Serena Whitefield, 34 is the Founder of Pearl and Groove, the super cool bakery that creates gluten-free, vegan and refined sugar free cakes.

What was your light bulb moment for creating Pearl and Groove?

I went into building a business in a relaxed way because it was part of our family culture. Our parents brought us up to believe we should not be afraid to try things and my family is full of entrepreneuers. My father ran a chocolate factory, my brother George runs the entertainment company Sharky and George and my sister runs the Wedding Present List company.

Working for a ski company in 2013 doing sales. I kept thinking there is more to life than this. I wanted to be proud of what I did. Food and and art were my passions and so i decided to bring them together.

Where did you start?

I started baking from home and selling wholesale delivering to cafés on a sale or return basis. It grew from there.

In 2013 there was no one else was selling gluten-free cakes. Suppliers came to me like Selfridges and Fortnums. I didn’t have to make a single sales call.

We don’t use gluten free flour- we use almond flour.

I played around with the recipes and I went into the second year doing a summer of festivals. It was a huge learning curve and a challenge. I would bake all week and then every Thursday I would pack up the van, work all weekend and sleep in a tent. It was exhausting but I loved it and it was great marketing. Festivals like Wilderness were amazing as they were packed with families interested in gluten-free cakes. In 2016 we opened the shop. I liked the area and it felt like there was a nice sense of community.

Where did you learn to bake?

I learnt on the job. I was a chef in private villas and chalets before starting the business. My background is in fine art. The creative side is very much a passion of mine to keep things interesting. With cakes you can always be more playful.

 

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Hertfordshire thinking it was normal to on eat one hand love healthy choices like mum and on the other try something indulgent like dad who ran his chocolate factory. Mum’s nickname is Pearly and Dad’s nickname is Groover. So I named the business after them. Dad was all about trying new things and flavours. There were four children and we would all try flavours for his chocolate factory all the time- it was about tasting and discussing taste.

My mum has a dairy-free, sugar-free and gluten-free diet because she had a health scare and read so much about how diet can change your health. She doesn’t drink either. They have a big vegetable garden and enjoy living off the land.

I grew up thinking it was normal to eat with one hand loving healthy choices and the other trying something indulgent.

Why cakes?

I enjoy the psychology of selling cakes. When girls come in they tell you why they are getting it almost justifying buying something indulgent by saying they have their period or they are for the office. Blokes are very quick and buy guilt free.

The whole shop is 100% gluten free. The Pearl range named after my mum is dairy free, refined sugar free and gluten free. The Groove range is sweeter although we use Almond flour with both of them. We keep it really simple so minimum ingredients, no preservatives, all natural. We do a vegan range but it isn’t sugar free but we are working on that. With everything we try and reduce the sugar.

What are the highs and lows of running an alternative bakery?

When we opened I had a business partner who was a friend. She came in when we opened the shop and put some money in. She had 20% of the business, but she left in October. Now it’s back to being completely mine again. I can make decisions quicker.

The highs are being creative with flavours and developing recipes and seeing peoples pattern and working out what they like and what they don’t like.

I love our regular customers. Shop life is fun as people come in to talk to us all the time.

The next 5 years for Pearl and Groove?

We want to start delivering nationwide in the next few years. We are going to fill the shelves with sugar free jams and more vegan produce. I want to create more exciting healthier deserts to sell too.

What makes you glow?

Exercise: I like doing any sort of exercise. I’ve just decided to get into running.
Nature:  I love being outdoors paddle boarding in the summer
Friends: I love being with friends
Food: I don’t like cooking when I go home. I get Deliveroo. Ramen or Poké Sushi or Pho. I love vegan food and tofu
My dog: I have a whippet so do lots of dog walk in Kensington Gardens or Richmond

To find out more click here.

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