Founders: Lisa Meyer
'I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A BURGEONING COMMUNITY'
It all started with a dinner party.. In 2010, my brother bought me David Chang’s book Momofuku and I made some pork buns for friends. I’d never seen them before and we all thought they were pretty special. I felt they were the perfect street food – three weeks later I was making our first batch of buns for sale.
The first Yum Bun was in a schoolyard extension by Broadway Market. For a year or so it was a Saturday-only market stall, so it all flowed slowly and happily – filling my home with the smell of roast pork on a Friday night, packing up the van and heading to the market on Saturday mornings.
Things stepped up a gear in 2012 when we moved into Dalston Yard. It was crazily busy – we almost couldn’t cope. I remember standing behind a griddle staring out at a queue of 30, thinking “god, I’ve got another two hours of this” – it was full on, but also such a buzz. There was usually some kind of party at the end of the night too.
I was very much in the middle of that burgeoning street food community. I’m very grateful for that. We were all making our own way, working alongside each other across London or turning up next to each other at festivals. It never felt that competitive but we definitely spurred each other on. I remember turning up at Dalston Yard each season and feeling the place was transformed as everyone worked on their pitches – it was a great energy.
It took a while to realise that learning about the books and systems wasn’t all that boring. We now have a team of 50 and absolutely rely on process. At one time, I was so hands on and almost felt guilty stepping back from the stalls. It’s very hard to be strategic if you’re rushing around dealing with the day-to-day.
Street Feast’s Trader Academy was a big hand up for Yum Bun. We met some really inspiring mentors in operations, marketing, HR and strategy. I came from a media background with no formal experience in hospitality, and had been making things up as I went along. It was good to put things in boxes. The best advice I can give people starting out is find some people who know what they are doing and learn from them.
I’m surrounded by clever and hardworking women. Yum Bun has taken its biggest leaps in the last two years and I put that down to a small team who solve problems and get things organised. We have some great guys working for us too of course, but Yum Bun has always been female-led. It imparts a certain culture which I really like, it’s very supportive.
Running an independent business is liberating. I’ve heard about some of the crap that goes on in the hospitality sector, and it’s a relief to be able to make our own way. There is some machismo in street food like most places, but I can just smile inwardly and get on with doing our thing.
I became a mother five months ago. I’m now really feeling both the responsibility and the freedom that comes with running a business. There’s a lot of planning around precious nap times. Being forced to take a little step back and trusting the team to do what they do will probably let Yum Bun flourish even more.
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