Ever considered cupcake therapy to de-stigmatise mental health? Look no further!
Ella, the founder of the social project Bake Well Being, created her brand to combine her two greatest passions – baking and supporting mental health awareness.
“My mission is to try and get everyone talking, baking and eating cake for their mental health.”
We spoke with Ella to discover all the fantastic things she has going on with Bake Well Being.
Q: What is the Bake Well Being origin story?
Ella: Bake Well Being came about during my final year at the University of Greenwich in London. I chose to stay in London for university because of its reputation as a global hub for events, which aligned with my study of events management. In my final year, I participated in an enterprise challenge, a business competition where we presented our business ideas. Prior to this, I had a conversation with my partner about my plans after university. We discussed my interest in mental health support and advocacy, as I had witnessed the impact of mental illness in my family and had been fascinated by it from a young age. I expressed the need for more focus on prevention and intervention rather than solely diagnosis and treatment. There's just not enough prevention and intervention in place so we're not really going down the river and trying to figure out why people are falling in the first place.
Q: What was the correlation with mental health?
Ella: I decided to pursue work in the field of mental health, focusing on promoting good mental well-being and addressing the stigma and lack of education surrounding it. My partner and I had a conversation about my aspirations, and I expressed my desire to eventually work for myself and create something meaningful. Being a passionate baker since childhood, I also mentioned my interest in baking. It was actually my partner who suggested the idea of cupcake therapy, which I found brilliant. Shortly after, I received an email from the university about a business idea competition, and I decided to participate. Despite having limited knowledge of business, the six-week workshops helped me develop a business plan for my idea. In the end, I won the competition in the social category, which provided funding. However, the pandemic disrupted everything just as I was completing my dissertation.
Q: How did you manage in the lockdowns?
Ella: During the lockdowns, as events came to a halt, I dedicated my time to establishing Bake Well Being as a business. Over the course of two years, I explored various avenues to engage people in baking and raise awareness about mental health. I organised bake live sessions, bake-along, workshops, and webinars and even took baking orders and created treat boxes to generate funds. It has mostly been a one-woman endeavour, with occasional support from my family and friends during pop-up events and fundraisers. About a year ago, I realised the need for a full-time job to establish a stable foundation for myself, including a comfortable home with a kitchen for Bake Well Being activities. I found employment at a school and recently had an offer accepted on a house.
Q: What’s been your experience with mental health?
Ella: From a young age, I had a first-hand experience of the impact of mental illness through my close relationship with my grandmother. She taught me how to bake when I was four, but when I was around 10 or 11, she had a breakdown that changed her completely. She was institutionalised and remained unwell for about 14 years until her passing last October. Witnessing her journey and the effects of mental illness on her and our family deeply affected me. I became fascinated by the mind and wanted to understand how she ended up in that state. Despite some treatment, she remained in a state of chronic depression and high levels of paranoia. This experience led me to focus on mental health and the importance of preventing people from reaching a point of crisis.
Q: How did this lead to your mission today?
Ella: My mission is to prevent others from experiencing the same challenges my grandmother faced by focusing on better education, resilience, and coping strategies. Her generation lacked these essential tools, and she was simply prescribed medication without comprehensive support. Witnessing her struggle, along with other mental health issues in my family, has been a major inspiration for my work. I embarked on a personal journey to support myself and others who may find themselves in similar situations—young individuals who believe they are mentally robust, only to face unexpected struggles. About a year and a half ago, while already running Bake Well Being, I experienced a severe downward spiral with anxiety and panic disorder. Daily panic attacks and debilitating anxiety impacted my everyday life. It was a challenging period, especially since I had been striving to support others for a long time. I pursued my Wellness and Resilience Coaching diploma and worked with various clients during that time, but I faced burnout, an identity crisis, and the fallout of the pandemic. However, through cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and embracing baking as a positive coping mechanism, I overcame this episode. I'm proud to say that I haven't had a panic attack in over a year now, and I continue to prioritise my own well-being while helping others.
