Cooking With Mama

Cooking With Mama

London, United KingdomLondon, United Kingdom
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Cooking With Mama is a new culinary school with a twist - it aims to empower unemployed or underemployed women to reach their highest potential through teaching ethnic and authentic cooking classes in the community. It aims to provide women with confidence, work-readiness skills, compensation, and a personal network.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Cooking with Mama aims to empower unemployed and underemployed women, who are incredible home cooks, to reach their highest potential through teaching cooking classes in the community. In today’s economic climate many women are struggling. U.K. statistics show that in 2011, 1.12 million women were unemployed, with the 50-65 age range disproportionately affected. While women’s circumstances vary widely, many have extensive culinary experience gained at home. Cooking with Mama hopes to demonstrate the value of these skills by providing training and opportunities for these women to lead cooking classes in the community.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The unemployed often struggle to gain the experience needed to re-enter the labour force. For example, women who have focused on raising families may lack professional experience, and those who have lost jobs can find it hard to enter another sector. We offer women who are in these circumstances, and who love to cook, an opportunity to lead a cookery class. We see this as a tool to gain leadership experience, develop communication skills, grow confidence, and begin to build a distinctive CV. By developing their confidence and work-readiness skills, we aim to empower participating women to reach their highest potential. We also offer an experience boost for those seeking to begin their journey into employment in the food industry. We are developing partnerships with restaurants and caterers with the eventual goal of offering women exit opportunities into the cooking trade. We also aim to reinvest our profits through microloans to invest in the culinary dreams of our mamas.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We hosts "Mama Days" as training programs for our participating women every other month and prior to them teaching their own class. Skills development training is focused on confidence, public speaking, budgeting, and time management. We believe these key skills are critical to teaching a cooking class and can be applied in other facets of her life. We work with each Mama to design her menu according to a budget, source the ingredients, structure her class timing, and achieve her personal goals of each class. Cooking With Mama hosts its 2.5 hour cooking classes in rental kitchens in London. We have held six pilots for both guest classes and corporate events of about 15-20 people each, so far featuring Indian and Brazilian dishes. Mamas demonstrate each dish before they are replicated by class participants. Mamas share not only their cooking, but also share their stories and traditions behind each recipe. Participants are charged for attending classes, and this money is used to partially fund class expenses (kitchen rental, ingredients, etc) and a payment for the mama. The Mamas who have led our classes say the experience has been helpful in building confidence and allowing them to interact with people they would not have otherwise. They have been able to develop skills through the training and have built a community with other women and individuals in the culinary trade. We are working with other restaurant and catering organisations in London to provide further exit opportunities for these women in the culinary space.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Cooking with Mama offers an experience like no other cookery school – an opportunity to learn about food preparation and tradition from a woman who has mastered her own culture’s home cooking. While other cookery schools offer classes with trained chefs, we give participants the same cooking skills while also re-creating that special feeling of home cooking, conjuring up nostalgic memories of family gatherings and holidays. It’s the experience that sets us apart. Our competitors are other cooking schools in London - from at-home lessons to professional culinary schools. There are currently no other cooking schools working with unemployed women or untrained chefs. However, if a similar idea arises, our first mover advantage has been set through established relationships in the industry.

Founding Story

Jennifer is a self-proclaimed foodie – she enjoys experiencing new cuisines from around the globe, trying new recipes, and taking cooking classes whenever she’s on holidays in a new city. After she moved from Canada to the UK, she fell sick and wished her mum was around to cook her delicious soups. Except her mum was living on the other side of the world, Jennifer didn’t know the recipe, and she didn’t even know any other mums in London to call upon for cooking help. Then it dawned on her – What if she could learn cooking from someone else’s mum? What if she could learn different types of ethnic recipes and cooking skills from different mums throughout London? And What if she could use food to empower unemployed women and to gain new skills? That’s when Cooking With Mama was born!
About You
About You
First Name


Tell us about yourself/your team.

Jennifer Fong is Director/ Founder at Cooking With Mama. She holds experiences across Canada, US, UK and China with organisations such as UNICEF, UNDP, World Economic Forum, UK Cabinet Office, and PwC. She currently works as a management consultant at Accenture. She attained a joint Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and Master of Public Administration from the LSE, with a focus in international development.

Amanda Briden is a Director at Cooking With Mama. She joined the team while completing her MBA at the Said Business School at the University of Oxford. She holds experiences as an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Participle, a London based public service design firm, working toward measuring human capabilities.

What makes you an intrapreneur? What are the skills, capabilities, and personality traits that make you an intrapreneur?

I currently hold two jobs - a management consultant at Accenture, and a director/founder of Cooking With Mama. I am able to apply my analytical and problem-solving skills from Accenture towards the development and growth of Cooking With Mama. While these organisations have two separate missions, they both utilise the same business planning and problem solving tools.

