International Women's Day: Bayley & Sage

Q&A with Jennie Allen, Founder of Bayley & Sage.

Tell us about your role and your business.

My name is Jennie Allen, I’m the owner and founder of Bayley & Sage. I started the company at the first shop in Wimbledon in 1997, and we now have 12 stores and over 210 people working in the business. We pride ourselves in being purveyors of all things seasonal and delicious, offering fresh produce, delicious cheeses, freshly made pre-prepared foods, seasonal flowers and much more! We’ve recently launched a homeware shop as well, Abode, which can be found on the lower level of our Marylebone Village store.


What inspired you to choose a career in the food industry?

I was inspired to take up a career in the food industry thanks to my love of fresh produce! What better way to spend time with loved ones than cooking and spending quality time with them over the dinner table discussing food, life, etc - these moments are what life is all about!


Based on your own experience, what advice would you have for women wanting to get into your industry, or start a business of their own?

My advice for women wanting to start their own business is to understand their numbers, know the importance of cash flow and work with great people. Be persistent, believe in yourself and be passionate about what you do!


Which women have inspired you most throughout your life?

I’ve been inspired by so many women throughout the years, but there are a few that stand out to me. Firstly, Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop. She dared to be different, she lived her values and broke the mould. My grandma was also a big inspiration for me, as she was a force of nature with boundless energy. I’ve always loved the story of Michele Harris, who trained as a concert pianist and then changed her career and went on to become a gynaecology oncology surgeon. I’m endlessly inspired by all women that forged their own paths and did things their way. 


What do you love most about being positioned in Marylebone Village?

What we love most about being a part of Marylebone Village is its village and community feel. We love to operate in London villages and Marylebone is the epitome of that.


Tell us about your career journey so far.

My career journey started with my MSc in hotel and institutional management. I fell into the path of food retailing after the passing of my mother. I joined Cullen’s as a trainee store manager and become an area manager within 8 months. I continued to progress within the company, eventually becoming Managing Director. I decided to open my own store, Bayley & Sage, over 25 years ago and have watched it grow to 12 stores and over 210 employees. 


Have you faced any obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your business?

I’ve of course faced many obstacles that I’ve had to overcome in my business, but that's what makes it so special! Being a woman-owned business in the industry, especially 25 years ago, certainly made things more difficult. In the early days, I would have to get my husband or my father to guarantee my loans. I would often be mistaken for more “women-led” roles such as PR or office manager. But these challenges have only made the business stronger, and I’m extremely proud to employ so many fantastic women within the company. We currently have 17 women and counting in management roles within Bayley & Sage.