Yorkshire gluten-free baker inspired to apply for Channel 4 series Aldi’s Next Big Thing to help break barriers for neurodivergent people in business

A Yorkshire baker who starred in the latest episode of Channel 4 series Aldi’s Next Big Thing said she applied to help inspire neurodivergent people to chase after their dreams in business.

The new series of Aldi’s Next Big Thing introduced another group of enthusiastic food and drink suppliers this year and is hosted by Anita Rani and Chris Bavin.

One of the contestants on the show was Leeds-born Mina Said-Allsopp, who owns Wildcraft Bakery in Meanwood, along with her business colleague Alpchan Ural.

The bakery exclusively employs neurodivergent people.

Mina Said-Allsopp. (Pic credit: James Hardisty)Mina Said-Allsopp. (Pic credit: James Hardisty)
Mina Said-Allsopp. (Pic credit: James Hardisty)
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She told The Yorkshire Post she wanted to “showcase something different” by applying to the show.

“Every time I’ve watched TV shows like [Aldi’s Next Big Thing] there’s always loads of gluten and wheat, there’s very rarely things that are for people with allergies”, she said.

“It was really important to me to represent people who aren’t normally represented.

“A big part of my pitch for Aldi was based around the fact that not only do we make amazing gluten-free food, we are also a trauma-informed workplace.

Mina Said-Allsopp on Aldi's Next Big Thing. (Pic credit: Channel 4)Mina Said-Allsopp on Aldi's Next Big Thing. (Pic credit: Channel 4)
Mina Said-Allsopp on Aldi's Next Big Thing. (Pic credit: Channel 4)
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“What that means to us in practice, being a team of neurodivergent people, is trying to learn how to build the business around our capacities as opposed to the way things ‘should’ be done.

“That’s been quite an intensive journey. I’ve got a background in business and I know how things ‘should’ be done and it’s very different from the way that we need to get things done.

“Our brains work so differently and I thought it would be a really good opportunity to be working with a big company like Aldi.

“For Wildcraft, we don’t have a massive team, but each one is neurodivergent and each one of us experiences things very differently. It was an opportunity to inspire other people like myself.”

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The application process ended up being the biggest challenge for Ms Said-Allsopp.

“From the very beginning of our big pitch with Aldi they were having to make loads of different accommodations for my autism and ADHD,” she said.

“Through the application process, the intercom process, the technical directors, all of it was just a very hard barrier that would normally stop entrepreneurs like myself from being able to participate.

“One small example: I sent in my application form and it was received and they processed it.

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“I received an email one afternoon saying that I needed to complete this entire technical hack [for the next day] with loads of information about our product, the technical specifications, a flow chart for how we are going to manage, all of this in less than 24 hours to finish it off and send it back.

“I was like I’m really sorry, but this is not going to happen, you’re asking me something that I’m just not capable of, I’m going to need more time.

“The way that businesses work tends to make this assumption that everybody is the same. We’re not. We’re all different.”

This is not the first time Ms Said-Allsopp has worked with the Channel 4 production team, having previously appeared on Nadia’s Everyday Bakes.

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The team helped to accommodate her needs while filming the show.

“The process for the filming of the show was pretty straightforward; the team was really kind and supportive,” she said.

“I’ve worked with the production company before as I was on Nadia’s Everyday Bakes. So I knew one of the people who worked there, which made things a bit easier.

“Though she wasn’t there when we were filming in Leeds, she reassured me in advance, told me who was going to be there, and what they were like.

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“On the day of the filming, I was nervous about what to expect; with autism, one of the things that we struggle with a lot is our environment and unclear expectations.

“I explained that to them. It wasn’t something they had been planning on doing for anybody but they did a whole step-by-step breakdown of the day and what was going to happen.

“When I arrived there, I was given this sheet of paper and told this is what is going to happen, just so that I could prepare for all the different transitions required for the day which was really helpful.”

Her appearance on the show has attracted new customers to her cafe and she has since received many messages and emails from other neurodivergent people who consider her an inspiration.

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“We have had a lot of people come in,” Ms Said-Allsopp said.

“We had people who literally live up the road who didn’t even know that we were the gluten-free cafe; they found out about us from the TV show which was kind of amusing.

“I’ve been going through emails and there have been so many from people with ADHD or autism saying ‘it was amazing to see you on TV’.

“We have had lots of emails and messages from people on social media saying ‘I don’t understand why you weren’t chosen’, ‘your pitch was so amazing’. It was really amazing to be a part of it.”

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While Ms Said-Allsopp and Mr Ural didn’t get through to the finals of the episode, the feedback has been very positive. It was due to the cost rather than the product.

“They loved the flavour of our pies that we took with us,” she said.

“They said how interesting, innovative and delicious they were, so it wasn’t the product that meant that we didn’t progress, it was the price point. We can’t compare with a £1 pattie.

“I think that with our gluten-free legacy, we are used to having to pay more for our stuff; they are a lot more expensive than [ingredients] with gluten. But if they had gone for us, I think their customers would have still paid.

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Ms Said-Allsopp said she was “really proud” of how far the business has reached following the appearance.

“Our quirks inspire trust,” she said.

“I shouldn’t be afraid of being who I am because I’m afraid it will be held against me.

“I don’t need to pretend I’m neurotypical to do business and that the right fit for me, the right companies who are ready and willing and able to learn more about other people and are prepared to meet people's needs, I will find those people.

“Until that moment comes I’m just really proud of how far we have reached despite everything.”

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