Michelle Stratford is a fourth generation bread baker and proud resident of Leicester, in the East Midlands. In 2014, she was researching what it meant to set up a community bakery in order to determine what form her new social enterprise would take. She discovered Virtuous Bread and Bread Angels, and it was obvious that we were a perfect fit. The ‘Eat Well, Do Good’ mantra is reflected in the core aims of what would become Planet Leicester Bakers.
With the help and support of the Bread Angels training and its supportive network of micro bakers across the UK, Michelle set up Planet Leicester Bakers as a micro-bakery business in Leicester. Grant funding swiftly followed, and over the next year, Planet Leicester Bakers delivered the first flagship community project, called ‘Sharing Bread’. Working in community kitchens across Leicestershire, Planet Leicester Bakers taught over 60 people how to make a simple loaf of bread.
Michelle also benefited from Big Lottery funding after winning a place as a start up student of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, of which she is now a fellow. One major benefit of the funding was the chance to attend the advanced artisan bread baking course at the School of Artisan Food.
Planet Leicester Bakers has established itself in the midlands as an innovative business with a social purpose and it is a significant participant in the growing craft food business scene in Leicester. The aim is to bring people and communities closer together through the loveliness of bread. Collaboration with other local businesses and community projects, and positive customer relationships are all at the business’s heart. They are also an active supporter of the Slow Food Campaign.
Using bread to fundraise for local charities and community groups is an important activity for Planet Leicester Bakers. Our “Toasting Together” project enables community groups and charities to buy sourdough bread at very low prices which they can then sell, as toast, in their cafes for very reasonable prices, thus bringing people together over toast and tea where they can talk about whatever they want, including the benefits of good bread! In 2015, we raised £126 by using bread to celebrate Leicester City Football Club’s success. The funds were donated to City of Sanctuary, an organisation that that supports people who are seeking asylum and sanctuary in Leicester.
Planet Leicester Bakers has just announced an exciting new collaborative community project called Baking a Difference, and Michelle’s success in the inaugural Small Food Awards has given a further boost to interest in the business.
Private training, team building and public speaking all support the community initiatives, creating a solid foundation on which Planet Leicester Bakers will build for the future.