At the age of 36 Robbie Livingstone left a career in printing to make his dream of opening his own bakehouse a reality. Since graduating from the School of Artisan Food in 2017 with an Advanced Diploma in Baking, Robbie has started baking business Northern Rye in Newcastle.
“I’d thought about working with food in my 20s but didn’t want to walk away from a steady job to start again. When I got made redundant, I thought this is my chance to do what I really want to do. I chose the diploma because I knew I wanted to have my own place, so I needed to learn the business side of running a bakehouse, as well as the baking skills.
“Doing the course wasn’t easy. I was working Saturdays at a bakery and a couple of evenings in Sainsburys and commuting to the School every day. I was absolutely knackered, but I couldn’t wait to get in every morning! It’s hard work, but so enjoyable.
“I definitely made the right decision doing the diploma. I could have chosen to learn on the job but studying baking at the School has two big advantages. Firstly, it’s given me the technical knowledge I need - an understanding of the science behind real breadmaking - which I would never have learnt otherwise. It’s also given me the best contacts. The work placements organised through the School’s baking community are so important as they give you a glimpse of what it’s really like to be an artisan baker. You need to see the reality to know if you are ready for it. The mentoring and advice I’ve tapped into through the School has really helped me in the early stages of setting up my business.”
After the course Robbie moved to Newcastle, home of his fledgling business Northern Rye:
“My dream is to have a bakehouse that sells coffee, pastries and breads made with slow fermentation techniques; a place that gives me the chance to use everything I’ve learnt at the School. My plan was to get started by selling my produce at food markets, but through one of the School’s contacts I was offered the chance to run a pop-up bakery at Newcastle restaurant Cook House. My very first pop-up sold out and generated loads of interest in the bread and pastries I’m producing from local people and businesses.”
Robbie is currently running three Northern Rye pop-up bakeries each month selling a range of bread and pastries; one at the Cook House, another at a craft beer shop and one for an artisan coffee company.
“Running the pop-up bakeries is giving me the chance to get my produce out there and generate interest and customers. The feedback has been brilliant. To be honest it hasn’t really sunk in yet! I’ve had local businesses asking me to supply wholesale and there have been so many positive comments from people on social media about what I’m doing.
“These first few months have shown me there’s a real market out there in Newcastle for what I’m making. The next steps are for me to find premises and take that jump into running Northern Rye full-time. The School has given me the strong foundation I needed to go out and build a successful baking business on my own.”
Inspired to set up your own artisan food business? Take a look at our range of food start-up business courses designed to take your business from wishful thinking to commercial reality.