Cake With... Ryan Panchoo (Borough 22)

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Up at 1AM to make doughnuts. Starting a multi-allergen free empire from his kitchen. Talkin’ business, baking and Beyonce with Ryan Panchoo - the founder of Borough 22.

Tell us your story…

Both my wife and kids have food allergies. We used to struggle to find treats for them to enjoy, but I’m not one to complain - if there’s something I don’t like, I’d rather try and fix it. Back in 2011, I couldn’t find a multi-allergen free treat that was as good as the standard. I wanted to try and make something for my wife and kids that was decent.

I started in the kitchen making cupcakes and brownies. I had a few shockers, my kids are brutally honest - I had a few thrown at me! It took a few attempts, but I got the recipe down for brownies that my family loved. From here I pushed the boundaries further and came up with a recipe for doughnuts, which I used to give away to people! As the ingredients were expensive (not the things you can nip down to Tesco and buy). People had never seen multi-allergen free doughnuts before, the go-to desert for people with coeliac disease is brownies with fresh fruit… The doughnuts went absolutely nuts. I knew I was on to something.

I wasn’t ever thinking this was what I’ll do, i just liked the feeling of people loving and appreciating the product. So much of the stuff I was doing was terrible. I used to take the doughnuts in on the train, delivering them over the counter, not knowing about the loading bay - it was a very steep learning curve!

What makes you feel on top of the world?

When we launch a new flavour and the reaction we receive from social media!

I know social media has a bad rep, but the positive side is a way for small businesses to get feedback, to communicate with people, to raise awareness, it's my PR tool, business card and CV.

What do you feel should be spoken about more?

There needs to be a bit more awareness about the pros and cons of starting a business. You need an element of naivety to be able to launch one - if everyone knew how difficult it is, more than half the people would never go for it. If people were more open about business, how it works and how everything should run - it would be really helpful.

There are forums out there, but not specifics. It’s the stuff you wouldn’t know, until you’re in a bad situation! I see a lot of people jumping into business with two feet first, eventually six months down the line they are gone which is such a shame as it is east to prevent.

How does your day start?

My day starts the night before. I get everything I can physically prepared the night before, all the dry ingredients and glazes I get ready to go. Just in my home kitchen, the ovens in position. Everything is cleaned, table is prepared the wire racks.

On the day of the baking, (horrible hours!) I know exactly what I have to bake, and I view it as a mini mission. For example before my driver arrives, I have a small window of time to get everything done before he even texts me to say he’s five minutes away. It makes it a little bit fun and gives me focus as well. Early mornings are hard to maintain focus, challenges are the best way to avoid distractions.

How does your day end?

Everything washed up, cleaned up, it’s therapeutic to have closure on the day. I may need to reply to orders and send emails, but generally i will leave that to one day in the week.

Do you have a personal quote or mantra?

Yes - I have three:

  1. Work smarter not harder. Everything we have to is to how to simplify the process. Saving time. Might not be instagrammable but definitely more efficient.

  2. A line from Beyonce’s Formation: “Always stay gracious, the best revenge is your paper”. I got made redundant after 12 years. It doesn’t matter how you cut it, to get made redundant affects your self worth - but I took that emotion and put it into making a success out of my passion.

  3. The best form of design is when you can take anything away. Your foundation needs to be solid and simple.

Nugget of advice that has stuck around?

Get your business model down. No one is going to build upon a shaky foundation, as it will eventually collapse. Start simple, prioritise good quality service, a complete package that runs like clockwork. Don’t promise the world.

Your favoruite yoga pose and why?

Downward facing dog - Great stretch for my hamstrings after being on my feet all day.

Favourite cake?

At the moment, it’s the Eloise cake by Jason Roberts. We met through Instagram, then again when we cycled from north Wales to London (over 1000 miles!) for men talking about prostate cancer.

Your ultimate TLC tips?

Something for you. Taking a half day for something you really want to do. Even if it doesn't have a physical benefit, any way to lift your spirits. Meet like minded people, meet up for a coffee, talk about how terrible your week has been just to hear someone say my week was terrible too makes you feel less alone. If you are always self critical and think you can do better, you forget the brilliant things in life.

Check out Borough 22’s INCREDIBLE Doughnuts over on their Instagram.

Immy May