When Claire Ladkin purchased a jar of home-made lemon curd from the Square Food Foundation in 2018, she had no idea that it would spark an idea for a social impact initiative and exciting new e-commerce venture.
Two years on from that pinnacle purchase, and during a global pandemic, Claire has successfully launched All About the Cooks in Bristol, an online marketplace and brand-new concept, enabling the city’s clever home-cooks to sell their food online.
Now firmly on a mission to make it easy for people to eat real food made by local people, here’s the story so far from the inspiring founder, a woman driven to create greater connections within the communities we live in.
Well, it all started in 2018, with a friend of mine saying “wouldn’t it be great if you could have takeaway food from home-cooks”. But the idea of cooks waiting around in their kitchens for orders to come through didn’t quite seem to work, but it did resonate with me. I had always wanted to make it easier for people to eat real food rather than products mass-produced in factories.
Several months later, I went to Square Food Foundation for a meeting and bought a jar of home-made lemon curd. Every time I used it, it felt special. It tasted delicious and I had a ‘what if’ moment. What if it was easier to buy delicious homemade food online? And, what if I could do something to make it easier for people to discover food made by talented people living nearby? Then I started to think about how I would find these extraordinary people in Bristol.
My six-year involvement in the food sector in Bristol helped in getting conversations started with potential cooks. I knew from the outset that the business needed to heavily invest in the cooks joining the platform. And it wasn’t long before the word had spread in the cook community throughout the city and enquiries from those wanting to share the food they love to make, came rolling in.
Empowering people and giving choices
Although the technology behind the idea is complex and high-functioning, and although I’m not a techy person, I believe that this is a business that needs to be founded by a middle-aged woman. It’s a business about food and people. Technology is just the thing that makes it happen; but it can’t happen without it.
At All About The Cooks, we recognise that people love to cook, yet we are also aware that there are a lot of barriers. It requires commitment, a website, and people become nervous about hygiene controls. When I was at home with my children when they were younger, I would have loved to have worked from home creating my own food, but it was inaccessible.
We want to give people the moral support to do their own thing. All About The Cooks is about empowering people. And, even if someone ends up being a huge success on the platform and ends up moving on to set up something on their own, I would think that was massive success for us – it would be brilliant to see that happen.
So, this platform is for those people who have a talent and want to use that to share their food and earn money.
In October, we officially opened for business. Within just 48 hours of the launch, I had messages from 16 more cooks eager to find out more and potentially join us. In the past few weeks, 84 orders have been fulfilled, 349 products have been bought and nearly £3,000 has gone into our cooks’ pockets, plus we have dozens more cooks hoping to join the platform.
The moment that made we cry was getting the first revenue. Somebody bought something through the platform, and it all worked. That day, our part of it was very small but the cook made over £100 and I found that really satisfying. I remember thinking to myself, this is what it’s really all about.
I also know we have people, mostly women, selling and sharing food through the platform, who wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. I feel a great sense of pride in knowing that we are enabling people to make money from something they are good at. To see the social impact that I had envisaged happening by looking at money going out to pay cooks is really rewarding.
Bristol is the perfect place to launch this new initiative because, when it comes to food, where Bristol goes, others follow. It is an ambitious project, and I am an ambitious woman. The vision is simple; to revolutionise the way we eat at home. And the future is exciting. I want authentic home-cooked food, made by locals, to be easy to buy wherever you are.