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Our Journey with Virgin StartUp

When I registered our interest to hear more on the new Virgin StartUp webpage I honestly didn’t think it would amount to anything. It was March 2014 and I’d been running Dark Matters for almost a year alongside my part-time cafe job, where everything I made on top of what was needed to basically stay functioning was ploughed back into the business (including tips!).

The idea of getting a Start Up loan seemed terrifying, and a huge commitment, so when I got a call the next day from Alyson over at Business West (a delivery partner for VSU) I was fairly overwhelmed. Luckily she was well versed in talking to stressed out start-ups, and in the 20 minutes or so that we chatted I became more and more aware that this was exactly the opportunity we needed in order to reach the next step in our business.

I was paired up with an amazing mentor who held my hand  through writing an absolutely kick-ass Business Plan and we had the loan in our bank account within three weeks. Bonkers.

Vigin StartUp Women In BusinessObviously, the money was a HUGE boost to the business.
We were able to book large (and costly) Summer events, buy more much needed kitchen equipment, finish driving  lessons (then pass my test!) and buy our first Brownie Mobile! When I first sent off an email to Virgin StartUp I had been focused on what the loan could do for my business, I hadn’t factored in the amount of support and mentoring (Hi Matt!) VSU would continually offer over the two years after receiving our loan.
From paying for our pitch at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival, inviting us to Virgin HQ to flog our brownies to their staff at Christmas, having us cater their incredible Women In Business events and featuring us numerous times on their blog, they’ve continued to go above and beyond for us, and I couldn’t be happier that we took that step two years ago!

Search the Virgin Start Up Blog for lots more advice and articles about setting up your own business, with the right support its easier than you think!

Gem x

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Award Winning Brownies!

Beloved customers have always known how awesome our brownies are, but now we can truly say they are ‘award winning’!

Big-ups to the tasters over at 2015 Taste of the West Awards for giving SILVER our divine ‘Queen of Sheba’, and ‘New Yorker’ as Highly Commended- we’re over the moon at the results and are spurred on to get a Gold next time around.

We’re really proud to be members of both Taste of the West and Dorset Food & Drink who work really hard around the clock to promote all the amazing food and drink producers we have across the South West. Without their support and events we wouldn’t be where we are today, so if you’re a foodie explorer then have a nose and see what they’re doing over the coming months, and see which producers you have on your doorstep!

 

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Oranges are the new Black. [Vegan Orange Poppyseed Muffins]

I don’t know about you but I am getting royally ticked off with feeling under the weather. I have always been a sufferer of the Winter Blues, however usually the promise of fairy lights and mulled wine (or mulled cider or mulled ANYTHING) gets me through Pre-Christmas, and after that I try to enjoy the short days and use them as an excuse to eat dinner at 5pm and be snuggled under a blanket with a Stephen King book by 9. Despite the usual dread on January 2nd of the few months ahead before Spring shows its face, it usually comes along quicker than I think, and I never actually see out my plan of setting fire to *that* winter coat that never seems to be off my body, indoors or out.

This year, I admit, I haven’t made life easy on myself. You see, on January 5th myself and The Bearded Wonder (Dark Matters Market-selling Maestro and my partner in life, not just in crime) decided we would ‘do one’, as they say, and disappear off to Mexico for a month. “Hooray!” we said that day, and for every day after that for three and a half weeks while we ate and drank our way around the Yucatan Peninsula (more on THAT soon), but it had to end at some point, and by January 29th we were definitely ready to come home to the beautiful crisp Winter days and big cosy jumpers.

Yep, I’m an idealist. And I forgot about cold season. Since returning from Mexico I have been in a daily battle with my immune system, pumping it full of Echinacea, herbal (‘Cold Buster!’ ‘Flu Fighter!’ etc ect) teas and as much Vitamin C as I can get my antibacterial-gelled hands on. Lidl sell an  enormous grocer’s case of oranges, and we’ve been getting through one of these a WEEK. It seems to be doing the trick and any sniffles I’ve had tend not to amount to much, but by GOD, its hard work being this healthy! So today I’ve treated myself and baked one of my absolute all time favourite treats (that aren’t Brownie based- obv!) to use up a couple of sad looking oranges in my fridge. I try not to eat too much dairy myself as it triggers some skin problems, so went on the hunt for an easy-breezy vegan recipe I could knock up  just in time for a 4pm cuppa. Success! Delicious vegan Orange and Poppy Seed Muffins – they’ve certainly made me feel much better, despite the low Vitamin C…

Vegan Orange and Poppy Seed Muffin Collage

Taken and adapted from MyDarlingVegan

Vegan Orange Poppy Seed Muffins

2 cups plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 salt
3 tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp rapeseed/sunflower oil
zest & juice of 2 oranges
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Lemon Glaze

3/4 cups icing sugar
1+ tbsp fresh orange juice

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a muffin tin with baking cups and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl combine soy milk and apple cider vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes to curdle. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together sugar, canola oil, and the juice and zest. Slowly add curdled soy milk, whisking while adding, until completely incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, folding in gently until just combined.
  4. Fill the muffin liners 2/3 full and bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle come out clean. Set the muffins on a cooling rack to cool.
  5. Meanwhile whisk together the powered sugar and juice. You may need to add a little extra orange juice to get a thick and smooth consistency.
  6. Spoon about 1 tbsp of glaze over each warm muffins then let the muffins continue cooling until completely cool.
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Oh, hello Brownie Lover. (20% off!)

Welcome to our new pad!

All good things come to those who wait, so to celebrate the launch, and say thank you for being so patient while we get this beauty built, we are offering a lovely big 20% online discount for a whole month!

** Simply use the code ‘helloyou‘ at the checkout, and 20% will be deducted from your shop, easy peasy.**

This code will be running from today (11th November) for a whole month, so plenty of time to decide which flavour tickles your fancy!

Big brownie love,

Team DM x