We love to see black owned business thrive both home, abroad and globally. Almost 26 years ago, a Ghanaian couple established a bakery in London. Starting all the way back in 1995 by John Mensah and his wife Emelia Mensah; Uncle John wanted to share his mum’s, Nana Mary’s sweet bread recipe with the wider Afro- Caribbean community in London.
Over Two decades later, Uncle John has built a lasting business which prides itself on being the UK’s only specialist Ghanaian bakery; selling a range of breads, doughnuts, cakes, pies and savory snacks all made from passed down Ghanaian family recipes.
Started As A Side Gig
John’s bakery started as a side gig. He initially made the bread for the home and later decided to commercialize it.
“It was on the side, in the evenings,” John told Vice. “After work, we’d start cooking, you know. Six o’clock in the evening to the morning. I’d sleep two hours. We’d wake up, take the van in the morning and make deliveries.”
Prior to the establishment of his bakery, Uncle John and other Africans who wanted a taste of African bread and confectionery; bought from a company that imported them from west Africa, but the company soon fizzled out.
Coming from Ghana, John knew the significance of ‘word of mouth’ in business growth. He knew that when customers are satisfied with one’s product, they would recommend it to others. And so he would visit the Ghana High Commission with some loaves of bread. With their support and recommendation, he was able to grow his customer base.
Today, John has customers from all across London who stop by his bakery which sits on Tottenham’s West Green Road.
Uncle John’s Bakery And Legacy
After years of providing quality service, John and Emelia stepped back and have not been at the forefront of managing the bakery. They instead handed it to their elder son, Sam Mensah, who sadly passed away two months ago of coronavirus.
While CEO of the bakery, Sam added his own innovations to the bakery; and announced that he would like to start selling fresh juice in addition to baked goods.
The rapper-turned-businessman also created social media accounts for the bakery to not only catch up with modern times but to reach out to new customers. Also, he hired a business development manager as part of his ambitions; to expand the bakery as well as signing new wholesalers, including Tesco, his mother’s former employer.
“We’ve refined our recipes a little,” Sam told Vice in 2018. “You can’t really use that exact family recipe for the production we need,” he said, adding that; “There’s a lot to do. And people are really liking ‘world breads’ now. I want to try and sell beyond the Ghanaian community, to anyone.”
Initially, Sam didn’t want to manage the bakery but decided to step in because he needed to protect the legacy of his family. “When my parents and other African and Caribbean people came over in the 80s (and even before then), some had their own businesses; but their children born here, didn’t seem to want to carry it on,” he told Ad’s Diaspora.
“I was the same, but it got to a point when I realized that legacy is important; so I sacrificed what I was doing and jumped in to help my parents and then became director.”
Despite the effect of COVID-19 on small businesses, particularly Black-led businesses, Uncle John’s Bakery did not close. The bakery offered its support to the fight against COVID-19 by regularly donating bread to NHS workers.
Uncle John’s Bakery was recently listed among 30 Black-owned businesses from among a wide range of businesses to support by Forbes.