Chelsie Collins and Kristelle Levy are the founders of Blondies Kitchen, the UK’s first and only milk and cookies bar. These professionally trained chefs and best friends were inspired by American-style cookies on a trip to New York. The duo joined forces back in 2016, on a mission to bring the taste of America back to London, and have since built up an army of UK and international superfans.
Kristelle has always worked in restaurants and was head chef at a restaurant in Primrose Hill for over two years. Chelsie was a cookery writer for BBC Good Food, starting as a cookery assistant, testing all the recipes for the magazine and producing hundreds of recipes for the site.
What does IWD mean to you?
To us, IWD means celebrating all the phenomenal women out there. Whether you own your own business, you’re a female entrepreneur, employee, or simply just a GO-GETTER – every woman deserves to be celebrated on international Women’s Day and every other day in between.
Tell us what it’s like being a woman within the food industry? What challenges have you faced?
It’s perceived by many that women in business are less confident to go into powerful roles and would rather look for something less senior. Even in certain fields, like ours, it is certainly male dominated. However, with confidence and as you grow as a person within your industry, those barriers go. It all starts with your mind and the sooner you realise you are worth it and you are valid, the better. You have to prove it to yourself before you prove it to someone else.
We’ve faced many challenges along this journey. With dreams of expanding our business, we initially applied for a stall in Topshop, but they rejected us. We were incredibly upset and I remember saying: “Obviously, it’s not a good idea. If Topshop doesn’t like it, then nobody will”. One thing we’ve learnt through this process is to always keep learning everyday and be sure to take on all feedback and constructive criticism.
However, we didn’t let that discourage us and on our first day at our Old Street pop-up, we sold 500 cookies by lunchtime and couldn’t keep up with demand. We would work 7am to 7pm and although it was incredibly exhausting, it was the most fulfilling experience of our lives. Fast forward to September 2017 and we launched our flagship concession in Selfridges. What seemed like a challenge wasn’t a rejection but in fact a redirection for something greater.
Not everyone will believe in your vision at first but as we always say to each other, you can’t buy the experience we’ve had, and it’s true. The learnings have been endless, and we learn something new every day. Obstacles come in all shapes and sizes, but we always find a solution.
Why is it important to celebrate other women’s achievements?
As a female founded business it is extremely important that we celebrate and also champion other women’s achievements – for us there is no stronger unity than when women stand together to support each other. For IWD 2021, we teamed up The Princes Trust to support the Change A Girls Life Campaign, with 25% of sales from our cookie roles going towards supporting young women in the UK. The Princes Trust recently reported that more than 78% of those who lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic were women and two-thirds were between the ages of 18 and 34. With those statistics in mind, it has never felt more necessary to celebrate other women’s achievements because there is power in unity and support.
Earlier this month we sat down with two friends who also run a successful business to celebrate international women’s day and spoke through some of the challenges we have all faced as female business owners. It was gratifying to sit down and reflect together on where we had all come from. It’s always good to celebrate one another because supporting another woman’s success and acknowledging her achievements will never dampen your own.
What advice would you give to your younger self, having the knowledge you have now?
If we could give advice to our younger selves, we would tell them that it’s okay to take baby steps before running. You need to build strength to walk, then crawl and then run. Every start-up has its struggles and hard work will always pay off as long as you remain committed to the vision.
The other thing we would tell our younger selves is to trust the process. Obstacles come in many shapes and sizes however, there is always something that can be learnt. Asking for help is key, we have continued to take on board all the feedback that we are given – learning never stops! And finally, to believe in what you are doing and one day you might be doing it full time!
Read more of our Role Model Series