Redefining Wonder Woman Series 3: From Home Baker To Café Owner

When I decided to start a baking business, I started to connect with other bakers on twitter. It was there I ‘met’ Jo Kruczynska. Shortly after we connected on twitter, which was soon after I moved to Cambridge, she made a bold announcement – she was opening a café. Although I didn’t know her personally, as one woman to another, I was proud of her. Afternoon Tease opened about six months ago and it has very quickly become a favourite hang out for students and locales. Jo has been on the food scene in Cambridge for some time, supplying museums and local cafés but owning your own place is a totally different thing. It’s been inspiring and educational watching Jo from afar. As a business graduate it is fascinating to watch her apply the simple principles of product, price, promotion and place. So one day I simply asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing her experience on my blog and I’m honoured she agreed. If you are looking to turn your passion into a business, I hope you find this a starter for ten.

RWW: Where did your love for food and cakes come from?
Jo: My family loves food! All of our family holidays have always been planned around food and our family gatherings are centred around eating! We love it! Both of my grannies (Polish and English) were great home cooks.

RWW: Was your first cake a disaster or a success?
Jo: I remember telling my Mum one day that I wanted to bake a Victoria sponge for my Grandad’s birthday. She let me and it was a success. I’m not sure I would think so now, but at the time everyone was pretty impressed. From then on, I started baking more and more. I have had (and still do) have my fair share of baking disasters though!

RWW: Did you always know you wanted to own a café or did you stumble upon it?
Jo: I have a degree in Illustration and did a stint as a Freelance Editorial Illustrator. After 2 years I realised I didn’t want to do that anymore as it was far too solitary for me and I had to do three other part time jobs to make ends meet so I packed up and went travelling, making the most of having zero responsibilities. It’s a bit of a cliche but it was during my travels in New Zealand and Australia that I witnessed their amazing café culture and made my mind up to open my own café. They made it seem so simple – amazing coffee and food in a great environment and yet it was far from what we had managed to achieve in England! The seed had been planted….

RWW: So when you came back to England, what happened next?
Jo: I had been living in London for five years, saving money to start my café business and I decided that it was time to move back to my hometown of Cambridge to re-start my life there and get settled in and, most importantly, get looking for a café premises! I knew that it might take some time to find the right place and I’d been away for quite a while so no one knew anything about me. My first goal was to introduce my cakes to the people of Cambridge and without a premises, the best way to do that was through selling to other cafés in town that I loved.

RWW: Practically, how did you get from home baker to café owner?
Jo: I kept my baking days to Tuesday, Thursday and Friday whilst I dedicated Mondays and Wednesdays to getting the business side of things sorted so that as soon as I found the premises I would be ready to go – it was a little like being in limbo until I found the right place. It was an extremely long winded process particularly as I also had to put in a planning application to get ‘change of use’ on the property. I started negotiating in February and didn’t get the keys until the end of August. Us Kruczynskis don’t mess around though. As soon as we were in, we got cracking and managed to get the fit out done in just 3 months!

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RWW: I know! I was amazed at how quickly you got the shop open from the moment you got the keys. How was that possible? 
Jo: I had done a lot of preparation work and planning whilst running my cake business, which really helped. But really it comes down to the fact that my family and friends are amazing! Everyone was so supportive and threw themselves into the project. My Dad did my fit out for me and all of my family and friends got involved at some point, whether it was helping with painting, tiling, cleaning, overhauling old furniture or wallpapering the loo. 🙂

RWW: I read somewhere that you saved diligently for seven years? You must be extremely disciplined.
Jo: It was tough. I had moved to London to earn my ‘fortune’ 🙂 and managed to get a job as a PA. I was earning good money for the first time in my life but every month I would squirrel away most of my pay packet before I could miss it, meaning that I still lived on a pretty rubbish income. I still managed to have a lot of fun and it’s been worth it!

RWW: What was the toughest part of those seven years?
Jo: I’m very stubborn, so the challenge of saving the money wasn’t so tough. The toughest part was probably doing jobs that weren’t what I really wanted to be doing. Saying that, I had some great experiences during that time that have been very beneficial to starting my own business.

RWW: Six months in, what has it been like?
Jo: A very steep learning curve…but I really couldn’t have asked for a better start. It’s been tougher than I could have ever imagined and I couldn’t have prepared myself for this however many books I read or research I did.

RWW: What is the most difficult thing about running a cafe?
Jo: The long hours, the never ending to-do list and the fact that as a boss, you’re meant to know everything. 🙂

RWW: What mistakes have you made that others in a similar circumstance could learn from?
Jo: I need to work on planning more time away from the café for myself – so that I can step back and see the bigger picture. I think that’s important.

RWW: What have been your highest moment since you opened the cafe?
Jo: That’s difficult to pin point. I have high points all the time and celebrate every small milestone. We recently celebrated our 6 month birthday…I couldn’t believe how far we’d come!

