Interview with Louise Barnard, the Mum behind ‘Baby Bites’

Today, I interview the lovely Louise Barnard! Louise is a local mum and runs a successful business, based in Bishopston, named ‘Baby Bites‘. I first met Louise through ante-natal classes at The Buddhist Centre, three years ago when I was pregnant with my son.  Louise also had a little boy who is called Oscar.

Since then, Louise, a Cordon Bleu trained chef, set up Baby Bites, now a thriving business. Baby Bites offers classes to both teach mums and dads to cook healthy and tasty meals for their children and families, as well as offering fresh, home-cooked, frozen meals home-delivered.

I wanted to interview Louise to hear more about her business and to hear her thoughts about being a mum in Bishopston and surrounding areas.  I hope you enjoy reading my interview with her!

What inspired you to set up BabyBites?
Having my son Oscar, being a trained chef already and wanting to do something that allowed me to use the skills I had, but would fit better around my family.  Through my own experiences and at baby groups I realised there was a real gap in this area for parents.  If people hadn’t learned to cook at home but wanted to change their habits once they’d had a baby, it is difficult to start from scratch.  Some people said to me that they’d been told to start weaning with apple or sweet potato puree but actually didn’t know how to make it.  Baby Bites is all about demystifying weaning and cooking for babies.  Lots of mums and dads who come on the cookery courses are confident cooks but lack confidence when it comes to cooking for their baby, it’s all about making them realise that actually cooking for their baby can be quite exciting and shouldn’t be scary or daunting.
What were your first steps in setting up your business?
Running some trial classes for my ante-natal group which I realised did work well.  Then working on the whole set-up, the model and style of the workshops.  Getting a friend to build the first Baby Bites website and in the meantime pounding the pavements, handing out flyers, doing cooking demonstrations in baby and toddler groups, talking to as many people as possible about it, in whichever way possible, going to baby and toddler shows and baby groups, giving free samples of food, networking with other baby and toddler orientated businesses, usually all done with Oscar in tow!
How is it going?
Currently very well.  I am in the process of expanding and have taken on a new business partner.  We are expanding Baby Bites to do nation-wide delivery of the food which is quite an exciting step to have taken. the website is a work in progress and it’s great to have another “head” on board to help implement some of the ideas I have had for the business such as filming video cookery tutorials to go on line.

How do you manage a successful business with being a mum?
It makes a big difference having lots of supportive family around who get called on very often at very short notice for Oscar-Watch!  It involves a lot of juggling personally,  I often work in the evenings and weekend, it’s only now he’s a bit older and goes to pre-school 3 days a week and to my mums a day a week that I’m starting to get my evenings back again which is bliss.  Part of the reason for setting up the business was to be around for Oscar whilst he was small so I did my best to try to be with him in the day and work whilst he’s sleeping or when family could or friends could look after him, luckily until recently he’d always have a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon which also always gave me a really good slot at the computer.  In the early days I could combine looking after Oscar with promoting the business anyway as it involved visiting lots of baby and toddler groups.  Now he’s less involved but does still enjoy tasting all the dishes! 
What are your long term aims with Babybites?
On a short-term basis, our aims are to get Baby Bites food sold in local delis and shops around Bristol and to get the nationwide delivery service up and running. Long-term I’d love to take Baby Bites to Europe as countries such as France and Spain, for example, are way behind the UK in the baby food products available, salt and sugar is still added to a lot of their baby foods and there’s nothing like the range of choices we have here. Before Oscar came a long we used to live in France and would like to return so that would tie in quite nicely!

What do you think the advantages are to being a mum in Bishopston and it’s surrounding areas?
I’ve heard it’s nicknamed ‘nappy valley’. There are lots of parents with young children which means that you’re well-provided for, there are lots of baby cafes, parks and parent and baby activities to go to which is just what you need when you’ve got energetic little ones to look after.
What do you think the disadvantages are to being a mum in this area?
The flip side to living in Bristol in general is the shortage of school places when children turn five years old, although that’s probably true of most cities in the UK. Another disadvantage of living here is the lack of wild green space but again that’s true for any inner city area.  There is also the Boiling Wells site in St Werburgs which is fantastic and at least with Bristol it’s only a short drive to get out into the country side.
Oscar riding a Bristol ferry

What have been your personal experiences in being a mum in this area?

I’ve had an overall very positive experience. I had lived out of Bristol for ten years until I became a mum so coming back to my family and where I grew up was really good and discovering how family friendly Bristol is. It’s great you can get out to the country in twenty minutes and then we also have Areas such as Leigh Woods, Ashton Court, The Downs, the Harbour which are all lovely and in easy reach.

Did you enjoy reading my interview with Louise? Let me know what you think and do feel free to leave any comments!
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