Every week, we shine a spotlight on the best small brands we think are worth shouting about. We love our great British high street, but there are so many fantastic independent brands out there making clothes, accessories, homeware and more from a place of passion and love and we need to support them – now more than ever.
From fashion and beauty to homeware, accessories and food, we bring you the best small businesses you need on your radar. This week, in celebration of Afternoon Tea Week, we chat with Julia Goldfinch, founder of letterbox brownies and gift hamper delivery brand, Charming Bakery.
How did Charming Bakery come about?
My husband, Daron, and I started Charming Bakery back in October 2019. We have been involved in the café and bakery business for over 20 years and run the Finch House Café in Tonbridge, Kent. We already had a team of professional bakers to make fresh cakes and pastries for the café, which are extremely popular. Customers regularly asked if they could buy brownies that could be wrapped up as presents for friends and family and the idea to post beautifully packaged brownies and cakes nationwide was born!
Finch House Café pays tribute to our surname, Goldfinch, and when we found out a group of the birds is called a charm, the Charming Bakery brand took off. I have a background in fine art and was inspired by goldfinches’ migratory paths, sketching the different animals they encounter on the way – the North African Cheetah, the European Red Fox and our pet Dalmatian, Mabel, who sees the birds in the garden. The illustrations feature on our packaging, our collectable mugs and cake tins and customers can choose their favourite when ordering.
While convenience is important, sending a gift should still feel personal. Therefore, we strive to offer indulgent, beautifully-packaged hampers that are easy to send, include a greetings card and are guaranteed to delight the recipient whatever the occasion. We also want to offer plenty of choices to cater to different tastes and dietary requirements and make it feel more personal. Our gift hampers can be tailored and customers can combine their chosen design with their preferred brownies or loaf cake – they can even add extras such as coffee beans, a fine bone china mug or a bottle of bubbles to make the occasion even more special.
What three words describe Charming Bakery?
Delicious, Indulgent, Beautiful. Charming!
Who is the Charming Bakery customer?
It could be anyone who is looking to send a gift to friends, family members or business contacts in the UK. Typically caring and thoughtful, our customers love and recognise good quality food made from the finest ingredients.
How do you decide on new flavours and products?
We have a brilliant team of bakers and together we take one day a month to think up and experiment with new recipes. Everyone takes inspiration from their own tastes and each of our bakers has their own interests, which come through in our bakes.
Sarah is interested in vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free baking and is always looking to create deliciously indulgent free-from recipes. Elise likes to be innovative and seeks out new techniques and unusual flavour combinations. Julia, (who shares my name as well as my love of cake) is a talented pastry chef with lots of experience, who aims for technical perfection.
Daron was educated by one of the first Seattle baristas and has travelled throughout Italy to perfect the art of coffee making. As a result, he can expertly pair hot drinks and cake flavours, which is great for the café but also helps us create our own house tea and coffee blends to include in gift hampers.
We are all involved in the development process and certainly look forward to tasting days!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually wake at 5:30am to walk our Dalmatian and brand mascot, Mabel. We live in a rural area, so we run in the woods or across country to the nearest village – Mabel definitely puts me to shame. I drop my teenage children at the bus stop and return home to start creative work for Charming Bakery or Finch House Café. I meet up with Daron at lunchtime to discuss the businesses. He is brilliant at the business side and I love the creative aspect and thinking of new designs for the brand. I will continue to work into the afternoon before completing a mad rush of chores and collecting the children from school. Evenings consist of a family supper and homework and I finish off any outstanding creative work.
What’s the best thing about running your own business? And the most challenging?
Freedom to be creative is easily the best aspect of running your own business. I have always been a creative individual so designing Charming illustrations is really rewarding, I also find great pleasure in being able to work with my husband every day.
Last year was very difficult for many businesses and the uncertainty of being able to retain staff at the height of the pandemic was a major worry for us and certainly the worst part of running a business for me. Fortunately, as time has progressed things are looking up and we can proudly say we have built a great team that we are extremely grateful for.
The most memorable moment so far?
The overwhelmingly wonderful feedback we receive for Charming Bakery and the huge demand for our products by far leaves us with the best memories.
Which cake or brownie is your current favourite?
That is a difficult choice. I would have to say our Bestsellers Brownies Box is my favourite of the brownie selection because you get an array of different flavours to sample from. Our sensational Lemon & Blueberry Loaf Cake is my favourite cake, especially at this time of year.
Anything exciting planned for the rest of this year?
We have just launched our new Mini Hampers, which include a Charming fine bone china mug and either a box of 12 decadent brownies or a loaf cake – they make the simple pleasure of enjoying tea and cake even more special. We also have lots planned for Christmas and the festive season so are currently working hard behind the scenes to set it all up – that’s all I’ll say for now!