Welcome to BEARS SHARES: in this monthly blogpost we love to share some insight into the superhuman(s) behind local businesses in our hood. Finding out about their work, passions, lightbulb moments, likes and tips for a happy life. Now, more than ever, we love it when we can inspire you to shop local and support local. Dive in and enjoy the read. Email us here if you have a suggestion on which local business you like to see featured here next month.
Bears is a huge fan of our neighbourhood bakery OCTOBER26 on Askew road, run solely by Raluca and in weekends skilfully assisted by her daughter, not only because she is an amazing human being but moreover she bakes the awesomest sourdough bread in West London if not the UK. We are lucky to use Raluca's sourdough bread in one of Mr Bear's new Scoop Ice Cream creations.
Bread & Books: a soulful combo
Besides loving her bread, Raluca is a vivid reader too, and she adores finding good reads. If you like to be inspired, check out her favourite books on her Instagram feed.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your business?
I’m Raluca! Was born in Bucharest, Romania and have lived in London for more than 12 years now. I am the owner of OCTOBER 26 BAKERY and also the baker that produces the sourdough loaves and sweet treats that we sell in the shop on Askew Road.
How did you become a creative entrepreneur?
I studied market research at university, then did a masters in PR and worked for a telephone company. Then I asked to be picked for redundancy. When I started this I had no idea what I was doing, although I had always wanted to do something with food and was baking up to four loaves a day whilst on maternity leave. Eventually I was fed up of whinging about my job, and saying ‘I want to have a bakery,’ so I got on with this.
I opened within six weeks of getting my redundancy money because a friend, who is an architect, wanted to help before he went abroad. This was the first place I saw, it was close to home and my friend said it was right. I also made a business plan - but there simply isn’t enough time in the day to make half of the things I’d planned!
The bakery has now been open for more than 6 years and I am proud of it
What does an average working day look like for you?
I come in the bakery between 7-7.30am and turn the ovens on. While they heat up I brew coffee and read a couple pages from a book while sitting on the flour sacks. Then the day properly starts, I bake breads and sweets and prepare the bread dough for the next day: mixing, proving and later in the day shaping it to go in the fridge until it will be baked the next morning.
My working day usually finishes around 3.30pm when I pick my daugther up from school and my other job as a single mum starts.How’s your work life balance? Since the pandemic started I have had to reduce the number of hours I work to accomodate for homeschooling and an 8 year old being at home most of the time. As a result the business had to change and now I am working 4 days a week and the bakery is open for three days. This allows me to do other things with my time but also rest a bit since I do all the physical work by myself these days.
What is the best advice you have been given? It’s not exactly advice but I hold very close something a friend of mine told me once: “You will succeed at anything as long as you put your mind to it!”
What advice would you give others? Accept change, it will always happen.
What’s the biggest misconception in your industry? I suppose in my case it’s the fact that supermarkets are allowed to sell breads that are not real sourdough loaves, not properly fermented or natural, which makes customers reluctant to buy the real thing because: “it’s too sour”, or even because the shop bought is much cheaper - having been made in a factory in less than three hours.
What’s your most loved London restaurant? This is a very difficult question but I think right now it must be: St. John in Farringdon
What’s your favourite weekend activity? I like going to exhibitions or a museum and eating out.
Your film recommendation? I loved the documentary on Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy. An amazing mix of Mexican food and girl power.
Your book recommendation? Way too difficult to chose, but I loved the biography of Alice Waters of Chez Panisse: “Coming to my senses - The making of a counterculture cook”
What superpower would you like to have? I’d like to be able to speak any language.
What’s your favourite Bears ice cream and why? I love the strawberry and balsamic one! Amazing flavour combo!
Who would you like to invite at your dining table and share a Bears ice cream tub with for dessert?
I’d love to invite Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, Alice Waters and Nancy Silverton.
Tell us a little secret about yourself ... I am not a morning person.