From humble beginnings

Choose a job you, love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. The oft-quoted phrase significantly underplays the hard graft and dedication required to grow a business from scratch.

That certainly proved to be true for Liverpool-based bakers Natalie and Samantha Stonehouse, who have seen their artisan bagel business grow from strength-to-strength in recent years, despite unexpected challenges.​

​What started out as a love of baking – particularly hand rolled, baked bagels – has developed into a respected and much-loved independent business. From humble beginnings working from her home kitchen, Nat juggled the demands of a full-time job with her passion for preparing small handmade batches of bagels for sale through local coffee shops and farmers markets.


Pivoting the business model

Delivery was often by hand, cycling in all weathers to meet a growing customer base. Demand grew and in 2015 the fledgling business opened its first coffee shop in Chinatown.​

​“Thanks to word of mouth, we grew a loyal and eclectic customer base with local residents, especially students,” explained Nat. Then the pandemic struck. Forced to furlough most of their staff, Nat and Sam had to pivot their business model. “Covid allowed us to thrive. The café was closed, but by moving our kitchens into the front of the shop and adapting our menu, we were able to serve customers from the doorway,” described Sam. “We set up on online ordering business, began delivering all over Liverpool, including over the water into the Wirral. We had people queuing up the street.”​

With NatWest’s support we were able to use some of the funding to fit out a second café in Mossley Hill, which opened in August 2023.

Specialist support

As lockdown restrictions eased, the need to scale was clear. In 2022, Nat and Sam turned to NatWest Group for support, to help set up a dedicated bakery unit capable of meeting business demand.

The focus remained on delicious handmade bagels, but more room meant bigger ovens and more capacity. "We've since taken on more employees," said Nat, "growing the business from just five to an amazing team of 34 – 80% of whom are women."​

“With NatWest’s support we were able to use some of the funding to fit out a second café in Mossley Hill, which opened in August 2023," added Sam. "Having a supportive banking partner takes a lot of the stress out of running a business. A dedicated point of contact is invaluable. Our relationship manager often suggests ideas and helps us get a quick response to any questions.”​

As they look to the future, exploring opportunities to expand into events catering, Nat and Sam reflected on what they’ve achieved. “As a female entrepreneur it can sometimes feel like you must work twice as hard to get the recognition you deserve,” said Nat.

"We’ve received so much support from the Liverpool community and from our amazing team. We are hugely proud of how far we have come, and we’re excited for what the future holds.”

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