Crafting collaboration

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better together

Owning and running a small business can be challenging and sometimes isolating so the opportunity to work with like-minded businesses can be both rewarding and provide affirmation that it is worth all of the effort. Glasgow is a hotbed of creativity with more and more independent enterprises popping up all the time especially in the food and drink industry. I opened Dandelion Cafe in Newlands Park in August 2015 and since then there has been a huge surge in the number of fantastic places to eat and drink in my area of the southside of Glasgow. On one hand, this is great news as our local customer base are clearly foodies who love to eat out but it is also brings new challenges especially how my cafe can stand out in an increasingly crowded market place.

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If anyone asks me to name our defining characteristics as a business I immediately think of our mantras “made with love” and “baked with love” but behind both of these lies the core value of the business which is delivering the highest quality possible, every time. This permeates all facets of the business from the quality of our local, ethical suppliers, with the organic and free-range produce we use to our approach to presentation and customer service. This philosophy has served us well with our customers appreciating the attention to detail, value for money, which can be difficult to achieve profitably as quality costs, and more than anything showing them the love of what we do. However, as more independent businesses open up in our neighbourhood they are also often adopting a quality based model. This is a positive development as it breeds an appreciation of quality independents and helps to nurture a food community. However, it also brings into focus, the need to differentiate and not just compete on the quality of our core offering.

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I’ve always loved arts and crafts and the concept for the cafe was based on a love of handmade and vintage creations. The building itself is a 1920’s sports pavilion which was designed in the arts and crafts tradition so craft and design is part of the cafe’s DNA. Differentiating through collaboration with arts and crafts small businesses in my local area seemed like a natural next step for the business, and if truth be told a fabulous excuse to have lots of gorgeous handcrafted things in the cafe!

My first rule of  collaborating in business is to work with people I can learn from and clearly love what they do. Scoping around my local area, I could look no further than a fabulous one-woman business, Suzi and her fantastic art, craft and gift shop, Sunshine No 1 in Mount Florida. I love the shop and Suzi is the epitome of an enthusiastic, creative entrepreneur who is following her dream. We have trodden a similar path to our businesses having both come from professional careers of over 20 years in other sectors, Suzi in the civil service and me in higher education. We both made a giant leap of faith to set up our businesses in unproven locations and stuck to our visions of selling high quality handmade items, delivering service with a smile. I have a longer standing relationship with my other chief collaborator, Rose from Deanamh Designs, Rose has been supplying the cafe with gorgeous homeware gifts since we opened, especially her stunning cushions made with incredible fabrics like Harris Tweed and up-cycled vintage pieces. Again, Rose comes from a different sector having had a long career in social work before developing her craft business. Like Suzi, she is one of life’s natural enthusiasts, has incredible skills and is so supportive and encouraging to others.

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Together we decided to launch a series of craft events based at the cafe. The plan was to alternate between craft markets and craft classes. So far we have had two craft markets and are about to have the first of our craft classes later this month. We are working with a hugely talented group of local, independent makers, showcasing some of the finest products available. The collaboration provides mutual benefits as all of the businesses achieve greater brand recognition via each other’s customer base, reach new customers from appearing at a different venue and of course make sales. More than anything, the real benefit  for me has been getting to know a whole new group of talented, creative entrepreneurs who are so supportive of each other and provide me with motivation to continue to push forward with this new aspect of the business and to truly appreciate the benefits of collaboration.

So I guess the moral of the tale for me is to embrace opportunities to collaborate with kindred spirits, keep the level of quality high and don’t be afraid to try something new.

Our next events are a Festive Pottery Workshop on 23rd November and then we will be hosting our Festive Food & Gift Market on Thursday 7th December. Details of all events can be found on our facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/dandelioncafeG43/

 

 

Don’t go bacon my heart, I couldn’t if I fried….

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Dandelion Cafe was hatched from our original home-based baking business, Dandelion Artisan Bakery. Every time we catered an event or delivered our afternoon teas and picnic hampers our customers would ask us if we had a cafe they could visit. So finally we decided to take the giant leap of faith and start our quest to make it happen.

When Suzanne moved to a small holding in the Clyde Valley she finally realised her dream of having a brood of rescue hens who roam very free!

Meet Priscilla who rules the roost!

meet the girls

The Best Little Henhouse in Lanarkshire!

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babs in centre

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The plentiful supply of eggs from her girls fuelled the baking business and reaffirmed our commitment to ensuring we always adopt an ethical approach to sourcing all of our produce. While we will be using her hens’ eggs and also those kindly donated from her neighbours’ chickens, we can’t expect our feathered friends to produce enough to cope with all of our baking and making needs. The rest of our supply will come from a fantastic family firm, the award winning Corrie Mains run by Jim and Anne Smillie. They started in 1996 with 800 hens and now have 20,000 hens at their state of the art site in East Ayrshire. They ensure their happy hens enjoy a five star lifestyle resulting in the finest quality eggs.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of life at Corrie Mains

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As well as all of the fab cakes and bakes we will be making with our happy hens’ eggs we will also be offering our signature savoury tart, “The Perfect Square”. No, not just an accurate description of our geekier side, the title reflects Suzanne’s mathematics background and of course they are baked in our trusty square pastry tins. And for all you number crunchers and factoid lovers out there the definition of a perfect square is a number that is the result of a number multiplied by itself. Go on, help yourself to a bonus point and a cookie on us.

