Just the Ticket for Maia!
Maia White is a young Ballymena baker who launched The Ticket Bakehouse in 2022 and has transformed a rustic building located at Cullybackey train station into a thriving local café, thanks to help from the Go For It programme in association with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
The Ticket Bakehouse opened in September 2022, with 21-year-old Maia Alouise White at the helm. With a passion for baking, she couldn’t turn down the chance to run her own business when the opportunity presented itself.
Describing the last two years as a whirlwind, Maia said it has been thrilling to see the venture take off.
“When I was younger, I always dreamt about opening my own bakery, café or patisserie. Never in a million years did I think I would be handed the keys to my very own café at the age of 21,” she said.
“It has been a whirlwind journey and I’m so grateful to be presented with this opportunity and I’m determined to make it as successful as possible. I guess being so young means I have less fear, and have more of a ‘well, what have I got to lose?’ attitude and if it doesn’t work, I’ve given it my best shot and can try something else!”
Having loved Home Economics and hospitality at school, Maia knew she wanted to do something in this field as a career.
“I’ve been inspired by so many amazing people growing up, from my family to my Home Economics teachers, then to my college teachers and my employers over the years. They have made such an impact on my life, as well as my career, and I feel so blessed to have learned so many different skills from them all.
“I started working when I was 15 years old, and I always had a goal to save as much money as I could, as I always knew I wanted to run my own business. Starting a business at the age of 21, with already six years of experience is something that I treasure and am extremely grateful for.”
‘Something that makes The Ticket Bakehouse so unique is that I personally bake everything that’s on offer’
Maia explained that the business opportunity presented itself in a more informal way than expected, when Ballymena businessman, Ivor Christie approached her.
“The opportunity to open The Ticket Bakehouse was so random. Our boiler broke and the boiler repair man was Ivor, who has a reputation for being an absolute gentleman. He got chatting to my mum, who explained that I loved to bake and straight away he said ‘a baker? Would she like her own café?’
“My mum thought it was a joke, but it turned out that his son, Robert Christie had bought a stunning old building at the railway station in Cullybackey and thought a café would do well there.”
Maia said she later met with Ivor to discuss the business opportunity and said that committing to opening the café was “the best decision” she had ever made.
‘THE PERFECT LOCATION’
Situated in the train station’s old ticket office, the beautiful building has wonderful character and history, with Maia describing it as “the perfect location”.
“Robert and Anne Christie, my lovely landlords, spent two years renovating the building, whilst keeping its character and preserving the stunning features of the station,” she said.
“The beautiful building is listed, meaning its traditional charm still exists, which is something I love and think this is a huge part of my unique selling point.
“Another thing that makes The Ticket Bakehouse so unique is that I personally bake everything that’s on offer. I serve everything from breakfast to brunch and lunch, along with an array of delicious baked goods and freshly ground coffee.”
Maia admitted there were some challenges when opening the café, most notably having to overcome her own fears.
“I had never done anything like this before and I really had to find my voice and gain confidence as running a business can be tough.
“I had issues with suppliers and delays with equipment arriving, which resulted in a later opening, but everything worked out well in the end, and in the process, I was able to learn how to tackle obstacles which I never would have had to face had I not taken this on.”
‘JUST GO FOR IT!’
One of the most important aspects of opening The Ticket Bakehouse for Maia was the assistance from the Go For It programme, which she described as being “so valuable”.
“There’s so much that goes into opening a business and the planning takes forever. But the Go For It programme was really helpful when I was trying to wrap my head around the logistics of everything that was needed to launch the business.
“I was given a business advisor and they helped me produce a business plan which supported me with forecasting, budgets and deadlines. It’s so valuable to have something solid and professional for when I need it. I can keep this for the rest of my career and continue to build on it as the business grows.
“Because I had never done anything like this before, I found my business advisor really helpful and his knowledge was a great confidence boost for me.”
The Ticket Bakehouse opened in September 2022, approximately 18 months after Maia’s initial conversation with Ivor. Grateful for the confidence Ivor, Robert and Anne had in her, she said it was an exciting time working on the plans of the café.
“I began working on the kitchen plans with my dad at our kitchen table about four months before I opened, drawing up sketches of how the space could be best utilised. Looking back that was such an exciting time, and it all came together so quickly.
“I had all sorts of ideas about the aesthetics and what sort of atmosphere I’d be creating for people. My mum and grandparents got so excited about the interior and the design of the café.”
Breathing new life into an old building is sure to attract lots of attention and Maia said the response from the local community has been “amazing”.
“The community have been so supportive of the café – the response has been amazing. There are local customers that I see maybe three or four times per week and that to me is just incredible.
“The local Facebook group also shares my page and promotes the café and I just think that’s so lovely.
“Seeing an old building come to life is so exciting, especially to the people that live in the village, and a few have said ‘I always would have loved to have seen a café in the building to bring it back to life instead of it lying empty’.
“There is nostalgia for the older generation that used to stand there as a child and buy their train ticket from the very hatch that I serve my coffee through, and it makes me smile to hear their stories of how they remembered the place going back generations.”
‘The community have been so supportive of the café – the response has been amazing’
Maia added that while it is a daunting experience taking on a new business, she said the satisfaction it brings is “priceless”.
“It’s not easy, it takes up pretty much your whole life and all your energy, so be prepared to give it 100%.
“If you have a business idea and you think ‘I’d love to give this a shot’, my advice is to take it to the Go For It team. They can help you wrap your head around how to launch a business and help you figure out if your business idea is viable. No matter what age you are, you just need to be fearless, weigh up the pros and cons and then just jump right in and go for it!
“My main piece of advice is make sure it’s something you love. There is no point creating something that will wear you out, you need to be happy in your job as we spend most of our lives working, so why should we do something we don’t enjoy!”
With an “endless list of people” to thank for her journey, Maia said key to her success is her family.
“Thanks to my mum, dad, granny and grandpa for their advice and endless support – my grandpa is now a fully qualified kitchen porter! Thank you to Neil Campbell my joiner and friend, his work is incredible, and the building wouldn’t be the way it is without his amazing craftsmanship. His personalised mug is staying in the café for good.
“I am indebted to the whole Christie family. These people are one of a kind and I’m so grateful for their unwavering support. I think every house Ivor has serviced a boiler in has been told they must visit the café or else!”
Extending a “huge thank you” to her customers, Maia said they “keep the whole thing going” and she really appreciates “seeing new and returning faces”.
“It’s so exciting to see what will happen next! The possibilities are endless, and I can’t wait to see what’s to come.”