I’ve neglected this blog. For many reasons, some good, some less so. Suzzle is still on Brick Lane, holding on despite the recent introduction of new coffee shops in the area competing with us. This area doesn’t have massive footfall, so new entrants compete hard with us, but we’re holding our own, and are possibly doing better than ever in some ways.
One of those ways is a new partnership with the lovely people from In FARM We Trust. One of their co-founders, Dom, has been a customer for a while, enjoying occasional slices of brownie as a treat. But when he found out – pretty much by accident – that everything we do is gluten free, he started talking to us about the current project. The long and the short of it, though, is that they have a food-to-go concession in Tesco’s Goodge Street store, and are stocking our cakes, bacon pasties, and granola.
It’s early days, obviously, but we’re enjoying the opportunity to bring our products to a wider audience, and hoping that this first branch is as successful as it deserves to be, since this will mean rolling out to more branches over the next few months.
For all that this is a positive move, it’s fair to say that it took a while to sink in. Since April 2014, I’ve been in treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder, which has been taking me out of the shop and into group therapy sessions twice a week. It’s hard work, but something that has been beneficial. With just 6 months left to go, I’m happy that I’ve made some progress. I may still have BPD, but I handle events and personal interactions more easily than before, and there is now hope of recovery. There is talk of doing another DCS at some point this year, though at Boxpark, not at Suzzle, and I’m looking forward to being part of that again, but stronger, and more able to offer hope that a mental health diagnosis does not have to mean the world coming to an end.
I’ve been doing media interviews since the DCS, however. I’ve sat twice on the BBC Breakfast sofa in Manchester to offer a different image of mental illness to the world, and challenge the idea that all mental health patients are dribbling loons. Sometimes we can be articulate, intelligent… and yet mentally ill. Radio interviews, a student film on mental illness, the WI magazine. It takes me out of my comfort zone by some margin, but for as long as it helps people understand better, and challenges the stigma that still remains, I’ll keep on doing it.
But here we are. We have a range in the shop that now includes 5 flavours of savoury gluten-free pasty, as approved by Gilbert and George, more cakes, new biscuits… and there’s more to come. Our next project is to make our products available over the internet, so we’re currently working out which ones survive best in the post, and how we can package them better so non-Londoners can also enjoy them. It’s a long process, but we’re looking forward to the end results.