Rising fortunes of bakery brand which has set its sights on Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 14:10 16 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:10 16 July 2019
A fast-expanding bakery business which has nearly quadrupled its sales since last year has set its sights on expansion into Norfolk.
Rebecca Bishop began Two Magpies as a sole trader business six years ago in Southwold, but since husband, Steve Magnall - formerly boss at St Peter's brewery at Bungay - joined last year, the business has grown rapidly.
In the last few months it has taken on another site at Aldeburgh, and created a bakery and café on the A12 at Darsham. It now projects that its turnover will rocket from £720k to an estimated £2.5m.
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"Everyone said: 'You need another shop.' With two of us, it seemed a much more manageable proposition," says Rebecca, a former art teacher who started the business from scratch after learning how to bake.
It was a "massive learning curve", she admits, and she learnt the hard way, making lots of mistakes. "To be honest, if I had known what I was entering into, I would not have done it."
Up until Easter of this year, the bakery at Southwold provided for both shops, but after snapping up a shop vacated by East of England Co-op - Darsham Hamper - Two Magpies was able to scale up its operations by creating a bespoke bakery there. "It was literally just an empty shell," said Rebecca.
They have spent about £1.1m scaling up the operation with the new acquisitions but see room for significantly more growth.
The Aldeburgh bakery, which has a 72 cover café compared to just 18/20 at Southwold, has proved hugely popular since opening. "We literally max out in Southwold - actually that was Steve's biggest reason for us to expand into other sites," explains Rebecca.
Recipe for success
The recipe for success, they believe, has been an emphasis on top-quality ingredients and a refusal to compromise. Customers come to them for quality baked goods, and they also aim for local provenance where possible. "Everything is hand-made - we don't use any mixes or pseudo products," says Rebecca. "We don't compromise on anything."
It's a multi-faceted business - it's a café serving top-quality Allpress coffee, but it's also a shop and a bakery and a cookery school, all of which much co-exist but support the other sides of the business.
"I think people are willing to pay if they know they are going to get quality. I think that's the same with anything," says Rebecca. "I'm obsessed about flavour and quality."
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"Actually, it's a labour of love," said Steve, who has brought his business know-how to bear on the business.
Both bring contrasting skills to the business - with Rebecca providing creative input and artistic flair.
"We monitor ourselves on a daily - hourly - basis. We are really on our game from that point of view," says Steve.
Darsham, where they make a range of baked goods - including long-fermented breads, hand-laminated pastries and a range of fresh cakes - has allowed them to achieve economies of scale. The business now employs 55 staff, and as they scale up they are keen to keep the quality and ensure good customer service.
Their plan is to service four sites from the Darsham bakery before launching a second bakery to serve other shops. But the other site must be in the right location with the right demographic to sustain a business like theirs, they say. Steve believes the business has "got legs" as a regional business for 20 sites.
"We spent a lot of time looking at Burnham Market. Norwich I would consider. We were looking at Beccles. I would like to do London eventually - Rebecca might be running for the hills by then," he jokes.
Rebecca's rule of thumb when moving to the area to set up the business was to locate the business in a town with a good butcher's and a good grocery store. She scoured the country in search of the perfect location before settling on Southwold.
"It's been a hard journey for me in going from corporate to running my own business with Rebecca - you see things differently," admits Steve.
The plan is to take on a fourth site next year, and thereafter look to the next stage of expansion, but the sites need to be in the right location.
"I think there's a massive opportunity to expand. I think it's about being commercial about your expansion and sensible," says Steve. "It's all our money - this is my passion."
But their first priority is to get all the systems in place at the Darsham site, where the building is still ongoing to create more working and storage space. Labour is half of the business's overall costs, but staff retention is important to them and they pay good rates and, other than for Saturdays, steer clear of a 'zero-hours' approach, explains Steve, who believes the brand has "fantastic potential".