Even during a global pandemic, so many of our local businesses have been grafting in the background to provide products and services to even the most vulnerable people in our communities. We spoke to the team behind Jillys Homebake to find out how they felt about winning our Heart of the Community Award at the North Tyneside Business Awards, last month!
Tell us more about yourself and your business
My name is Gillian ‘Jilly’ Grainge and I’m the owner of Jillys Homebake. I founded the company back in 2012 when I realised I wanted to follow my passion for baking. Until that point, I’d been in quite a different industry. When I was younger, I was heavily involved in Netball and Judo but I became a personal trainer and trained a variety of sportspeople – some professional. I worked with footballers, Rugby Union players, boxers and a British ice-skating champion.
I’m also a qualified football coach and NVQ assessor!
But baking kept calling and I set up Jillys Homebake. I opened a shop on the Royal Quays selling cupcakes and it became really successful. As a result. I opened a bakery in Seaton Delaval to supply the Royal Quays shop. That was followed by a café on the North Shields Fish Quay. Eventually I bought the Rose Inn in Wallsend and renovated it to expand into pub food as well as cakes and cupcakes.
I was about to open another bakery in Newbiggin when I received a head injury that proved quite debilitating. That’s when I consolidated all the businesses into the Rose Inn. Everyone knows it as ‘that pub at the bottom of the bank’.
My partner and my best friend Julie now run the business and we have 4-6 delivery drivers, two good friends plus three local young people who help out wrapping Sunday dinners on a Sunday.
How did you come to be nominated for the Heart of the Community Award?
We were nominated as a result of the work we did during the Covid pandemic. We didn’t publicise what we were doing, except to those who it would benefit. We created a ‘pay what you can’ menu for local homeless people and we did hundred of free food deliveries to elderly and vulnerable people in isolation.
We also ran music events, adhering strictly to the Covid guidelines. We found it helped to keep the local music industry alive, but it also helped so many people to get out and enjoy so live music in safe surroundings.
We had two visits by the EHO during Covid which showed we were doing everything we needed to, to stay safe and we were able to provide free meals to Covid sufferers who couldn’t get out to do their shopping.
We also used the money we got from the Government and anything we raised with the music events to sponsor boxers, rugby league players, football teams, cubs, scouts and local sports clubs – we just wanted to help out where we could.
When we heard we were shortlisted for the award we were humbled and delighted. The other finalists were absolutely amazing, so we were completely blown away when we were announced as the winners.
What does winning the award mean to you and your team?
I was so pleased for our team because they’ve all worked so hard. It’s been really humbling to get recognition from the general public for the support we offered during the pandemic. Wallsend and North Tyneside are such special places, with special people and we loved seeing the communities come together – we’re over the moon to be part of that support. I’m so proud to have won the award and for the business I hope it shows that we love our community and try our best to support it.
We attended the awards event as a small team, which was lovely. It was really uplifting to see what was going on with businesses in North Tyneside and we definitely enjoyed the event. Getting out and mixing with other people was quite therapeutic – it gave us all a sense of normality returning, slowly.
What are you plans for your business?
We plan to continue working on the food side of the business with new menus coming soon. On the community side, we’ve been inspired by the award win to do even more. Once the summer’s here we’ll be looking at more ideas for how we can bring our local community together.
What do you love about working in North Tyneside?
We love working in North Tyneside. The people are in a league of their own and the support mechanism for businesses in the area is outstanding – especially during the pandemic. And then there’s the environment itself. We’re in the most amazing place with the beach on one side, the countryside on the other. Our local fish quays are amazing and the sporting facilities available to the local kids are brilliant.
I have a special soft spot for the Royal Quays too – it’s on the up again since the new manager, Matt, has come along. I’m very excited to see how things turn around over there.