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!
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?
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.