RWW: Lastly, how do you unwind?
Jo: I go running to let go of my stress! I’ve done a couple of half marathons but at the moment I only have time for about one run a week. My aim is to get to a point where I can leave the café enough to get back to three a week. I also love eating and drinking…predictable hey?

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RWW: Thanks for sharing your experience Jo!

Visit Afternoon Tease at 13 King Street, City Centre, Cambridge, CB1 1HL or find out more at www.afternoontease.co.uk
You can also read about my experience there here.

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Delegation, Delegation, Delegation

I enrolled my children on one of those swimming crash courses. Which means every day of the half term they have a lesson. As they are growing children, it turns out they each only have one swim suit that fits. This only spells one thing for me, more work! I have to wash their swimsuits every evening in preparation for the next day. I’m not going to scream.

As I was about to wash their swimsuits the night before, it suddenly dawned on me. Here lies the perfect opportunity to teach my son (as he’s older) an old fashioned value – the art of hand washing.

Oooooooo I can see clearly now. Next lesson, breakfast in bed. 😉

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I Just Want To Be A Kept Woman

For eighteen months I was in a boring job. It felt like I was in a prison. I dreaded going to the office. I was demotivated and miserable. I’m amazed that I managed to claw some actual experience from there. I wanted out and thankfully I was able to do so soon after I quit.

A month on in my new job, I am far from bored. It’s not just a new job for me but a newly created role for the team. So I’m having loads of meetings with different stakeholders, learning about products I never new existed, running a new project from week one and trying to catch up with deadlines. I’m not bored. I’m far from bored. Every day brings a fresh challenge and new dimension to my role. Everyone is happy the role has been created – which means everyone has a perspective on what I ‘should’ be doing. My brain is exhausted. I have used parts of my brain that have been dormant for so long that at the end of the day I feel like I’ve been physically exercising. Seriously! It’s like I’ve never worked in my life.

So now I’ve decided that I just want to be a kept woman -not a homemaker, that’s hard work too -a KEPT woman. All I want to care about is what time I get up in the morning; what book am I going to read in the day; whether I cook or eat out; getting out of the cleaners way; going to the gym; the pin number to the bank account with the never-ending supply of money I’ll have access to; kissing my kids goodnight and curling up in bed next to my husband at the end of the day.

A life of no concerns. Does it exist? Perhaps Bill Gates or the Hidunja brothers will adopt me. Or maybe Brad and Angelina. Hmmmmm.

That Moment When You Want To Say I Told You So

You must have had that conversation with a friend or colleague where they are going on and on about something they are going to do or insisting on doing. And you know not just from experience but common sense that it’s not going to work. You tell them your thoughts and they get annoyed that you would even try to ‘quash’ their dream. Rather than be the dream quasher you bite your tongue and back off.

When they come back to you months or even years later to say that they are now doing the thing you suggested, although they give you no credit for that decision, what do you do? Do you say:

    a) Oh honey. That’s great news!
    b) Listen, smile and nod as they tell you about this ‘new’ plan. Or
    c) Say it’s a shame you wasted all this time doing things your way when you could have saved yourself the trouble by listening to me in the FIRST place!

What would you do? A, B or C?

I have a saying that comes from my past experiences.

Life itself is your greatest teacher. No one needs to tell you what to do. You’ll learn ……………………eventually.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

We all get jealous. Please don’t try and tell me you don’t; even if it’s just for five minutes, you do! Jealousy can be a useful tool you know. It’s never about the other person, unless of course the other person is Melinda Gates; then of course it IS about her. 😉

As I was saying, it’s never about the other person. It simply signifies your unhappiness with certain things in your life and the lack of control you feel you may or may not have i.e. your ability to alter your unhappiness. Never let jealousy get the better of you, instead use it to reflect on what you really want.

I remember once I was working with a colleague who one day stopped driving her quite ordinary Punto and drove in to work in a Mini Cooper. I don’t even like the car but the green eyed monster was quite adamant that I wanted it and I deserved to have it. After giving myself a slap or two I asked a simple question. Why are you jealous?

    One, you don’t like the car
    Two, you are happy with your car

The first step to getting my answer was admitting I was jealous and owning that emotion.

Self awareness is a mandatory skill for every human being to possess. You may have to develop the skill but you must have it in you repertoire of life skills. I discovered that day that jealousy could be my friend. My emotions stemmed from the fact that I felt stifled in my job. I wanted a change. This lady had mentioned for years that this was her dream car and, suddenly it seemed, after several years of having an aspiration it was just there before our eyes. I envied her progress. It had nothing to do with her or her car. I just wanted my life to move on from where it was.

