Luminary Bakery is a social enterprise that is transforming lives one cinnamon bun at a time. Its chief purpose is to empower women who are vulnerable to get back into work. They offer training programmes within their bakeries to rebuild confidence, skills and self-esteem.
At CakeDrop we are extremely proud to work with the team at Luminary Bakery. We caught up with Rachel Stonehouse, their Head Bakery Trainer, to find out more about Luminary and her work there.
When did you first start working with Luminary and what made you want to join the enterprise?
I joined the Luminary Bakery team in September 2014 as an intern. After that, I became a baker, Head Baker, and more recently Head Bakery Trainer. In this role, I get the pleasure of teaching the trainees on our Employability Programme to bake. I’ve also been part of the team that wrote and recently published our first cookbook. I was drawn to Luminary because they combined all the things I was passionate about: good cake, using business for social change and providing opportunities for people who have experienced extreme disadvantage and gender-based violence.
Why does baking work so well for building employability skills and self-worth?
A Luminary trainee’s experience of disadvantage and trauma can put her furthest from the job market. Yet, being employed and financially independent is crucial to changing her circumstances. We work holistically with women for 2 years, offering a safe space to train in baking and work-related skills. We offer trauma-informed support, preparation for employment, and guidance in building towards a positive future.
Luminary uses baking as a tool to take women on a journey to employability and entrepreneurship. Equipping them with transferable skills for the working world. We’ve chosen baking as this vehicle for many reasons. It teaches great skills that can be applied to any job such as time management, working with others, following instructions, creativity and organisation. Baking also provides quick satisfaction from making something to enjoying the result. As well as sharing this outcome with friends and family. This gives the baker pride and self-confidence from learning new skills and making something nourishing that is appreciated by others.
How have you seen women’s lives changed through the bakery?
Since its inception in 2014, we have supported 66 women to build their career and another 24 trainees graduated last week. We are continually inspired by all they’re achieving and how they’re growing in confidence! The jobs graduates go on to, are as varied as the women we train and support. Some common ones are jobs in other London bakeries, caring roles, and setting up their own businesses. Some women have gone into further education at university or catering college too. There have even been some graduates, employed by other Luminary graduates who’ve set up their own catering businesses! We also offer apprenticeships within our bakeries and have employed graduates as bakers, baristas and in our charity team.
Luminary has recently launched its first recipe book Rising Hope: Inspiring life stories and recipes from Luminary Bakery. Can you tell me a little more about it and your favourite recipe?
Rising Hope combines over 70 delicious recipes with the stories of women Luminary has empowered. Rising Hope takes the reader on a journey that shows how anyone, anywhere, can learn to bake, grow and share their experiences with those around them. Our inspiration for Rising Hope was the many women who have come through our bakery doors and the recipes and stories they’ve carried with them. From trainees, to bakers, to apprentices; all have shared a piece of themselves and in doing so shaped our bakery. We wanted Rising Hope to not only reflect the resilience, diversity, and talent of these individuals but the strength found in the community.
It’s so hard to choose a single recipe because they are all so unique and delicious. A couple that I would highlight would be Our Signature Cinnamon Swirls with Cream Cheese Frosting and our Spiced Squash Layer Cake.
How is Luminary Bakery coping during the pandemic?
During the earlier lockdown, our bakery was forced to shut its doors. But our support and baking training programmes continued, albeit from a distance.
We supported 56 women through the challenging time of social isolation, change and uncertainty. Whilst many other services closed, Luminary provided vital 1-2-1 support. We also introduced weekly baking tutorial videos, online live bake-alongs and self-care and parenting resources to women throughout London.
We’ve also been delivering care packages and essential baking equipment to trainees, equipping them to continue baking from home. Before and throughout the pandemic Luminary has been committed to supporting many of our beneficiaries through mental health issues, abusive relationships and housing issues.
If you could share a slice of cake with anyone (alive or dead), who would it be and why?
Brene Brown. We have some quotes from her written on the walls in our bakery. Her research, thinking and writing is incredible and has shaped some of what we do at Luminary. Her work on vulnerability, courage, shame and empathy is so discerning and insightful. It’s impacted me personally too, especially through her podcast which she released over lockdown. I think she’d make for a very interesting chat over a piece of cake!