For the whole month of March, we're cheering on all the incredible women we work with in celebration of International Women's Day on 8th March. Kicking off this series with Meringue Girls!
Meringue Girls was born eight years ago when the two female founders met and saw a gap in the market: an innovative, colourful baking brand, with girl power at the core. Quickly amassing a huge Instagram following and catching the attention of London's leading department stores and high-end fashion brands with clients ranging from Dior to Stella McCartney and Adidas, Meringue Girls soon landed numerous TV appearances and published two cookbooks.
The brand is now constantly at the forefront of food trends, and the Meringue Girls have become an incredible collective of girl boss bakers taking over the sweet world.
With their own bakery in the bustling foodie hub of Broadway Market, they also run weekly meringue and cake baking classes, which have been rated by the Evening Standard as one of the best London based foodie masterclasses.
We sat down with founder Alex to chat about Meringue Girls' success story, what led her to starting the business and women in the food industry!
Photo by Meringue Girls
What’s your background and career path up until this point and what do you do now?
I have done many things in my time - from a runner on the TV show Big Brother to marketing for Nintendo and food styling. After a big breakup, I took time off and went travelling and realised I wanted to retrain to be a chef. After my Leiths (School of Food and Wine) training, I got a job in a restaurant kitchen, which is where I met Stacey, who is the original co-founder. It was a male dominated kitchen and wasn't producing the kind of food we were into. We both had bigger visions, so we schemed up ways of starting up our own thing.
We saw a gap in the market for a cool new baking brand who took meringues to the next LEVEL. I pulled up a big favour from an old contact (David Loftus) who I had met whilst food styling on the Jamie Oliver team. He took photos for our website and promoted us on his Instagram - and orders started coming in. It gave us the confidence to set up a website and social handles.
We worked from my home kitchen and eventually overnights in a shared kitchen. 8 years, and a lot of hard work later, we've achieved a lot of things we are proud of:
Our own bakery space in Broadway Market where we produce bespoke orders for all sorts of events, product launches and weddings. Meringue is our specialty but we've branched out into so much more - brownies, cakes, chocolates, vegan treat and we've even catered high teas and canapé events.
A profitable business that employs 5 amazing women
We've got a great roster of repeat clients in the fashion and creative industries
We've published two cookbooks and have a big Instagram community (which is our best marketing tool)
We've flown all over the world, catering events and parties - last year Beyoncé played at a wedding we were catering!
Photo by Ellis Parrinder
What first interested you in the food industry?
I've always been a massive foodie. The food industry is a creative and ever evolving place, with a lot of opportunities. I've got a deep rooted entrepreneurial and creative drive and was really drawn to this sector.
What do you believe are some of the biggest challenges that women in the catering sector face today?
The biggest hurdle is starting up your own business, as you need a lot of drive to get yourself and the business over the line - and it takes a while for it to be profitable enough for you to pay yourself a decent wage. Food is a notoriously hard place to turn a decent profit with wholesale prices taking a big chunk.
I now have two young kids, and the biggest challenge for me has been to manage the childcare and business juggle - thankfully I have an amazing team that have helped me ride out the toughest parts.
The biggest reward of having your own catering business is that you can work remotely/flexibly and carve out the balance that works for you.
Photo by Ellis Parrinder
Have you ever felt discriminated against or been encouraged as a woman in catering?
We have never been discriminated against but we made some silly mistakes at the start and put too much trust in bigger corporations who took advantage of our naivety. However, our old head chef (male) was MORE than encouraging and I've always felt supported within the industry, especially by other small business owners. I've always felt there's a big camaraderie - even amongst businesses in similar fields.
We have a girl power ethos and try to be as open and sharing as possible to give other people within the same field a helping hand by sharing skills or experience. "Collaboration over competition" is a great motto.
What steps should be taken to attract more women to working in the catering and hospitality sector?
Not just for women, but the restaurant working conditions and hours need to be monitored . Working continuous shifts would affect anyone's mental health and isn't compatible with anyone also trying to be a parent. Business rates are also a massive hurdle in London!
Photo by Meringue Girls
What would your advice be to a woman looking to start a career in the sector?
Find a niche and be the best in the field at it! It's the best way to attract instant PR and for people to 'get it'.
Start with a business partner - you can bounce ideas off each other and always have the other person keeping you on your toes and motivated.
Gain all the knowledge, reach out to businesses who inspire you, go for a coffee, share ideas and learn from the experiences of those you admire, and be prepared to do the same in return. Pass it forward!
Start an instagram portfolio of your work, show personality, develop a brand style and stick to it.
Celebrate all things girl power in your office with a crate of sweet pink treats from the meringue-experts.
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