He’s been a professional lookie-like as the A-Team’s Mr T, a visual effects consultant for film and television and even a contestant on such shows as Britain’s Got Talent, Come Dine With Me and The Weakest Link, but these days New Yorker John Lashley is never happier than when he’s in his Northampton kitchen, whipping up the gooiest of tasty treats, writes Anna Murby.
And with allergies to both nuts and chocolates, it’s a good job that his latest venture of just a year – the Brooklyn Brownie Co. – has a great unofficial apprentice and taste-tester on hand 24/7 in the form of 12-year old son, Leo!
Now, thanks to the launch of a new website and some timely support from FEAST2 (Food Enterprise Advisory Support Team), a scheme which offers access to funding, sector events and mentoring to eligible food and drink businesses, the pair are witnessing a massive boost in online sales, meaning their homemade brownies, overflowing with US-inspired toppings, are now winging their way not just to Bradford and Brighton but Berlin and Brussels too!
As John explains, while his food intolerances might have put most people off a life in confectionary, he’s actually been baking for years: “I used to bribe the staff on the films I was working on to stay later on a Friday afternoon by taking my cakes in on set and they always used to be a big hit, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been quite so surprised that I could make such a success of it, going full time!” said John.
“However, making the best brownies to share with friends and colleagues is one thing, but I hadn’t got a clue when it came to the rules around labelling – vital of course for the national and international orders that are now flooding in via my website – so the help I’ve received from the technical adviser at FEAST2 has been absolutely invaluable.
“Not only has it saved me many hours of research, and therefore money, it’s also taken the stress out of that side of the business and allowed me to concentrate on production to help meet the massive increase in demand I’ve been experiencing of late” he added.
With sumptuous creations including brownies topped with doughnuts, cinnamon swirls and fudge as well as such classic favourites as Crème eggs and Oreos, which John sells in individual boxes of twelve, or through his increasingly popular monthly subscription service, it’s perhaps not surprising that, while the current lockdown has seen his retail sales fall, many more customers are indulging in John’s squidgy squares.
All of which means he believes it won’t be long before he is tapping the scheme for financial support to help with his growth plans: “I know that FEAST2 also offers funding and, given that my adviser made signing up to the scheme in the first place so simple and has promised to hold my hand through every step of the grant process, I can see I’ll be putting in an application to enable me to invest in more kitchen equipment soon” revealed John.
“Indeed, I have nothing but praise for the entire project and you could say that, aside from having the best business partner in Leo, the FEAST2 staff are my go-to A team!” he grinned.
FEAST2 was awarded to the Food & Drink Forum and is worth £3,934,176 in total. It will receive a further £1,967,089 in funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.
It is open to eligible food and drink manufacturers within the SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership) area, covering Milton Keynes, Central Bedfordshire, Bedford Borough, Luton, Aylesbury Vale in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire.
For more details of the project, including registering your business for the free support that remains on offer remotely through the COVID-19 lockdown, please contact Amanda Askew at The Mallows Company on 01933 664437 or email firstname.lastname@example.orgMeanwhile for more information about the Brooklyn Brownie Co, including ordering online, please visit www.brooklynbrownieco.com or find them on Instagram at www.instagram.com/brooklynbrownieco/ or call John on 07940 125004.