Chatting to Little Cooks Co founder Helen Burgess
PUBLISHED: 10:20 14 May 2019
Entrepreneur Helen Burgess has a goal: to teach children to love cooking and eating healthy food. She launched the UK's first monthly cooking kit for children, Little Cooks Co
Just imagine your child being sent a gorgeous box every month, complete with healthy baking recipes and all the dry organic ingredients measured out to make them, so that you can get started on having fun together in the kitchen. Amazing, right? Berkshire-based Helen Burgess launched Little Cooks Co − the UK's first monthly cooking kit for children − and it's taken off.
"We are on a mission to teach children to love cooking and eating healthy food, and to create happy family memories along the way," she says.
"After having my son in 2013, I decided to quit my job working in central Government and retrain in nutrition, which had always been my passion. Seeing his perfect little body and knowing I was responsible for fuelling it had a powerful effect on me, and despite having always been interested in nutrition, I found the literature confusing and often contradictory. So I equipped myself with the knowledge, and I love that I have found a way to share it through our happy little boxes!"
Cooking with children is such a great way to spend time together but it's not always easy finding the time or inspiration. "I found this myself when I wanted to make the most of my days with my son, but often hadn't managed to get organised to do the things I wanted to do," says Helen. "The idea was born that with a monthly kit you'd have all the inspiration you need at your fingertips and if it was addressed to the children, you can guarantee you'd make the time to do it with them."
Each month, the boxes contain recipes such as banana bread, banoffee pies, bakewell tarts, but all made without refined sugar and flour and designed to be as nutritious as possible. "We also include easy dinner recipes for little cooks to try out because we want to encourage children to cook a variety of meals with lots of different ingredients," Helen says. "We work with a great organic wholesaler. We've worked with a few different suppliers and although this one is slightly more expensive we know the quality is guaranteed."
Helen grew up in Berkshire before moving to London when she went to university. She moved back into the Cookham area at the start of 2016, and is now mum to Artie, who is almost six. "It sounds totally corny but he really is the inspiration behind Little Cooks Co!" she says.
"We love living in such a family-friendly community with so many wonderful places to eat and such amazing schools. The Bel & the Dragon in Cookham has always been my favourite pub! I am also really lucky to live in an area with a lot of green space and an allotment over the road. It's a lot of hard work but it is just amazing to watch food grow before our eyes and then pluck it out of the ground and eat it for dinner that night! Zero airmiles, zero plastic and 100% organic."
Helen is a member of the National Trust and goes to Cliveden a lot ("it is where my son learnt to ride his bike!"), and also Odds Farm. "The farm is even more brilliant now they have built the water park - we can't wait for that in the summer - plus the sandpit has deck chairs for the adults to relax in so that's where I'll be this year!" she laughs.
Before launching Little Cooks Co, Helen spent 10 years working in Government strategy roles across a number of departments, including the Cabinet office and No.10. "It was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone, though I'm happy not to be working there right now with Brexit going on!" she says.
"I retrained for three years in nutrition at CNM. My work in Government gave me a brilliant grounding in strategy, but running my own business was totally new to me, so I applied for the Natwest accelerator programme, which has been amazing and I'd recommend it to any new entrepreneur starting out. Being in an environment with 100 other start-ups is so inspiring and dynamic, and there is always someone who has been through whatever problem you are having and has advice to share. Plus the coaching is priceless."
Helen admits that building something she is truly passionate about could not be more fulfilling. "It definitely consumes a lot more of me than when I worked in Government (and that had its moments), but I am able to do the school run and spend time with my son after school (often in the kitchen) and I absolutely love it.
It is hard to disconnect my mind from it but I find it a positive source of energy," she says.
Helen proudly admits Little Cooks Co won an award for Children's Gift of the Year in February, and the boxes are proving particularly popular with grandparents buying them for their grandchildren because it provides a guaranteed monthly activity to do together. "There has been a real shift away from people wanting to buy the latest toy or 'thing' to trying to find presents that offer experiences and learning," says Helen.
"Talking of experiences, I'll be hosting some children's yoga and cooking retreats with Yoga Tonic UK soon, so watch this space."
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