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Managing Director; The Dusty Knuckle Bakery, London

Dusty Knuckle co-founder Max Tobias intends to combine his charity background working with troubled youths alongside his lifelong obsession with bread-making to create a social enterprise and bakery with a purpose.

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Baking bread is pretty demanding stuff. 

Co-founders and childhood friends Max Tobias and Rebecca Oliver have been gritting their teeth through 4am winter mornings, making dough in Tobias’s tiny kitchen, using neighbouring cafes’ refrigerators and borrowing restaurants’ ovens to make and sell their bread. Before long, they realised they needed an extra set of hands to help with production and this is where third partner Daisy Terry comes in.

After winning a rent-free shipping container competition from a local charity in 2014, the Dusty Knuckle bakery came to life in a 40ft freight container in an east London car park. The three of them worked tirelessly selling to wholesale goods to restaurants, stores and cafes. It wasn’t long until the trio cut a hole in the side of their container to open a service hatch to start serving customers sandwiches and coffee.

Two months ago, they outgrew their metal home and moved into bigger premises opposite the container. The extra space they now hope to offer more youth training schemes to function and to operate a proper sit down cafe with an expanded menu.

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“We stand for hard graft, industriousness and hustling in London. We want to be able to talk a youth audience and our bakery encompasses that.”

“I wanted to start something with the potential to directly employ these youngsters and offer them an alternative,” Tobias says. “They needn’t necessarily be literate or academic, they just need to be prepared to work hard and to be curious, I want to provide an environment that can offer a lifeline into a better future.” Since opening, they’ve worked with schools to provide mentoring and had five young people complete work experience in the bakery, two of which have ended up as Dusty Knuckle employees. 

Their brand name and logo encompasses the hard work and values around determination, optimism and grit that they’re trying to achieve with this project. “We wanted a name that was crunchy that comes with a bit of attitude, we didn’t want to be a twee, pretty cottage type-thing filled with wheatsheaves and italic lettering,” he explains. “We stand for hard graft, industriousness and hustling in London. We want to be able to talk a youth audience and our bakery encompasses that.”

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The next goal for Dusty Knuckle is to get the bakery and cafe in a thriving place, and to secure a bigger funding stream to start conducting more systematic co-working youth programmes where kids are trained and employed by the bakery. “I want to be at a stage where we can offer employment positions to people who are less experienced with work,” Tobias says. “So they can learn essential life skills and figure out what they want to do.”

2018 is shaping up to be a promising year for the Dusty Knuckle, but after all these years the only thing Tobias would do differently is to probably insulate his shipping container.

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