Earlier this month, on a sunny Tuesday morning we made our way to East London and met
the lovely Leah Harkess at her gorgeous family home. We caught up to find out all about the
making of Norah's Brownies and what inspired Leah to become her own boss.
Can you tell us about yourself and your brand?
My name is Leah and I am the founder and creator of Norah's Brownies. I have always been
into set design which I studied at university and that led me on to becoming a visual
merchandiser for a fashion company. I then trained to be a DT teacher but have since found
my calling by running my own business.
How did Norah's Brownies start and what is the story behind the name?
I named the business after my second daughter because I really liked the name,
unfortunately Lola had already been used by another company. It began when I made some
brownies for my husband who has a gluten and dairy intolerance. He said that they were
good enough to sell, so I took his advice.
Have you always enjoyed baking?
I've always loved cooking and creating, I don't think I've ever followed a recipe, I like to be
creative and this is how I show my creativity.
Which of your brownies is your favourite and what would you compliment it with?
The ginger one is my favourite because it won me a Great Taste Award last year, always
with a cup of tea.
Where do you draw inspiration from when creating new recipes?
The ideas just happen, I'm not sure they even pop into my head, it's more like I start making
a brownie, then I take the cocoa out, then I decided to bake the mixture in a doughnut mould
...it's ever evolving. I'll suddenly be in the mood for a lemon brownie, so I'll make a gin and
tonic brownie with lemon chocolate. It's like deciding what you fancy for dinner, I guess.
Why do you think veganism and cutting out gluten has become so popular in recent years?
Veganism is about doing right by the planet as well as your body, it's more about an ethical
choice which this new generation is rightfully heading towards. The gluten intolerance is
more to do with the way's crops are grown and the science behind our gut and gluten. It's a
fact that gluten makes you bloated. Each person reacts in a different way. We no longer rely
on doctor to tell us what's wrong with us, we can make a choice to cut something out that
gives us a better quality of life.
What advice would you give to someone starting up their own business?
Work out the cost of everything including your time. Your time is valuable and there is
nothing more soul destroying than wasting it.
Can you walk us through a day in your life?
I usually wake up with Norah drooling on my face as she has snuck into the bed without me
realizing in the night. Once the school run is done I'm on the clock before pick up. We are
usually having a day of mass baking for wholesale or a day of making smaller boxes for
gifts. Oh and being my own marketing, branding, photographer, web designer and customer
service gets thrown in there too.
How do you make your clothes work for you and your busy lifestyle?
Comfort is key, I live in trainers and clothes that aren't restricting. I've also given away loads
of my clothes that I have been hoarding for 20 years. Getting dressed is so much easier
when you can actually see what's in your wardrobe.
What are your go-to wardrobe staples?
Wide-leg cotton jersey trousers are my go to...or a lightweight dress.
If I wasn't running Norah's Brownies... I would be a cookery teacher full time.
The best thing about my job... I get to say 'I made that' with a chuffed face
My favourite holiday destination... Goa has been the best with the girls, New York the
best without them.
Words to live by... 'It's supposed to be hard, if it wasn't hard everyone would do it' - Tom
Hanks League of their own.
My ideal breakfast... fresh pancakes, fresh fruit salad, fresh coffee.
My guilty pleasure... going to bed at 8.30 pm.
My favourite London hangout... South Hackney as a whole, it has the best parks, pubs