Starting something new
Hi, my name is Ash – I’m a part-time finalist studying Sport and Exercise Science, due to graduate this summer. There’s an amazing number of clubs and societies to join during your time as a student at Loughborough – or start!
The studies that brought me to Loughborough – Sport and Exercise Science – tie close to a wider interest in cooking, baking, and bringing people together. During secondary school, I had been running a food blog, where I would challenge myself to create thrifty and/or more nutritious twists on classic recipes. I am lucky to not have any dietary requirements or allergies, but my family and friends do (and have different restrictions!) so I had lots of different angles to experiment from.
I didn’t immediately realise I could start a society. Like many other students, my first introduction to the Societies Section was via the Activities Bazaar. In my first year, a cooking and baking society didn’t yet exist – however, my hobbies naturally lead me to meet others with similar interests within my hall. In our Freshers group chat, I asked if anyone had some nutmeg I could use in a pumpkin pie. One of my now closest friends, Teiba, offered for me to use hers. To say thank you, I brought her some pumpkin pie that I had made, and she invited me inside for a coffee and to have a chat!
That meeting – and my cheeky request for an ingredient – got the snowball (doughball?) rolling to begin Cook ‘n’ Bake. Teiba had been hosting groups of friends for themed food nights at her flat already, so it was a concept we expanded upon from Falkner Eggington. With some guidance from the third years living with me, we planned a visit to the LSU Societies Office to ask them how we go about establishing a society, and what the requirements were.
After spreading the word via our hall and courses, we had our founding meeting (in a kitchen, no less) where we brainstormed ideas for the society, how we would aim to run our core activities (cooking and baking) and discussed who was interested in a committee role. Naturally, many of us brought homemade snacks to share…!
Becoming a society
We officially established as a Society after the Refreshers Bazaar in 2018, with 26 members in our first year. As a first year Co-Chair, I had a lot to learn about room bookings, risk assessments and leading a team. It was fantastic experience and all members and committee involved in handling or cooking food had the opportunity to obtain a Level 2 Food Safety and Hygiene certificate used in industry at no cost.
One of the funniest – and most challenging to plan – events of that inaugural year was an event where we took over a room in the Union (now the Lounge) where groups and couples were fed a three-course meal (with a menu of choices!) by the Cook ‘n’ Bake committee, accounting for allergies and other food preferences.
Other stand-out events in the first year included a pizza workshop (feeding 40+ students for just £16!), microwave baking and a trip to the BBC GoodFood show.
What was an official membership of 26 grew to over 120 members in our second year. Economies of scale are real with food – and so we were able to keep our membership affordable while offering an increasing range of opportunities to our members, and we always kept dietary inclusion in mind, offering gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, and other options. Events were also designed to try and help students living in catered halls to still have opportunities to get stuck in, and any competitions were light-hearted and engaging (we collaborated with the Design Society once for a cake-construction challenge – Sprint Bus made from cake, anyone?!).
Our Society was established around a simple set of ideas – learning basic (and advanced) culinary skills, expressing creativity, and embracing curiosity. Committee members had skill sets they took an interest in, but it was our members that amazed us with what they could make in even the smallest of kitchens. My go-to marketing message catchphrase was “whether you want to learn to boil an egg or are an aspiring Michelin star chef, we want you!”. Subsequent committees have run with this ethos and run amazing events of their own and overcame the difficulties of isolation and COVID by running online “cook-alongs”.
Becoming award winning
Cook ‘n’ Bake won Society of the Year 2018/2019, following our previous year’s Best New Society Award in 2017/2018. The pride and smile on my face in the photos from that night are yet to be matched. Years later, I’m so proud of what we had achieved. Cook ‘n’ Bake has a firm place on my CV and has led to many interesting discussions since!
I’m grateful to all the committee members I worked alongside – and we all developed so much confidence from running events and workshops for so many people. Cook ‘n’ Bake events saw workshop attendances regularly between 40-60 students. We balanced each other out well, and each helped one another through the peaks and troughs of our academic and personal lives as well alongside the logistical challenges of planning events, purchasing ingredients, testing recipes, advertising, creating content, instructing, and entertaining – and then washing up – for so many people.
Alongside my degree, a bit of part-time work and the Society, I was experimenting with a protein brownie recipe that would become the cornerstone of my business idea, Bake Balance. The encouragement, ideas and input from the Cook ‘n’ Bake committee, members, and the wider student community I was involved with helped me take this from a delicious idea to a piloted start-up in my second year. The LSU Enterprise Section helped me refine my ideas and action the launch of my protein brownie (and blondie!) by post service, as the LSU Societies Section helped with the development of Cook ‘n’ Bake.
Essentially – I’ve been working on carving out my own niche in the overlapping worlds of sport, nutrition and food, and University has been the perfect playground to experiment. As I draw towards my graduation this July, I have a lot to look back on and be thankful for – and the opportunities Loughborough presented to me have me feeling prepared for life as a graduate and my ambitions as an entrepreneur.
Now is the time to start something new, without placing too much pressure on yourself. The business I started in my second year drives so much of what I do, but I am not actively selling right now as I was in 2018/2019 – starting something might mean launching and re-iterating, or beginning, stopping, reflecting, and later being inspired to start something entirely different. Effort is never wasted, as it will set something else in motion.
I will be the first to say I had absolutely no idea how to start a Society, and I set foot in my first Activities Bazaar with a view to join something already established. Never be afraid to ask for help – your passion will shine through and we’re lucky to be part of a university that develops you academically and more generally.
Starting your own society
If you’re interested in creating your own Society, look at what current societies are available and make sure you’ve got your own niche. In terms of membership, a food-based society clearly benefits from the everyday requirement of nutrition, but any interest, activity, or hobby you are passionate about could open an amazing chapter for you and other students.
Being business-minded can be a serious strength for any committee member, as it helps you to think about your society (or club) in a holistic way. It’ll help you establish (or grow) your current membership, and help you focus on the value you aim to provide members and wider stakeholders. If it’s your own business you’re looking to start, the LSU Enterprise section runs a variety of networking, up-skilling and showcase events and can provide 1:1 guidance.
Trying a new activity could introduce you to lifelong relationships, career opportunities and hobbies. Have fun and enjoy your time at Loughborough. It will fly by faster than you might imagine – now’s the time to make an impact!
Find out more about LSU Societies.
Find out more about LSU Enterprise.
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