9th Jul 2021
Our next client origin story is that of WHISK, the sustainable & eco-conscious cake boutique. This story shows the very essence of creativity, from a change in career through to how the owner's care for the planet is implemented in every aspect of the business. It's so original and I think you're going to love it as much as I do!
So, let's hear the WHISK client origin story. Over to you Dina...
Cakes may not be the most obvious way to engage with the topic of the climate crisis, but why not? Everyone loves cake and it's usually associated with happy occasions and celebration. People are more likely to engage if they enjoy the subject, so this is the origin story of WHISK.
My name is Dina and having worked in the music industry my entire career, I was looking for an opportunity to channel my climate change anxiety into something more impactful. I have always enjoyed baking and it was a new challenge I thought would be fun to explore. I am not a trained pastry chef and have not worked in the food industry, but we all build up skills as we move through our careers and they can be applied in many ways, and for the things we don’t know there is always youtube (only partly joking here, its an amazing resource), so with that mindset WHISK was born.
I saw an opportunity to get people to think about sustainability in an unexpected way. Pretty pictures of cupcakes might get people’s attention and once people are engaged the real fun starts. We’re a different kind of bakery, but how is it really different? We wanted to show that running a business and eating tasty treats can all be done in a sustainable way. Society needs to be more conscious of their impact on the planet and at WHISK we do this in a few ways:
When we moved in, we wanted to keep our footprint to a minimum, and this influenced every renovation decision. For example we used environmentally friendly paint by Auro and worked with the space instead of redoing everything from scratch or using unnecessary materials just for the sake of aesthetics. We have countertops made from recycled yoghurt pots from Smile Plastics which sit on open cabinets made from local FSC wood with bio glue. All the appliances, fittings and furnishings are second hand, even the kitchen sink! Our window signage is done with water based paint and can be easily removed. Making a beautiful space is possible without tearing everything down and buying new and we should consider the long term use of a space as we may not be in it forever.
Everything we use is local and organic, except for local chocolate, and we've worked hard to find suppliers that care about their employees and the environment as much as we do. It does mean our products are missing things people might usually expect like vanilla or cinnamon. We also use ingredients you might not often see like fresh or dried flowers and fruit powders instead of artificial food colourings. We also tackle food waste and buy fruit from local supermarkets that would otherwise be thrown away. Also we looked at our recipes to see how we could use more plant based ingredients instead of the traditional butter and eggs. Experimenting has allowed us to offer our customers tasty baked goods that prove local alternatives are just as delicious.
Commercial kitchens can be very wasteful and we avoid this by using long term reusable items like cotton piping bags, no cling film, natural rubber spatulas, glass jars for ingredients storage and metal tools instead of plastic. We bake to order and don't have lots of fresh stock on hand to avoid food waste. If there are leftovers Karma and TooGoodToGo We also use eco-friendly detergents in every area of the shop and we even found compostable plasters for our first aid kit from Patch Anything that is delivered to the shop, the packaging is of course recycled. We also carbon compensate for it's journey if electric vehicles haven't been used by supporting CAMFED, which is a pan-African movement revolutionizing how girls' education is delivered. Educating women has been shown to mitigate climate change (more great info about girls' education here)
The biggest adjustment for some is the lack of disposable packaging. We decided on beautiful hand made wooden boxes (from renewable FSC certified trees) which our customers borrow and bring back, just like a library book. They are also made so the boxes can hold a variety of items, flexibility was baked into the design. Our customers have loved the boxes and everyone returns them, so the circular model has worked well. If customers don’t want to use our boxes they are welcome to bring your own containers and a mini cupcake is on us! We also eliminated unnecessary packaging like cupcake liners and take away cups as they simply aren’t necessary. Packaging is an area that any food business can address.
While the front facing part of our business highlights our sustainable aims, it was important that even the bits people can’t see were tackled in the same way. We run the shop using renewable energy supplied by Fortum, our local energy supplier, this is such an easy swap for many businesses. Our website is designed with data consumption in mind, less is more! It doesn’t have any videos, and not all elements are loaded at once, users can download the specific information they require and we don’t send out email mailers or post more than twice a week on social media. Of course our website is hosted by the wonderful team at Green Hosting, who’s customer service really can’t be beat. We also do the small amount of printing we may need at our local library, as sharing resources is a great way to cut back on over consumption of our precious resources. Also we love to share any knowledge that we’ve acquired, supplier information or recipes with other businesses, supporting other businesses is a great way to support change. It’s not the time to hoard useful information! We definitely aren't perfect, but we want to at least try and be transparent about what we do
While we no longer have our store, as COVID-19 and a celebration business might not be the perfect match, we still make treats to order from home and continue to highlight sustainable ways of working. It was important for me to show not all change comes from developing ground breaking technology or revolutionary new techniques. Sometimes change is as simple as reworking old thinking and showing society an example of a functioning sustainable businesses. Change takes place when ordinary people are prepared to change and can see what's possible, Im an ordinary person who gave it a go and the experience and people I've met have given me hope. Can you imagine if every bakery in the world only used local biodynamic ingredients, stopped using unnecessary packaging and had transparent business practices! That really would be having your cake and eating it!