Belfast father ‘brings home the bread’ with bakery business
A Belfast entrepreneur who set up a bakery business during the pandemic is now supplying a series of wholesale customers
A Belfast entrepreneur who set up a bakery business during the pandemic is now supplying a series of wholesale customers, thanks to support from the Go For It programme in association with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Michael Hendron (33) took redundancy from his job running the kitchen at Established Coffee in Belfast City Centre to take care of his daughters and ended up launching Benchmark Bread from his home.
Michael and his wife Rachel have two girls, five-year-old Iris and two-year old Averie, and he began baking while he was at home with them.
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“Just after the first lockdown when everyone was going back to work, I decided to take redundancy to stay at home with my daughters and I decided to keep up my skills in the kitchen with a mixture of baking and cooking,” he said.
“I started homing in on the things that I liked doing and selling them to friends and family. I was making a lot of things like sourdough bread, some pastries, and different sweet treats. I’d package them in a pastry box and deliver them out two days a week when people were stuck in their homes.”
Officially launched in November 2020, Michael is still able to run the business around family life, although he’s now baking for five days a week and has a lot more customers.
He continued: “I start my day at about 4am, and finish up around school drop-off time, then I spend another couple of hours delivering and finishing things off before school pick-up. Now with school and childcare I’m able to structure my workday a bit better. I’m running at probably about 85% wholesale customers.”
Michael says he first got in touch with the Go For It programme after a recommendation from a friend who had taken part in a start-up scheme: “I applied on a whim, thinking it would be good if they accepted me. It was such an encouragement to go and be able to have somebody on hand to talk to in the early days of navigating a small business.
“My adviser was called Peter Weir and he was a good ear to bounce ideas off in the early stages. It was good to have somebody there who’s aware of everything that’s going on in the world, but a step removed from the business.
“We could make sure that I’d been through all the practical details and wasn’t getting caught up in the hype of the moment and what’s going well. He is a really good sounding board.”
The Go For It programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors through Northern Ireland’s wide network of enterprise agencies. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.
Michael was able to use the Go For It programme to help with developing a business plan and get help with the paperwork side of the business, enabling him to plan for the future.
“It’s good to have everything down on paper in terms of your mission and official figures and projections as well,” he explained.
Benchmark Bread now supplies several wholesale customers including Deanes Group, Shu on the Lisburn Road in Belfast and a number of coffee shops that are retailing food products. Michael’s new long-term goal is to set up his own premises in Whiteabbey village.
“I’ve taken on seven or eight wholesale customers and one day a week I keep for the local community, especially the customers I was delivering to over lockdown,” he added.
“It’s good to keep those relationships going with people, and I hope that if I ever get premises within the village, those are the guys who will be my local customers.”
Former Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Billy Webb praised the initiative: “I think it’s very important for people like Michael, who, if there is an idea out there and someone wants to come forward and take part in the Go For It programme, we’re there as a council to assist, get businesses started and that hopefully will lead to employment in our local community.”
Business Adviser, Peter Weir, concluded: “We provided Michael with a two year financial projection and we fed that into the business plan to help the business grow. I am absolutely delighted to see Benchmark Bread up and running. Michael has made a fantastic job of setting up the business and the orders are coming in thick and fast. It is a real success story and I think that Benchmark Bread is going to go from strength to strength.”