Charlotte Giddings, co-founder of Brownie and the Bean – winner of the Barclaycard Business Boost award – is compering on the Main Stage at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival tomorrow. Here, she reflects on an unforgettable summer
By anybody’s standards, Charlotte Giddings has had an epic summer. At the start of it, the co-founder of Brownie and the Bean, based in Suffolk, found out that the bake business had won a Barclaycard Business Boost Award and was one of five small business owners awarded a once-in-a-lifetime bursary of £10,000 and a spot at a UK festival – that festival being Latitude.
The Award couldn’t have come at a better time, as Charlotte says: ‘We’ve had such a terrible time over the years, starting a business before lockdown – this is our time for things to go right.
Charlotte and husband Luke launched Brownie and the Bean in 2019 and have coped with the Covid epidemic starting just a few months later. This year has brought its own challenges, with the cost-of-living crisis. ‘The year started really strong, and we were very grateful for that, but we had a really quiet period around Easter time when we were supposed to be at our busiest.’
However, there was light at the end of the tunnel. ‘Around that same sort of time I found out we’d been nominated for the Barclaycard Business Boost Award.
‘The prize was a phenomenal bursary, a mentor to support you and a free pitch at Latitude. The whole point of the Award is to support small businesses who could do with a little bit of a helping hand.’
Nowadays, Brownie and the Bean is made up of four strands: online, corporate gifting, wholesale and events. The bursary has enabled them to invest in a commercial oven for the first time and the mentoring has proved to be ‘priceless.’
Although Brownie and the Bean has had a pitch at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival before, Latitude is a festival on a national scale, with its own rules and regulations. ‘It’s another world entirely,’ says Charlotte.
They had a few weeks to prepare for their free pitch. ‘It wasn’t just a case of being nominated and running off into the sunset at Henham! The pressure was on. We didn’t know how many coffee and cake vendors were going to be there and we didn’t know how busy we were going to be. We made what we thought was the right number of brownies.’
As it turned out, all went well. ‘We had the most amazing team of people working with us and it was the most magical weekend – it was like nothing else I’d ever experienced – and the most magical thing was that we had some of our day-one customers there. It was the boost we needed to spur us on. In small businesses, so many times one quiet month can really knock your confidence.’
Charlotte’s relationship with Barclaycard has continued. ‘They have asked me to be a voice being a woman in business, and a black woman in business, about the issues we face.’
Charlotte’s message is this: ‘My advice to any black female entrepreneur thinking of starting up a business is absolutely go for it and don’t be put off by being the only unicorn in the room. Make it your strength and shine. Keep showing up and then we’ll make a difference.’
She says: ‘It feels so much more than a one hit wonder prize and it’s lovely to speak on subjects really close to my heart and influence someone who is thinking of starting their small business.’
Recently, Charlotte spoke at a WoMENTA Programme to Empower Female Entrepreneurs Launch Event at Kesgrave Hall, organised by MENTA Business Support for Norfolk & Suffolk. She says: ‘The power of so many women in the room was so uplifting – that was a really wonderful experience.’
Tomorrow (Saturday, September 23) she is compering on the Main Stage at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival. Although she was initially ‘terrified’ at the prospect, ‘I thought, you know what, I really want to be a voice for women in business. If you don’t stand up and do things like that once in a while you are never going to close that gap. I’m very nervous but very excited.’
The future for Brownie and the Bean is looking bright, with Charlotte revealing that they are in discussion with a couple of new wholesale customers. ‘We are in a really good place at the moment – winning the Boost Award has literally boosted us.’
Featured image of Charlotte Giddings of Brownie and the Bean, by Barclaycard Payments