What makes me an intrapreneur is my ability to apply both my private and public sector knowledge into a social enterprise which straddles both disciplines, my curiosity to pursue the road less travelled to see if I can turn this seed of an idea into a global initiative, and my drive to empower and build confidence for unemployed women through Cooking With Mama.

About Your Organization
Company Country

, LND, London

Primary country where this project is creating social impact

, LND, London

Additional countries or regions

Accommodation and Food Services

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)

The Solution: Why is this solution innovative for your company and industry?

Cooking with Mama is the only culinary school of its kind which works with unemployed or underemployed women to lead its cooking classes. Class participants are able to experience a culture through its food by learning our mamas' recipes, which have typically only been passed through family generations. We offers a creative and safe environment to bring the community together through food, develop cultural understanding, and support skills development for unemployed women.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

To date Cooking With Mama has held six cooking classes for a total of 120 participants. Therefore, we have been able to provide 120 individuals with the opportunity to learn a culture through its cooking classes and develop their home cooking skills.

More importantly, these classes were taught by three women. Through our pre- and post-class surveys and discussions, these women have noted an increase in their confidence, public speaking, budgeting, and time management, Over the past four months we have worked with six women through our "Mama Days" (i.e. training and focus groups) to explain our program and provide them with the necessary skills for leading their own cooking class. Our statistics show that we are achieving our impact of providing these women with confidence and work-readiness skills.

Our statistics also prove that this idea can be replicated in other countries. We are currently working on developing chapters in Berlin and New York through interested volunteers.

What is your projected impact over the next 1 to 3 years?

We at Cooking with Mama are dreaming big. While cookery classes are our core activity, we want to expand our offering and impact, while remaining sustainable. We are keen to begin selling supplementary products at our classes – including spice kits, aprons and cookbooks. Another long-term goal is to set up a fund to provide microloans to our Mamas, so that they can pursue their own culinary dreams, such as to run a stall at a food market, to attend culinary certification classes at a local college, or to develop her own catering service. Another goal is expand globally - we have had interest in expanding the idea in NYC, Berlin, Shanghai and Toronto. We see these ideas ways to remain a sustainable venture, while providing maximum benefit to the women.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

As a social enterprise one key barrier to success is understanding how to achieve our social mission while remaining profitable. We are currently addressing this barrier by reviewing our business strategy in understanding how to lower our largest cost (kitchen rentals), increase profits by looking into different customer groups, and applying for grant funding to cover specific costs related to our venture (i.e. fees paid to the women for teaching cooking classes).

Another barrier to success is understanding how to brand and market our venture to the public. Through our pilot phase we know that we have a strong service - now we need to determine a way to communicate our value proposition to our customer base. We are currently working with marketing experts to address this issue.

What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?

Cooking With Mama has adopted a sustainable business model where class participants pay a fee for each cooking class attended. This money is then reinvested back into the venture - with the majority covering the rental costs of the kitchen space, providing compensation to the mama for leading the cooking class, and covering the raw ingredients. A small portion of this money is then reinvested into the growth of the entire organisation. In the future, we plan to expand our profits through cooking products (i.e. spice kits), recipe books, and catering.

How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?

Cooking With Mama is an entirely volunteer-run organisation. It's lead by two directors, Jennifer and Amanda, who are also supported by a volunteer team assisting in areas such as mama recruitment, administration, and event planning.
In addition to its volunteers, the organisation reaches out to its four advisers (through the Emerge Venture Lab) who have experience in social entrepreneurship. It also reaches out to mentors and friends who work/volunteer in food-related industries, social entreprises, and community groups. This has been useful such as receiving tax or legal advice upon company setup, or attending a marketing and branding brainstorm held by marketing professionals in London.
To start, we invested our own funds and also received a £2000 grant to help in the pilot phase,

Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.

Our long term funding strategy is three-fold:
1. We plan to increase our profits through our cooking classes. Having piloted different classes and developed a strong model for our mama training program and cooking class delivery, we are now looking to better cater our classes towards different customer groups - for individual, group and corporate classes. We are currently undergoing strategic planning for our marketing and branding to better communicate our venture and its mission.
2. We plan to develop partnerships with groups such as supermarkets and kitchen spaces to reduce our costs of hosting classes.
3. We are applying for grants to drive our growth. This funding will be used to help test different cooking class ideas, expand class offerings,and develop our mama training programs.

Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.

In addition to its volunteers, advisors and mentors in our internal resources, Cooking With Mama relies on its partnerships with culinary schools and community centres where its rents its kitchen space, relies on other community groups which support womens unemployment to reach out to potential mamas, and relies on its social entreprise community to help spread the word about our venture in their personal networks. This is important to us and word of mouth is our best advert.

What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?

Cooking With Mama has received support from two organisations:
1. The Emerge Venture Lab is a 12-month accelerator program which supports new or early stage social entreprises. Through this program we have received training on how to develop our venture from an idea into its current pilot phase. We have also received mentorship through various volunteer advisors from the startup community.
2. The Royal Society of Arts has granted us £2000 to assist with our pilot phase.