Eloise Frank, 29, co-founded The Big Bakes, which organises fun, competitive bake-off events in the UK, with Adam Chaudhri, 31, in 2017. She lives in Bedfordshire with her boyfriend James and their two rescue dogs.
Growing up, my mum was always cooking: she ran catering classes, so I learned to bake from a young age. After university, I got my dream job as a PR and events manager and met Adam, who was the head of marketing at the same company.
In 2016, I decided to organise a fun, team-building activity for our department. I suggested a baking competition, as I loved TV’s The Great British Bake Off. It was so popular that we organised a monthly office bake-off.
After that, Adam and I looked to see if there were any bigger local events like this, but we could only find professional cooking courses.
We thought, ‘How fun would it be to set up a big marquee and get people together?’
This was our lightbulb moment. We looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s go for it’.
We came up with our concept: each session starts with a ten-minute intro from the chef, followed by 80 minutes of baking. At the end, the cakes are judged.
We found a London pub with a huge garden and persuaded its owners to let us use it for the bake-offs. It was still expensive, though, so we both took out the maximum £25,000 start-up loan from the Government and invested an extra £10,000 each — I borrowed this from my mum.
I was only 25 at the time, had student debt, and had only been in my job for a year. Yet I had a gut feeling there was something special about this idea.
In 2017, we launched. Every month we pick a new bake, and run 12 sessions (costing from £35) a week. We do all the boring stuff, such as planning recipes and measuring ingredients, so you can just turn up and have fun.
After six months, we were able to pay off £70,000 of debt. We’ve since quit our day jobs and launched a site in Birmingham — our goal is to launch in every major UK city.
During lockdown, we did live video tutorials, instead. But, since July 4, we’ve been able to get back in the tent. It’s airy and ideal for a socially distanced day out.
For me, baking has always been about bringing people together — and that has never been more important.