During these times of crisis and worry, where news stories are frequently found lacking in positivity, it is important to highlight the good being done, and the members of our society that are going the extra mile to bring joy to others and improve themselves. An example of such a person can be found in Michael Beynon, a 25-year-old man with downs syndrome who has already achieved more than some do in their lifetimes. He has multiple “boxes” filled with medals from sporting competitions all over Europe, has run a marathon, and runs his own business, all while dealing with the symptoms of his condition.
Michael’s business was born two years ago, after volunteering in a cafe in the former coal mining town of Ammanford, Carmarthenshire. During his time working there he heard stories about how the miners would frequently take food into the coal pits to have during gaps in work. After realising this, Michael raised a question that would kickstart his successful future business, a question that, in hindsight, makes a very good point: he asked if the baked goods were ‘going to get black’ underground.
The question, and subsequent conversation, inspired Michael to create a black Welsh cake, a planned one-off experiment to see if answering the question with a practical product would yield success in the local area. Within a few weeks the popularity of these cakes was overwhelming, and soon demand for more led Michael to set up his Coalpit Welsh Cakes, eventually being able to employ some of his friends to help in their production. News about the cakes spread fast and in no time the Coalpit cakes were being sold at markets and events such as the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells, Powys.
As with many businesses, a good start turned into a worrying future, as Covid-19 forced the business to adapt and move online, something that saddened Michael as face to face selling at markets had become one of his favourite parts of the job. However, despite missing out on some of the highlights of the job, Michaels business continued to flourish, with consistently large numbers of orders coming in for Mother’s Day and beyond, much to Michael’s mother’s surprise. Having worked at and run a community business in the past, Michael’s mother was able to give him the support he needed in setting up and organising his business, from the markets to the online sales and delivery.
Since then Welsh Cakes have become a central part of Michael’s life, experimenting with new flavours, recipes and styles, with lockdown giving him plenty of time to try new ways of making the local area’s favourite snack. Although, we may never know the ins and outs of the process that launched Michael to success – he has coyly said that the recipe that gives the Welsh cakes their unique colour is ‘top secret’.
Saying that, baking is not Michaels only achievement. In October he became the first person with Downs syndrome from Wales to run the London Marathon (virtually of course). Running to raise money for Mencap, a charity for people with learning disabilities, Michael and his mother completed the 26.2-mile course done in two parts and took around 9 hours to complete. As well as completing the run itself, Michael also earned a certificate from the Guinness World Records after becoming part of the first group of people to run the London Marathon Virtually. Despite spending the majority of the day running through wind, rain and frequent hailstorms, one of the first things Michael expressed at the finish line was his desire to run another marathon soon, and plans to fulfil this goal in London this October. This success follows almost 20 years of competing in the Special Olympics, both in the UK and Europe, competing in long jump, boccia, skiing and curling, even running through the Vatican City in front of the pope.
Its stories such as this one that show, despite the restrictions and the limits on our lives imposed by Covid-19, people are still able to do incredible things, continuing to pursue their passions and improve their businesses from home. It is important to see Michael as an example of the positivity that can still be found in the world, and, although these are difficult times, we can still effectively improve our lives and those around us.
Main Source of Information and Quotes: World Down Syndrome Day: Welsh cake baker’s ‘pride’ in business – BBC News
Written by Joe Waterfield
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