With TV’s Bake Off series underway for 2020 and the UK’s national baking week taking place until October 20, people are plainly more in love with baked goods than ever before – luckily for Steph Giordano of Baked By Steph, who knew she was onto a winner when she took an order for 600 cookies within weeks of starting to bake as a hobby in her kitchen.
Even the pandemic hasn’t stopped the growth of her business. She upscaled into a new railway arch on Paradise Row in Hackney this August. Steph, 31, said: “It was definitely a giant leap of faith choosing to scale up in the middle of a global pandemic, especially considering we had to close for four months. While most companies have been downsizing or pulling back on their operations, we took a risk and moved into a much larger premises which has allowed us to expand the team and operations.”
A Belfast-born fashion graduate, Steph grew up in very food-oriented household with “a mum who could bake anything without having to look at a recipe.”
Baked by Steph started only two years ago when Steph’s hobby spiralled. She said: “I never intended it to become a business but with the help of Instagram I ended up getting an order from a big brand who wanted 600 cookies for the next week. I had to turn it down because I simply couldn’t do it as a one-woman-band but I thought, OK there’s something here.”
After another year juggling baking with her full-time job in digital design, Steph made the “giant decision” to quit to see if full time baking could be a new career. Moving to the arch enabled her to increase the available space and expand the team, take on more orders and welcome larger and more innovative machinery into their production, such as 3D printers and stencilling machines.
The impact of lockdown on other businesses that rely on footfall did not affect Baked by Steph. She said: “We’ve always been a digital-led business with e-commerce driving our sales and with technology at the forefront of our creative and operational processes, so we’re quite removed from the traditional concept of a bakery with a physical storefront. This really helped us out when the pandemic hit as we didn’t have to spend time diversifying or changing our operations. Our set-up lends itself well to a world in which footfall is low to non-existent.”
The business fell through every loophole and did not qualify for any state support during the pandemic, but Steph found that with people being unable to travel, the cookies were even more popular. “All of our cookies and macarons post out across the UK and soon we’ll be opening up to international shipping as well. At a time when people are so far apart, we make it easy for people to send a little love in the post, a little sweet something to say, ‘I’m thinking of you’.”
She is most frequently asked if they sell frames because so many people want to show them off rather than eat them. “What we do is very different in terms of the UK market, it’s very visually driven. What people come for is our custom design. We can make anything into an edible version, a fun element.” Specialist cookie designs like this are in big demand in the run up to Christmas. Baked by Steph is currently working on a single order for more than 10,000 cookies for the jewellery brand Tiffany and Co. Steph said: “Christmas is our biggest time of year for sales. Brands allocate a lot of their marketing budgets to Christmas gifting and what better way to say ‘happy holidays’ to clients, staff and partners than a custom designed or branded box of cookies?”