I always used to say that I wanted to change the world. I was convinced that with a good enough idea and a bit of courage I’d somehow be able to make this planet better place. We often say big things like that don’t we, but how many of us actually follow through and make things happen?
Meet my mate Alice.
Alice has a heart for women who have worked in the sex industry. A few years ago she had a crazy idea to open a bakery that would provide training, support and employment for vulnerable women so that they could improve life for themselves and their families. In 2014 Alice set up Luminary Bakery and wham-bam her and her team are now changing the world, one cookie at a time.
There’s something really special about having a dream and actually making it happen, isn’t there? I caught up with Alice to ask her a bit more about her journey…
So how does Luminary Bakery work?
We’re a social enterprise, which means that we trade in order to tackle social problems and improve life chances. Our focus is to help women from vulnerable backgrounds get into employment. By vulnerable we mean a woman would have been homeless, have a criminal record or experienced sexual or domestic violence. The most significant thing we do is provide safe community where the women can learn new skills that will essentially help them move on in life.
Sounds amazing. Where did such a cool dream come from?
It sounds really cheesy, but from God. The idea developed over time and God brought loads of different things together to make this all happen. A while ago I spent some time in Thailand volunteering with a charity that worked with women in the red light district. They had a really good model of providing a practical way to support women who worked in the sex industry. They created community, offered practical support and alternative employment. Fast forward a bit, when I got back to London I worked in my church’s café. Business was good and we were always running out of bread for our sandwiches. One day I had a bit of a light bulb moment and realised that baking would be an amazing skill to teach
vulnerable women and it would work perfectly as an alternative route of employment for them. I chatted to some of my mates because some of them already volunteered in women’s hostels, some were bakers, others were business type thinkers, so we came together and prayed about what this project could look like. Three years later, we started trading.
That is so inspiring. Tell us a bit more about how you saw God take Luminary Bakery from an idea to a reality…
I think it was seeing loads of people’s different skills coming together. I’m not well connected and we’re not great at promoting ourselves, but a lot of stuff happened outside of us, and still does. People hear about what we are trying to do and just keep asking about how they can get involved, donating time, finances and skills. I believe that that is God agreeing that these women need the support we want to offer and He is using us as a way to love them. The women we work with know that we are Christians but we don’t push our religion on them. However, on our training course there is such a sense of community. It really is special and is something we couldn’t create ourselves. I believe that at the bakery God is drawing people together, building people up and empowering them. To an outsider it could look like we just run a baking course, but we believe that something more significant is happening.
What would your encouragement be for someone who is interested in setting up their own social enterprise?
Get some experience in the area you want to work in. Volunteer for a while, not as a chance to get something out of it but as a chance to serve along side people who are already doing it. Also do lots of research, read up about the issues, watch loads of good documentaries, find out what the laws are and what other organisations are already doing. Whatever way you’re hoping to do to help
people, don’t come into it thinking you’ve got the answer, it’s a horrible attitude to have and actually there has been people working in those areas of need for years and years and years, so find people who are already doing it and serve alongside them. By working behind the scenes or finding ways to support organisations that already exist, you’ll become more exposed and can learn about what you’re good at and what you can offer.
Thanks Alice, that’s really good advice. So if someone wants to find out a bit more about Luminary Bakery and maybe get involved can they?
Sure! We’re on instagram, twitter and facebook so follow us there. We love volunteers so contact us via our website if you’re up for getting involved. At the moment we are also running a crowdfunder campaign too, because we’re trying to open our new bakery store. Any support towards that would be really amazing!