17 Apr Punch Meets Smoking Bagels #NorthBirmingham
We’ve been on the look out for the best food spots in North Birmingham and this week we had the opportunity to sit down with Keiran from Smoking Bagels to find out why he and his team chose to set up a business in North Birmingham and see what the future holds
What and where is Smoking Bagels?
Smoking Bagels is a street food brand and you can find it in the North West part of Birmingham in Hamstead but we’re also a mobile food brand, we do events and festivals. We’re a street food brand centred around bagels but inclusive of all good tasty things.
Who is Smoking Bagels?
There is 4 of us. I am the M.D. and our product developer is called Bandy. Lewis is our finance director and my Mum is our company secretary.
What is the story behind the idea for Smoking Bagels?
I’ve been interested in the food market for a while but I wanted to bring some new energy to it. So Myself and Brandy had a few ideas and we talked about it over 3-5 years and then we had this idea to bring together the worlds best flavours, the herbs and spices and bring it together as something friendly and comfortable, which brings in the bagel. The bagel is like a friendly bread, everyone can get along with it. So, we’re known for our jerk chicken bagel but our chicken tikka is just as good and our vegan bagels are just as good too.
If we come to Smoking Bagels then what would you recommend?
Our vegan southern fried jackfruit bagel is incredible and our jerk jackfruit is incredible. And if you eat meat then our jerk chicken bagel is like “The Big Mac”… the same quality every time, also incredible.
How do you make your rainbow bagels?
A lot of creativity and some magic… its a secret.
So why North Birmingham?
Because that’s where I’m from, that’s where I grew up and that’s where I know. Also, I saw the opportunity for something like this in the area, probably because I know and understand the demographic so I knew it was something I could make happen in the area. But also there’s the whole thing, if I can make it in my own area then I can’t make it anywhere so I wanted to start at grass roots and that has worked for us because a lot of our customers are community supporters and they have helped to sustain us. So we don’t regret it at all but obviously there are a lot of problems with being in North Birmingham.
Ok, so what do you think North Birmingham is missing?
The infrastructure is a bit haywire. We’re a commuter area, there’s a lot of traffic going in and out and passing from town but there’s no infrastructure to facilitate what the passing trade could do for the area. There needs to be more signposting to make people aware of where they are and what’s around. And simple things like carparks. At the moment if people wanted to stop they wouldn’t be able to. There isn’t even a sign post to say where the nearest car park is!
Also visibility and signposting of the different wards. You could be just around the corner from Hamstead, around the corner from Smoking Bagels, but you wouldn’t know.
You are a young black entrepenure, how easy of difficult did you and the team find it to get Smoking Bagels off the ground and what advice would you give to young black entrepenure’s like yourself?
The biggest difficulty we had was gelling the team into one and having a united vision and target. The other was resources and finance. So we self funded, we didn’t get any bursaries or grants or loans, no free money.
I think because we were slightly naive but also accessibility, we didn’t even know where to go or where we could access this type of money. But also the can do attitude, we just wanted to mobilise it and get going. So we all invested our own money then did some pop-ups around the country, one after another. The money that we made doing pop-ups we reinvested until we had enough to open. But we had the shop for a year before we even opened. So I was paying rent on an empty space before we could even do anything with it. But I stand by the saying; “Its a long process but quitting won’t make it any easier”. Theres no way you can stop. My advice is that you have to have resilience. And you have to have a good team. I could have quit a million times if I’d had no team with me because paying the rent alone was a huge outgoing for me so just to have other people believe in the vision that nobody else can even see yet is important.
You personally have a background in music, how do you feel that’s leant itself to this business?
We come from a time when Grime was a bedroom business. We had to brand ourselves, market and distribute ourselves, there was no robust channels to distribute through, you had to go physically to the people to sell or bluetooth it, send it via MSN and find other new ways. I was in a group of around 10 MC’s and it was always my job to manage and distribute. We did that because it was cool, we wanted to be big and it was natural. So from that, on reflection, I’ve been doing this from then. Organising people and getting them onto a joint vision. Thats what Grime was and making music.
Cool! So you hold events at the store, are you planning to do more of that?
Yes! The vision for the store has always been to be a “live store” so there will always be events. We have one called Bagel house which happens once a month and we have different guest DJ’s. North Birmingham acts like Double Impact and Jess Monroe for example. As well as that we do open mics and EP launches. So we give artists a space to showcase their work in a place they can get good food. We also hold the Producers Exchange which is a great look for Birmingham and is going really well.
What does the future hold for Smoking Bagels?
We want to expand on our presence of the bricks and water stores but and also our street food presence. So ideally in the next 10 years we’ll have a smoking bagels in Birmingham, a drive through. A Smoking Bagels in Barcelona, Amsterdam, we’ll have fast food catering and festivals, we’ll do a tour and pop up around the country and we’ll just replicate the model over and over again.
Is there anything else you want us to know?
Just that Smoking Bagels is a hub for our culture and demographic in North Birmingham because there isn’t many places that creativity is encouraged and that artists can get space at affordable costs, we don’t charge a lot, just enough to keep the lights running. In terms of North Birmingham regeneration we just want to be included, we have a lot to offer.
Visit Smoking Bagels
413 Rocky Lane,