June 16, 2021
Big Chat: Brown & Blond
Brown and Blond are the reigning monarchs on the Leeds brownie scene. Established in 2010, they’ve been making the squishiest, gooiest brownies ever since. We caught up to hear more about their journey, surviving through COVID restrictions, and next steps…
The people behind Brown and Blond are partners in crime George and Lucy. Although the brand began in 2010, Lucy came on the scene after a night out in 2014. Having known each other since their school days, they got chatting over drinks, and George sent Lucy home with a brownie, to cure the next day’s hangover. A second date was set up, and they’ve been together ever since! If anything’s an example of how good their brownies are, it has to be this!
It all began when George started working at Jake’s Bar in Harrogate, as a Pastry Chef. “I used to fill a cake country every day”, he says, “and started experimenting with different cakes. Demand was high for my brownies, and when I started experimenting with various flavours, they proved a real hit!”
The chance George was waiting for came when his parents cleared out a small workshop at the back of their piano restoration company. “I was given six months to use the space and turn it into a bakery, and prove the concept.” Did he knuckle down and get sorted immediately, making the most of his six month window? Of course not! “Five months in, and a hell of a lot of procrastination later, I decided it was time to get things moving”, he admits. Amazingly, George turned it around in that final month, proving the strength of his product. “I went door to door, sampling my bakes. After a month of endless baking and giving away, I managed to get my first few customers! Just like that, Brown & Blond started taking off.
An evolving team: Lucy joins Brown & Blond
Lucy joined the team back in 2014.
“Lucy and I went to school together, but hadn’t seen each other in years. We bumped into each other on a night out, and got chatting! We had drinks and I filled her in on what I was up to. I sent her home with a brownie to cure her hangover! It must have worked, because we went on another date - and we’ve been together since. We married in 2019 and our little baby arrived November 2020.”George Welton
From employed to self-employed
Before joining forces, Lucy had studied Sports Therapy at uni, and then travelled all around the world in this career. She carried on with the Sports Therapy as we settled together in Leeds, but naturally transitioned into working more and more for B&B, until suddenly she found herself doing it full-time, building the brand and growing the loyal B&B customer base.
Learning as you go
“In terms of regrets”, George muses, “the opportunity came along to take on the site next door to ours. We didn’t take it, and now we are bursting at the seams; finding the right space to move to is proving to be a challenge. Other than that, no regrets.” Looking forward rather than back tends to be We launched online in 2017 and it was a huge change for the business. A challenge to get to grips with but one of the best decisions we ever made.
“We started the first lockdown by furloughing all our staff,” George remembers. “We took the decision to put our staff’s health and wellbeing before the business throughout the lockdown. Myself and Lucy continued working throughout, but with all the safety measures in mind.” It was online that helped boost the business. “Our online shop took off like many other online companies”, George says.
“With there only being the two of us, we struggled to keep up with demand. There were some long days and seven-day working weeks.”
As well as all this business suddenly resting wholly on George and Lucy’s shoulders, Lucy also gave birth to their daughter in November. “It was a tricky balance with work, parenthood and the pandemic”, George states. What an understatement! “It’s a challenge we’ve risen to, and it’s given us that push to keep working hard to provide for our family.”
B&B are now back up to full team, and have actually taken on three additional full time members of staff since February.
“As a company, we don’t regret the way we operated through COVID,” George muses. “We had our staff and customers, and our own wellbeing, at the forefront of our minds. We gained a lot of new and loyal customers who were incredibly supportive over the whole pandemic.”
There has been an explosion of indies tackling the sweet treats market over lockdown. Are we all desperately in need of treats to lift our mood, or is it more on the trader’s side, that self-employment has suddenly become so much more of an attractive option? Brown & Blond have certainly noticed. “I’m not surprised there has been an influx of indie businesses hitting the scene, and it’s great to see.”
“Startup companies come from a passion, and the relative accessibility of what you have at hand, to start. That’s why so many businesses are booming these days in the beauty, beverage and brownie markets. Especially with lockdown hitting the UK hard, it's given people the chance and time to focus on their passions, and give their business ventures a go.”
“Brownies are fun. It’s as simple as that” George says. They updated some quite classic branding for something to better illustrate how they feel their product comes across – “We wanted to make sure that our branding matched. We’re forever trying new things and adding new flavours. We realised we didn’t have to look like a ‘heritage’ brand to get our message out. We certainly feel that food has become more fun, and we wanted to make sure that our brand message championed that. We make brownies, that’s all we do and we’d like to think we’re pretty good at it.”
Looking to the future…
“We’re so happy that we’re continuing to grow and reach new people. We know lockdown has affected so many people and businesses and we’ve been beyond-fortunate to have continued to work throughout”, George concludes. “We’re very grateful to work with so many of the independent businesses in Leeds and around Yorkshire as a whole. It’s great to see Indies and pop-ups become the new norm on the scene, and I think you get a real sense of personality and character from these businesses – more so than you do giant corporate chains.”
Brown & Blond have some exciting things in the pipeline over the coming year. George and Lucy will continue driving their success and hard work into the future with this ever-more successful brand. “Our main focus is to drive the brand and get our brownies seen, heard about and eaten throughout the uk and beyond.”