We also offer an eggcellent range of all day breakfast items, whether you love a traditional breakfast, baked eggs, poached eggs or French toast; let’s just say you will not be stuck for an eggs option!

Our meat is supplied by Ramsay of Carluke, an award-winning bacon curer and butcher, acclaimed as a Rick Stein Food Hero.

Family butchers for over 150 years, Ramsay of Carluke takes great pride in the exceptional quality, flavour and texture of their meat, only using ‘Farm Assured’, outdoor bred pigs to produce Traditional Ayrshire Bacon, Black Pudding, Sausages, Free Range Pork and Cooked Hams.

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Another fabulous family firm who supply us is the oldest family baking business in Scotland, Alexander Taylor (Taylor’s) of Strathaven. Although we have our own in-house bakery in the cafe and will be making some flatbreads and other specialist breads to accompany our soup each day, we will also be getting a daily supply of delicious breads from Taylor’s for our sandwiches. They are true artisans and make an incredible range of breads with distinctive flavours and unique combinations. We also offer some loaves and pastries for takeaway sale on the weekend alongside our own range of Dandelion cakes and bakes.

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Our next blog will be giving an update on our epic building works which have been carried out by the truly brilliant team at VQ Construction. They have worked miracles to make our dream a reality and we can’t wait to share it with you. So stay tuned for more news and pictures of the building as we work to get the cafe ready to finally open our doors in the next few weeks.

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Listen to Dolly, pour yourself a cup of ambition

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Whirlwind week doesn’t really cover it. It has been a frenzied round of meetings, chasing, cajoling and bargaining as things are really going into overdrive now. Taking on such a major building project was always going to be a challenge but nothing ventured nothing gained.

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We have been keeping on top of all of the hardcore stuff we need to sort out, ducting, ventilation, electrics, plumbing, shutters, alarms,roughcasting,painting, flooring, furniture, toilets… the list is endless but Joe our superstar foreman is doing a tip top job keeping it all on track. You can see it is really taking shape now from the latest photos.

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In between times we have been meeting some of our fantastic suppliers, two that we simply cannot do without are our tea and coffee specialists.

When we sat down with comforting cuppas to write our wishlist of what we would want in a perfect supplier these were the qualities we held most dear – delicious, fresh and distinctive / great people / expert knowledge / ethical sourcing / business integrity / locally based / reliable / value for money. After much research / cups of tea and coffee. We met with two brilliant companies which we love and can’t wait to work with them.dear green

Our coffee will be supplied by Dear Green Coffee Roasters, a fabulous Glasgow company, founded and run by the inspiring Lisa. Dear Green are passionate about sourcing naturally delicious coffee from wonderful coffee farms. They only roast recent crop coffee of exceptional quality and cup flavour and ensure their sourcing partners have audited each coffee farm for social and environmental practices. They work with small farms where they can make a difference to the local community by paying premium prices higher than the cost of production and commodity coffee market prices. And of course they make damn fine coffee!

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Our loose leaf tea supplier is Eteaket, based in Edinburgh. They have a very similar ethos to Dear Green. We loved meeting Angela and Ella and of course tasting and smelling their incredible range of teas. They trawl the globe for the finest quality teas and have joined the Ethical Tea Partnership which works to improve tea sustainability, the lives of tea workers, and the environment in which tea is produced. Their Cuppas for Causes campaign is another avenue for them to give back to their local community and the tea world.

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing more information about our other food suppliers and also the creative talents who will be filling our retail shelves with gorgeous gifts.

While you’re waiting, put the kettle on!

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The wisdom of the Wombles…!

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When we were kids, rather unbelievably the Christmas hit records were often by our telly favourites, The Wombles. (Note to self, showing our vintage there) Naturally we loved the queen of the kitchen, Madame Cholet but as fellow park dwellers we particularly appreciate the fine job the Wombles did as pioneers of recycling and creative procurement!

While the business planning,renovation and fit-out have been progressing we have been scavenging across the country to find hidden treasures that we can re-purpose or dust off and polish up for a new life in the cafe. Along the way we have met some fantastic people who have all become part of the Dandelion story.

Inside the cafe we have space for up to 40 covers so the quest began for a seating solution. I suppose most people would just go to a furniture supplier or prepare for an epic session constructing IKEA flatpacks but as you will have realised by now, that is not our way. After much searching we found a fab set of antique gothic chairs from a former church being sold by a very lovely hynpnotist in Angus. We know, we didn’t expect to assemble those words in a sentence either. So off we set in our hired transit van, Thelma & Louise style, determined to avoid eye contact in case his powers affected our haggling abilities. Deal struck, van returned unscathed and chairs lovingly polished ready for our lovely customers.

