Whisking up business wins with Brownie and the Bean
We’ve all heard of social media success stories: businesses that have turned comments into customers and posts into profit. But what’s their secret? Between baking brownies and building a brand following, we caught up with Charlotte of Brownie and the Bean to hear about her social media strategy and being the representation she needed as a Black female business owner.
Q: Hi Charlotte! Tell us about how you started Brownie and the Bean.
I'd always been around the food and drink industry, and I’m very passionate about really excellent quality food and drink. When I met my husband, we realised we shared the same passions and it just seemed like the natural progression to start our own thing. He’s the baker and I work on the sales and marketing side of things.
Q: How has your business evolved since you started?
Brownies were our original product, made with a family recipe that’s been passed down through the generations. As well as selling direct to consumers online, we also have a wholesale side to our business, and offer corporate gifting too. We even expanded into coffee – the perfect companion for baked goods! Of course, it had to be local roasters you know, with the highest ethics that we could possibly source.
I’m like a unicorn in a room of completely different animals
Q: What challenges have you had to overcome as a business owner?
It isn’t easy being a Black female founder, you do struggle to make those connections, particularly where we're from in a rural area in the UK. You have these legacy businesses that have been handed down throughout the generations and there’s very much a culture of ‘golf club on a Friday’. It feels like you're on the back foot always.
I go to industry networking events, and I stand out like a sore thumb. I'm like a unicorn in a room of completely different animals. You see privilege play out in a very real way. There’s a feeling that everybody else automatically gets a seat at the table, and you're sort of there fighting for your corner.
But this exactly is why I will never stop turning up to these events and showing my face. I've promised myself that I will always be representative, and I will always take part wherever I possibly can, as a woman and as a Black person. You have to be the representation you needed.
Q: That’s really inspiring. Has there been a moment where you’ve been really proud of the impact you’ve been able to have as a business owner?
Age discrimination is another cause I’m passionate about combatting. We actually employed somebody through an over-55 scheme. She had the most phenomenal amount of life experience, that would have been otherwise overlooked because of her age. It felt amazing to be able to give her that opportunity and watch her confidence grow.
It’s so important as business founders to stay grounded in how you are going to tackle these issues. It starts at the top.
Q: It’s great that you take pride in being so visible as a business owner, it’s something that shines through in Brownie and the Bean’s social media presence. Can you tell us a bit about how social media has helped your business grow?
Over the years we've worked really hard on our social media to build a loyal fan base. Lockdown was a real testament to the power of our community – we had to sell our coffee cart because sadly we couldn't sell face-to-face anymore. But through the magic of the internet, we managed to build an entirely different business away from the event side - our online store, which it has been completely invaluable. Of course, this has been supported by our incredible social media community – we wouldn’t be here today without them.
Q: It can be hard to stand out on social media with so much content out there. What’s your secret?
For me it’s all about authenticity, talking from the heart. That’s what stands out, that’s what people care about. They don’t care about hearing about your sales targets, they want to hear about all the tiny little things that make you special. They want to know about how the beautiful scent of lemons in Naples inspired a recipe. Our followers love to hear the stories of our family, how we create recipes. It’s about storytelling, ultimately. People buy from people, as I always say.
Through the magic of the internet, we built an entirely different business
Q: Did social media always come naturally?
Not at all! Starting out, we had a modest following and it was difficult to figure out why we weren’t getting the same engagement that some of our competitors. I recognised how important it was to our business, so I did one free online course a day to hone my craft – I love to learn!
Q: What do you think was the biggest shift in getting you to where you are today on social media?
Showing my face. When I first started, I was afraid to show it. As a woman in business, you just think that’s not what people want to see. But as I’ve come to learn over the years, it’s everything to our followers. So many of our followers came and said hello to me at Latitude and were so supportive – and that’s a direct result of showing up online with authenticity and bravery.
Q: It sounds like you have a really supportive community around you. Do you ‘pay it forward’ in any way?
Absolutely. We’ll always prioritise local suppliers as we’re passionate about putting money back into our local economy. Our wheat comes from about 20 miles up the road, sugar from around the corner and eggs are from our local farm – it doesn’t get much more local than this! The relationships that you build with those local producers are truly unlike anything else.
Q: Does it make a difference to the final customer experience?
Yes! It means that when we are serving customers, we can talk confidently about our products, knowing the actual producers of our ingredients. To have a local roaster that we buy our coffee from means the world, because when we serve our drinks to our customers, we can really passionately speak about the provenance of the beans, where they've come from and the fantastic producers behind it. And the same goes for our cakes. There’s a story to tell behind all our products, and this sets us apart from the rest!