoying listening to Like I Can by Sam Smith.

Ideal holiday destination?
Barbados. My Father-in-Law grew up there, and so it holds a lot of fond memories for my husband. So, when he suggested we go there for our honeymoon, I was delighted! We returned a couple of years ago, and I hope to return one day with our daughter. I love discovering more of the island with each new visit.

Favourite item of clothing?
I have a navy blue gilet from Joules that is my favourite. It is so warm, and I love that it is perfect in every season, except when it’s raining!

Favourite beauty product?
That would have to be touché éclat, by Yves Saint Laurent. It does an amazing job of covering up the dark circles under my eyes!

Why did you start the company?
Baking is something I have always loved to do, but was never quite sure that I could embrace the risk involved in starting my own company. Then, much to my surprise, it all started rather organically last Summer when I had a lot of spare chocolate orange cupcakes, and advertised them on a Mum’s Facebook group. They sold incredibly quickly, and I had multiple requests for more. Out of the success of this one off sale, I had an idea of hosting a pop up bakery for the month of August as a way of seeing if there was enough interest in my cupcakes for the initial momentum to continue. It turned out to be far more successful than I had hoped, and my customers were keen that I continued to bake beyond August, and so Milk & Honey Bakes was born!

Best thing about running your own business?
I absolutely love delivering cakes to my customers, and hearing the stories about who their cakes are for. One of my favourite moments was delivering some cupcakes to a family with twin boys who were four years old. They called me “the magic cupcake lady”, which makes me smile every time I think of them.

Most difficult thing about running your own business?
The fragmented nature that comes with working from home and having my young daughter around is something that I can find challenging, particularly with the time-sensitive nature of baking. It requires a lot of careful planning and flexibility! I have learnt that it is important to be very conscious of my limits, and do my best to work within these. Sometimes this means having to turn away potential customers, which is always hard, but I am learning that to make my business work well in this stage of life for us as a family, saying, “no” to something good, can result in saying, “yes” to something even better.

What are some of your favourite things about being a mum?
It brings me a lot of joy to get to witness Ruby’s curiosity and excitement grow as she explores the world and experiences things for the first time, and I feel like it is such a privilege that I get to be the one to teach her about so many things – particularly baking! Most afternoons we end up snuggling on the sofa and reading mountains of books together, which I love.

How do you balance being a mum and running a business?
I have been very conscious from the start of launching my business that I do not want my daughter to feel ignored or frustrated as a result of me working from home. This has meant being flexible and changing the ways I work as she has grown and her needs have changed over the last 8 months. I am very grateful to my in-laws who come and look after my daughter once a month, so that I can run my pop up bakery and deliver cakes all over Bristol.

What does a typical day look like for you?
On an ideal morning, I will get up and start making coffee and baking before our daughter wakes up, but more often than not, we all wake up at the same time! Baking is so much a part of what I do, that even if I don’t have any immediate orders, I will often be baking bread for us to eat for breakfast, or making cakes to share with friends. I deliver cakes to a local deli twice a week, so on these mornings, I am up early to ensure there is enough time to get every thing done before leaving the house at 9am with Ruby to deliver the cakes. After my husband leaves for work, Ruby and I will often go for a walk to our local greengrocers. I am sure that I buy more than my fair share of eggs, carrots, lemons and oranges from him to use in my baking! Ruby will have a morning nap, and I use that time to update my records, contact customers to discuss their orders, place online orders for supplies, and start some baking.

Who is your biggest inspiration?
As cliché as this sounds, my Mum is my biggest inspiration! She is the kindest person I know, and has always worked so hard. A lot of her work in raising a family often went unseen, but she never complained, and her gracious attitude and diligence has inspired me greatly.

What would be your perfect day off?
It would begin with an early morning Body Balance class (as much as I love a lie-in, I always feel so refreshed and energised after this class), followed by a good coffee and a bowl of my favourite granola with greek yoghurt. I would spend the morning at this beautiful place near Bristol called The Walled Garden. It is full of stunning flowers in the Summer, and their restaurant (The Ethecurian) serves delicious food that you can eat while looking at the incredible view. I’d spend the afternoon drinking coffee and catching up with good friends, before going home and eating my favourite meal of pulled pork, made by my husband. I love to end the day with a glass of red wine, curled up under a blanket with a book, or watching an episode of something on Netflix.

Favourite quote?
I first came across this quote 10 years ago when I was studying Early Childhood Studies at university:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people that have come alive.” (Dr. Howard Thurman)
It really struck a chord with me at the time. I had often thought of work from the point of view of filling a role, rather than doing something I loved. It brought a fresh perspective that has stayed with me ever since. Baking is something that I absolutely love to do, and it is so much fun for me to bake for other people and see their delight in the way that my cakes play a part in their celebrations – be it a baby shower, a birthday, or just celebrating the simple things in life with a little bit of cake.

Find out more about Hannah and Milk & Honey Bakes at...
Instagram: @hannahruthking 

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