By Karen Connolly
WHEN Maya Black was put on furlough from her job as a journalist she, like everyone else, took to her kitchen and began to bake.
Not just the bog standard banana bread or chocolate chip cookies, but home made bagels.
And she discovered she was rather good at it.
Soon, her kitchen in Chorlton, Manchester, was a hive of activity as she baked batches for friends and family.
Meanwhile, over in nearby Salford her life-long friend Scarlett Jamieson was busily working as a florist at MediaCityUK having recently returned home after years of living and working in London.
Then at the end of August last year, Maya, 27, was made redundant and realised she needed to find another source of income.
“I took on freelance writing,” she says, “and still do that, but people continued to ask me to make bagels for them.”
As the requests increased Maya, who admits she’d always wanted to start her own business but hadn’t a clue as to what, had a bit of a lightbulb moment.
A bagel business. Perfect for lockdown when people are desperate for that breakfast or brunch delivered to your door.
But Maya wanted a unique selling point. She knew her bagels were delicious but realised she needed to add something that would create a whole experience.
She’d already come up with a business name – BreadFlour – and saying it over and over again, she focused on the flour bit and changed it to flower.
“I immediately thought of Scarlett,” she says, “and her brilliant floristry skills and I knew that bagels and flowers would be a fabulous package to land on your doorstep any day of the week.”
Scarlett, 29, was enthusiastic from the word ‘go’ and the two friends arranged a Zoom call to discuss setting up together.
Fast forward to March 9, 2021, and BreadFlower was launched delivering delicious hand-made sourdough bagels and beautiful seasonal bouquets to your door.
Scarlett says: “It’s really taken off and we’ve been delighted with the response.
“It’s a strange one really because we work separately and as the orders come in, I formulate a spreadsheet and then we both make them up from our respective homes.”
The unique nature of the business means, ironically, starting up in the middle of a national lockdown has actually been beneficial with orders coming in thick and fast resulting in waiting lists having to be drawn up.
Because bagel making is such a long-winded process – it takes three days to make a small batch – Maya soon found that she needed more space.
She says: “It’s such a traditional technique, starting with making a sourdough, mixing and kneading before shaping it into the round bagel with a hole in the middle.
“Then they need to be proved for at least 12 hours followed by boiling in water for around 90 seconds and it’s only after all this that they’re baked.
“So that’s why I needed more space and relocated to a kitchen space in Altrincham, Cheshire, for three days a week, which has worked out really well.”
Scarlett admits she’s had a similar problem with space and currently utilises her mum’s house to store an abundance of wild, seasonal blooms which she gathers into stunning bouquets.
She says: “Thankfully my mum is very understanding and doesn’t mind me spending every spare minute I have bundling up bouquets of flowers.”
Both admit they’ve been blown away by the response and, while they agree that expansion in the future is inevitable, they are currently focusing on making sure every order they deliver is perfect.
They’re also keen on forming future collaborations with other local, independent traders and are currently discussing the possibility of adding coffee to the bundle.
One addition they’ve already made is the inclusion of Shmears which Maya explains are generous slathering of toppings – including cream cheese, harissa and smoked paprika and wild garlic and olive oil – again all freshly made to order.
“We’ll be changing the Shmear recipe regularly,” says Maya, “and are keen to try out different ingredients to suit the seasons.”
The same applies to the bagels which currently include plain and sesame seed topping and, of course, the flowers will change again according to season.
They currently deliver to Manchester postcodes: M1 – M4, M14-M16, M19-M22, M32, M33, M41 and M50.
The bundle, delivered on a Sunday, includes one bunch of flowers, six bagels and two shmears at a total cost of £30.
To place an order go to the Instagram account @breadflower_