The lure of jealousy is that it abdicates responsibility unto someone or something else. It says why can’t I have that or be that and specialises in emasculation. It points at your inadequacies and blinds you to the fact that things can change. It promises regret, despair and only a consolation prize. You master it by saying yeah I’m jealous, so what? It loses it grip instantly. It’s just an emotion and need not be more than a temporary resident in your heart.

If you can face up to your jealousy, it can reveal a lot more than you bargained for but if you do it in an honest manner, you should grow as a result. Next time the green eyed monster whispers in your ear, offer it some cake and tea. You might learn something new about yourself and get the motivation you need to change a thing or two.

Aaaaaargh! Give Me Strength!

I’ve just confiscated my son’s books because instead of getting ready for school, he has decided to read. In the morning rush; after having a bath, before changing into his uniform, before having breakfast, before we navigate the terrains of the early morning school rush; he decided to read!!!!!!!!

I should be happy I have a son that’s interested in reading right? NO! Not when he makes us late for school and, subsequently, work as a result. The books have now been banished to where the Christmas wrapping paper is kept. I don’t know how long they are going to stay there for but suffice it to say that right now, I DON’T CARE!!!!!

Now as he has given me reason to write this post before the school run, surely he should be doubly punished for that as well as we are definitely going to be late now. Aaargh!!!!!!

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Tiger Wife

I know a couple of women who I would refer to as ‘Tiger Wives’. They are fiercely loyal women who stand up for their men and feel angered on his behalf when he is wronged. Angered enough to go and rectify the situation on his behalf. You don’t want to see the other side of a tiger wife. She is to be feared and revered.

Don’t mess with her man.

Don’t disrespect her man.

Don’t take advantage of her man.

Just don’t step to her man.

Otherwise you will hear her roar.

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Do you know her?

In Honour Of Sisterhood

I have three sisters and I feel really blessed to have them as my sisters. As I get older I really really value my relationship with them. Growing up, I frequently wished I had a brother or that something was lacking for lack of having one. I suppose in a sense my male cousins were my brothers and any guy who would be brave enough to be my friend. 🙂 In my ‘wiser age’, I value my relationship with my sisters so much more. Having people to talk to about everything, sharing my life with them is just invaluable. My husband knows to highlight the things he would rather they didn’t know otherwise they will hear of it. Lol.

Beyond that, I truly value female relationships. I’ve always marvelled at how true girlfriends can get together and have so much fun and that deep throaty-from-gut laugh in spite of a lack of alcohol. It’s marvellous. Even if you don’t have sisters, you should have girlfriends in your life. I have quite a few girlfriends. I have a group of five friends from primary school believe it or not; four very tight friends from secondary school; a couple of women from my previous work place and even in my short time in Cambridge, I have gained a trio that I regularly dine out with.

I spent a lot of time avoiding females friendships when I was younger. In the past, I simply found it easier to form friendships with men. My male friends didn’t seem to be plagued by the incessant need to pretend to be someone else, were a lot more open, less judgemental and unencumbered by their issues. I guess as a young adult I didn’t have the patience for that. Or perhaps I had enough drama In my own life that I sought the simplicity of male company. As a result, the one stage of my life where I didn’t really form a bond with women was at university.

I know I’m not the only woman who has struggled with female friendships. I’ve spoken to a few people who have even given up on trying. As ‘complex’ as women can be, the quality of female friendships is totally different from that of male friendships – and I say that as someone who has a male best friend. Without coming across as stereotypical, I would say my male friends bring a refreshing objectivity, practicality and sometimes, protective taint on our relationship. However my female friends, including my sisters, have a depth of loyalty, wisdom, EMOTIONS and camaraderie to friendship that knows no bounds. I’m not necessarily comparing the two; more like highlighting the merits.

I suppose this post is only relevant if you were like me or have been burnt by ‘females’ :). Nonetheless I think everyone should have a band of sisters around them. They do not have to be biological but you should have women you can hang out with and be real to. People who won’t judge your actions but be honest with you about your choices. People who you can share your weaknesses with but will not use it as an opportunity to get one up on you. People who will listen and share your moans, cries, joy and secrets. Women who are bold like you who have great aspirations for their lives; who will cheer-lead you all the way. We all need that band of sisterhood surrounding us.

It may take some time to find the women like this, who you can trust but if you take the risk, it’s worth it in the end.

Friday, Friday, Friday

No matter how passionate I am about my work or how engaged I may be, I always watch the clock.  Not because I’m bored (not any more) but because I can’t wait to be reunited with my family.
I’d give up a party or a night out in a split second for the chance to spend the day with my husband and children. 

We are going to part ways soon and I won’t see them for another nine hours but I can’t wait to return home. I know threre may be some yelling, fighting and crying (probably by me 😉 ) but that’s all part of the parenthood package. I hear we’re going to have very warm weather this weekend. I’m planning fun activities we can do. Did i tell you i can’t wait? #dancing

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