From a market stall to a successful micro bakery- Walnuts and Honey tell us their story
Hi there! Matthew here from Walnuts and Honey, the buttercream obsessed micro bakery at 27 Station Road. I've been asked to contribute to the Clocktower Market's blog, and I thought first things first, I would share a bit about myself with you, although if you've ever met me, you probably know everything already... I do love to talk ha-ha! I’ve always had a keen interest in sweets, but then, what child doesn't. For me, it was the different types of fruits and floral flavours that could be poured into desserts that really inspired me to go down this path of cakery... With that being said, my journey starts in the hyper visual world of Anime. Growing up I fell in love with Japanese animation, from studio Ghibli's "Castle in the sky" to literally anything Pokémon related, and within the Japanese animation genre, there is a pretty niche sub category of Food Anime. This is where my intrigued of desserts and colourful treats was really sparked. I studied Criminology and Sociology at undergrad level, and after graduating, I decided to enrol in a yearlong food course at a local college to distract myself from not actually having any idea of what I wanted to do with myself. That turned out to be one of my best decisions. When I returned to London, I briefly worked in a restaurant which gave me a rudimentary knowledge of the food industry, but deep down, I knew I always wanted to open a cake shop for myself. After working a few office roles, I decided that I wanted to put my products out into the real world - it’s one thing to have your friends and family tell you they like what you do, but it’s not the same as actually having yourself exposed to the public. I would always suggest that if someone has a business idea that they want to turn into a fully-fledged business, the best place to test it is a local market. And that’s what I did.
My very first stall was at the South Norwood Festival, which was very successful and eye opening. From there, I was approached by a member of the Clocktower Market team, who asked if I would consider doing their monthly market. I said yes and, three months into the market, I saw that the cupcakes and bakes were something that the community wanted and liked.
From there I had the confidence to look at taking on a small shop, and the rest is history. Three and a bit years on, the shop/business are doing very well. I now focus on baking cupcakes for the shop daily, consulting on weddings and events, and making around 10 celebration cakes a week. It’s a lot of work, but so rewarding, and hands down the best professional decision I have ever made! I describe Walnuts and Honey as a "buttercream obsessed, micro-bakery". The shop sells cupcakes, savoury pastries, celebration cakes, wedding cakes, and on very rare occasions (when I have done everything else, which almost never happens lol) bread. I also source luxury coffee and teas to accompany the treats. The main selling point of the shop is the endlessly rotating cast of cupcakes. From Matcha with Fig and Chestnut, to the Earl Grey and Pistachio, to Lychee and Blueberry. There really isn’t a best seller per se, because I change the flavours so often and each commission is individual. However, this year’s top combo is Date and Walnut sponge with a luxurious Plum buttercream, the chosen flavour of 3 wedding cake orders already.
If I could name one of my biggest achievements in the shop I think it has to be the concept of the store. I have been so amazed and humbled by the way that the South Norwood community has embraced me and allowed me to expand beyond the postcode, and I regularly get orders and visitors from far afield. I remember in the summer of 2019, I had 2 German tourists come to the shop directly from their flight because they had googled "cupcakes in London" and out of all of the options they could have gone with, they chose to come to my little shop in south London because they loved the vibe! That made me beam from ear to ear. One of the biggest challenges is work life balance. Whilst I think I’m in a good position now, when I first started I was doing very long hours and nowt maximising my time. But this is what happens when you are finding your feet. Now I work hours that suit me and my newly expanded family, and I am honest with the customers that in order for me to continue to be creative I need time to think and experiment. In conclusion, if you have an idea and you want to take it from being a hobby to being a business, then I would 500% recommend taking the product to the market. I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now if it wasn’t for taking that initial plunge. My next steps are to expand for more baking space, but don’t worry, I will be keeping the shop in South Norwood for the foreseeable future! Come and say hello at the next market on 7th August, I’m literally only across the road.