Catherine Connor, who founded 2019 Farm Shop & Deli Awards-winning bakery Lovingly Artisan with husband Aidan Monks, on maintaining a successful business

For us, entering awards is a business decision and comes from a desire to do better. Benchmarking yourself against the previous year encourages the ambition to develop creatively, productively and financially too.

Over the years, entering awards has gifted us both a great deal, from the encouragement of others cheering us on, to a good excuse to experiment and explore new approaches to our baking style and recipes. We are prepared to lose a few awards along the way, as painful as that might be. However, as you enter that process you learn so much, win or lose.

As creatives, we are always fearful of not moving things forward; standing still isn’t a comfortable option for anyone in such a competitive marketplace. The food scene is alive with the interested and intrigued and we want to be a part of that foodie conversation.

Every person who visits our bakery should have a positive foodie experience, and the beauty of running an artisan bakery is that you get to engage with customers directly.

Having a close and engaging relationship with those we bake for is hugely important to us both. If you’re running an artisan business you’re running a “hands and heart” culture, where you place all your expertise into everything you bake with your hands, and your heart is at the core of what you produce – that’s why we do what we do daily.

Today’s consumer is savvy, educated and informed, yet they crave more information, more food knowledge, and they want to soak up all you have to offer. You need to make those you serve feel confident about the choices they are making for their family and home. People buy with their taste buds, so offering daily samples of sourdoughs and giving our foodie tribe the opportunity to explore our sourdough menu is essential to our growth.

We are constantly and seasonally developing our bread menu to keep our customers intrigued and engaged for future purchases.

Our customers have become our benchmark, they are our judges; how they choose to eat is what makes us want to stride forward with all we produce. You can’t afford to stand still, you have got to be alert to trends and lifestyle changes, the secret is to listen without losing sight of your own authenticity as an artisan baker.

The truth is you’re only ever as good as your last bake – bake each day like it matters and build a team around you that shares the same passions, values and beliefs.