Q: How did the pandemic amplify this for you?
Ella: The pandemic fallout in 2021 triggered an episode lasting about five months for me. However, I'm proud to share that I haven't experienced a panic attack in over a year now, thanks to cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and my increased focus on baking as a positive coping strategy. This personal experience has reinforced my mission to remind everyone that mental health fluctuations can affect anyone, even those who perceive themselves as mentally robust. I underwent assessments that indicated low scores on depression and anxiety scales, though I wasn't formally diagnosed. During that challenging time, my mental well-being felt fragile, and I thought I was on the verge of a breakdown. I aim to raise awareness that we are all susceptible to such experiences, even if we have never been diagnosed with mental illness or have a history of it in our families. Anxiety, in particular, is prevalent now, and it is crucial to build awareness and intervene earlier along the journey to prevent individuals from reaching a point where they feel trapped. This perspective aligns with Mental Health Awareness Week's theme and the importance of taking proactive measures to support people's well-being.
Q: Why do you think baking and mental health go so well together?
Ella: I believe that baking is a powerful coping strategy and should be recognised as a form of therapy, similar to other accredited therapies. Baking engages all five senses simultaneously, making it a unique and grounding experience that promotes mindfulness. With Bake Well Being, my business focuses on three main aspects. The first is teaching baking skills, catering to individuals who solely want to learn the art of baking without delving into mental health discussions. This is a form of self-care and promotes mental well-being indirectly.
The second aspect involves coaching and group sessions, specifically in the areas of wellness and resilience. I plan to merge baking and coaching in a program by around 2024, combining the therapeutic benefits of baking with coaching techniques. This integration will be elaborated upon in the following response.
The third aspect revolves around education, primarily targeted at corporate companies. I provide workshops and webinars on various mental health topics such as stress management, emotional resilience, and mindfulness. These sessions allow me to engage with individuals, deliver presentations, and help corporate organisations fulfil their well-being initiatives.
Q: What can people expect from Bake Well Being classes?
Ella: In my approach, I use the allure of baking, delicious treats, and a warm atmosphere to create a comfortable space for people. This enables me to initiate conversations about mental health while they are engaged and immersed in the baking process. I explore subjects like self-care routines, anxiety levels, and overall well-being. By combining the joy of baking with mental health support, I aim to create a positive impact and raise awareness about the benefits of baking. Additionally, I organise pop-up events where I sell homemade baked goods as fundraisers for the social project aspect of my business. The funds generated contribute to the growth and development of Bake Well Being.
Q: How has the whole process been for you since you launched?
Ella: I've built a wonderful Instagram community, thanks to the lockdowns, connecting with people worldwide. In 2021, I launched the Well-Being Bakers Club, a free initiative that created a Facebook group. Each month, participants baked something, and we had a star baker and a monthly workshop on Zoom. It attracted around 50 members from all over the world, solidifying our community. Those who discovered baking through the club continue to support my endeavours.
I now have a loyal client base, including corporate companies, charities, universities, and small businesses in the creativity and well-being space. Collaborations and partnerships have been rewarding, such as being featured on podcasts, articles, and participating in talks and events through platforms like Skiddle.
Q: What’s next for Bake Well Being?
This year, I'm working with a mental health counselling service and charity in Southeast London to develop a day retreat for mental health on World Mental Health Day in October. Additionally, I'm collaborating with a mental health app called Heyr for a virtual educational workshop on male mental health in November. The workshop will incorporate baking, allowing men to learn about and discuss mental health while baking cupcakes.
Exciting opportunities await, including a retreat in Valencia in November and upcoming summer pop-ups selling baked goods. I also plan to host local workshops in cafes and workshop spaces, focusing on cupcake and biscuit decorating, providing self-care experiences for the community.
Looking ahead, my plan for August is to create a program that combines coaching and baking classes. This coaching program integrated with baking will be my next step, with the goal of monetising and scaling the offering.
You can find out more about Bake Well Being here.