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Fast forward to our plan to get a banquette built in one of the two nooks we have in the building. Again, why just phone up and pay someone to come and make bespoke benches when we could trawl the salvage yards til we found the perfect 13ft pew halfway up a wall, currently acting as a giant shelf. The moral of the tale, if your budget is squeezed – get resourceful!!

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A happy outcome from our various treasure hunts is that we will not just look the same as everywhere else. No beige world for us. It may be eclectic and in some cases, not to everyone’s taste, but every little detail started out with our shared vision of what we wanted, a determination to find the money and then go scavenging.

Some of our other favourite items came from unlikely sources too, an upcycled French cabinet from a garage in Tullibody, apple crates from a shed in Knightswood, glass bird candle holders from Bangkok, you get the picture….

Suffice to say, our storage unit just keeps filling.

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Our last week has been another whirlwind of activity but we are finally making great strides on various fronts.

Much excitement on Friday morning when we had our weekly site visit, behold glazed windows! Not only that but the sash window for the ice cream kiosk is in and it works.

Would you like a flake with yours?

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The rest of the build is now motoring too with the external wall having been rebuilt and the slap-through done to join the kitchen with the baking kitchen; it makes us hungry just thinking about it.

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So as you can see there is lots happening and we are still planning to open in the summer holidays so keep following our start-up story and see how we get on.

We will leave you meanwhile in the capable hands of Madame Cholet.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8XCHgqR7Kk

Rome wasn’t built in a day…

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It may not be built in a day but our miracle-working construction team are battling away to make us the perfect new home for our cafe. You wouldn’t believe how excited we get about every step we take on what has been a very long and often bumpy road to get here. This week’s big news was the glazing of the first of our myriad of little windows. For the first time we could see daylight through the front of the building. Despite the overhanging section of roof at the front, the sun shone brightly through the windows of our new world as we looked out on the tennis courts and the cherry blossom.

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Meanwhile the shape of the main space is coming together with the partitions being erected and we have now knocked through into the former public toilet space which will house our male and female toilets.

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So things are getting very real now and details like getting the wiring in place for the back counter and the cables dropped through for the lighting are all signs that we are definitely getting there.

Our major building priorities this week were raising and levelling the kitchen floor and the demolition of the exterior wall on the other wing of the building to then rebuild it and convert the space into our dedicated baking kitchen. All of the unseen but crucial work is continuing too, not least the epic task of repairing and replacing the drainage.

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The front of our building will include a kiosk window for sales of ice creams and hot drinks although when I was a kid we used to get our tennis equipment from it.

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Our office space is now somewhat compact and bijou as we want to maximise our public space but as long as we can fit in the basics we’re happy. After all we gave up office life for the one we are building now. The office is the tiny partitioned space inside the window.

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If only real building was as quick as the lego version.

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It’s nice to be liked, Dandelion Cafe is now on Facebook!

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Having finally ventured out into the public domain with our blog we thought it was time we dipped our toes in the social media waters. So waders on and off we go. We are delighted to share the news that we are now on facebook, so do feel free to pop by and we would love it if you could like the page. You also get to enjoy some virtual cake!

https://www.facebook.com/dandelioncafeG43

If we build it, they will come…

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Sometimes I wish I could sing.

This is one of those times.

I want to channel my inner Etta James and let rip with a blast of “At last…………….” for it is finally happening!

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After another few months of yet more wrestling with our old adversary, red tape, we have emerged bloodied yet victorious and ready for all comers. We are so excited to report that the building work is under way and Operation Dandelion Cafe is well and truly launched. As you may know, our heart’s desire was to breathe new life into the derelict pavilion in Newlands Park on the southside of Glasgow. It had stood empty for years becoming more dilapidated as the years rolled by. When I was a little kid growing up in the area, I learned to play tennis right outside the pavilion and used to ride my bike there with my friends. I always loved the pavilion building and the park and had often daydreamed about opening a cafe in it and for once it seems that dreams can come true.

We have now started the renovation process and it is so thrilling to see it coming back to life. So far the roof has been fixed and insulated, the drainage is being worked on and now the internal works are motoring ahead.

The building was originally designed in the arts and crafts style of the ’20s, a style we love and we have unearthed this photo of the park back in 1941. Followed by how it looks now.

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This is how the building looked before the renovation got started.

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The conversion of the interior to become our new home is an exciting project, it will allow us to have the cafe, a small retail space selling a range of artisan produced goods and an in-house bakery producing a fabulous range of baked savoury and sweet treats to bring a smile to our customers’ faces. Our next blog will share more about what we will be offering, including a few unique surprises!

Meanwhile here are a few shots of the internal works, including the task facing the glazier.

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Now that things are finally happening we will keep you posted on our progress, we are so happy to have lift off!

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