Bread – one of life’s simple pleasures
When Chartered client Jeff Lawrence took early retirement from Nedbank in 2016, it marked the start of turning his passion into a business. When he and his wife, Sue, decided to retire, there were three things they knew for sure.
Firstly, they wanted to remain physically and mentally active; secondly, they wanted to live off the money they earned in retirement; and thirdly, they would move permanently to Wakkerstroom, where they owned a property. So began Jeff’s journey from city to country, banker to baker.
Jeff has always loved baking and eating bread, and let’s be honest, the smell and taste of freshly baked bread are hard to beat. He decided to take his passion for bread and turn it into a business, and Country Bread was born. Initially, he wanted to master the art of bread-making so that he could supply local establishments with fresh bread. Over the years before retirement, Jeff read books and took bread courses locally and overseas to expand his knowledge, and a post-retirement highlight was spending his 60th birthday in the UK doing a four-day course for professional bakers.
His business soon expanded, and he began running bread-making courses in addition to supplying bread to local establishments. Currently, he offers fifteen artisan bread-making courses designed specifically to teach all the theory and techniques to make the perfect loaf. Think of any bread, and Jeff has likely developed a course in it ranging from sourdough bread to ciabatta to croissants; he’s got them all covered. He also has a course designed for families and friends as he believes that baking bread together as a family or with a group of friends is an excellent way of spending quality time together and learning a life skill simultaneously.
There is another side to his business as well —business consultancy. Jeff trains restaurants, bakers and boutique hotels in the art of bread making. These courses are customised to meet the business’s specific needs, typically lasting three to four days.
Sue and Jeff’s other activities are their holiday cottages in Wakkerstroom that they rent out, and Sue owns Village Bakery – the local bakery and coffee shop. Sue roasts her own coffee and also makes beautifully handcrafted leather bags.
When asked why he chose Wakkerstroom, he is quick to tell you about this hidden gem in South Africa. Wakkerstroom is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga and has become one of the prime bird-watching venues in South Africa. It is also well known for its cycling and walking routes, quaint shops and restaurants.
Jeff’s passion is contagious. Teaching the art of bread making is not a job for him; it’s his purpose and combines all the things he loves. But it’s not all work and no play. Jeff and Sue work on their own terms. They love exploring and visit the Drakensburg and Mozambique frequently. They like to go away at least every two months. Family is important to them, so they see their seven grandchildren as often as possible.
We always encourage clients to find balance in the areas of work, give back, relationships, money, learn, health, purpose and play. Jeff is undoubtedly someone who has achieved this balance. As Sheryl Sandberg says, “It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very clear path to happiness.”
You can read more about Jeff’s courses at www.countrybread.co.za