We had the good fortune of connecting with Oona O’Toole and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Oona, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
At the beginning of the pandemic I was feeling lost and hopeless in my career in fine jewelry and had lost the passion for selling expensive goods when the world looked like it was falling apart around us. Because of the pandemic, I was given the chance to take the leap and try something I had always dreamed of. Just over a year ago, I took a class to learn to make sourdough bread and immediately became hooked. I had always loved baking, but there is a particular freedom in bread making. Unlike other pastries that are very rigid in process and ratios, sourdough offers this freedom to experiment and find the exact technique that works for you (and your technique may not work for another bread maker). It is a time honored tradition, and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need to take a step back and look to a slower way of life. Bread forces me to slow down and follow my intuition, and being my own boss gives me a freedom I never knew before. So, a combination of a global pandemic and a need to work with my hands brought me to start my business While You’re Up. The idea behind it at first, was just to create an Instagram account to share the bread I was making for friends and family. At first, the growth was slow going, then all of a sudden I had 1000 eyes looking at my bread, and it just kept growing! Right when we started working from home, my boyfriend would reach out to his coworkers and see if they wanted bread delivered to their homes, to which many of them obliged! After a month or two of delivering solely to people I knew, I finally was approved for a cottage license and launched orders on Instagram! From there, it has really taken off and some weeks I am churning out bread and cookies for people anywhere from Pasadena to Studio City to Malibu! It has become an incredible way to get to know this city better (and hone my terrible driving skills). The holidays are brimming with potential for my small business and I look forward to seeing my bread at peoples holiday gatherings!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
At While You’re Up, I focus on bringing beautiful bread into the homes of my friends and family. As a self-taught baker, I have spent countless hours obsessing over the minutia of creating the perfect loaf of bread or the greatest cookie. I am so proud of where I have been able to get to with this one-woman business in a matter of months, and look forward to growing it in the coming months to be able to reach more of an audience. I recognize that there are so many bakers and bakeries in the LA area, and I greatly appreciate those that support my endeavors as well. I constantly question if I am making the right choices to grow my business and every day I am learning more and more that will help fuel me in the future. My brand is all about family and friends. The name “While You’re Up” was inspired by an episode of the TV show “Friends” when Phoebe is pregnant and she is constantly asking for people to get her things. It is something I always say to my boyfriend and the name just clicked! I want to connect food back to a simpler time where we gather around the table with our family and friends and share a hearty meal. My bread is not about making you think about the calories you are consuming, but about eating something that tastes so incredible, yet is only comprised of three ingredients! Simply add a bit of butter and enjoy! Amazingly, this business is less than 6 months old, but I have tried to use my connections around LA to bring awareness to what I am doing and be able to reach a larger audience, despite the fact that this one-woman show can only do so much in a day!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Of course this list has changed since the pandemic but I always loved going to Dodgers games and chowing down on the tasty food (I still have no idea what they are doing when they play, but its a good reason to get outdoors and eat some food!) Currently, one of my favorite spot for pasta is Osteria La Buca, and it’s a spot I visit with everyone who comes to town! Next up, we would need to pay a visit to Sonoratown for the best tacos in LA (a contentious subject. but their tortillas can’t be beat!) One of my favorite neighborhoods to hang in is Larchmont for a stroll through the farmers market and a visit to Go Gettem Tiger and Chevaliers book store. I love to hang out at Platform in Culver City and always take my friends to Roberta’s for some of my favorite pizzas. Lastly, we cant go without a day at the beach and a visit to the best sandwich from Bay Cities Deli. My favorite part about LA is that we don’t necessarily have “regular” spots because there is always something unique and new popping up that is fun to check out. Often, when I am out doing my weekly deliveries I will pass by all of these cool new spots that catch my eye and will make a note to check them out at a later date! Since driving all over the city I have discovered so much more that I never would have known about by staying in my bubble in Koreatown.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many wonderful people who have encouraged me on this journey, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to my mom, Joyce, who has helped fund portions of my little home business when the pandemic began. Like many others, I was let go from my job and quickly had to decide if I was going to hit the pavement or take this as the chance to pursue something new. You could say owning a bakery was always in the cards for me, and my mom knew that and encouraged me to take the leap. She helped me fund an order for bannetons from Germany (bannetons are what you rest the dough in overnight, and were hard to come by in the midst of the sourdough renaissance early in quarantine!) She also bought me an extremely early Christmas gift of a Mockmill 200 so I would be able to mill my own flour from home! Additionally, my boyfriend, Matt, who takes a lot of my photos, helps me pack orders, drives around the city to drop them off, helps me do the dishes and more. I could not do this if he did not give me the time, space and support to operate a bakery out of our kitchen (and dining room… and sometimes living room). I also want to give a shoutout to my friend Nicole & her twin sister Amber who own Workhorse Jewelry! Nicole was my very first customer and has encouraged me so much to pursue this dream and the two of them offer me so much support, even if it is just sending over a DM or sharing with their friends. She helped connect me with @BreadzandJamz, which really helped my little biz take off!
Other: Tik Tok: @whileyoureup