The Biskery specialises in beautiful, personalised biscuits with heartwarming messages. It was started by friends Saskia Roskam and Lisa Shepherd in 2016, with just £500 and just 3 months after they decided to ‘just do it’. They built the business regardless of having very young children, or maybe because of it!
Today they ship their bespoke biscuits all around the UK and bake for reputable brands like Fendi, Amazon, Harvey Nichols, NatWest and many more.
Their branded and personalised biscuits cater to companies that are looking for the final (sweet) touch for their corporate events, mailers, client gifts, etc.
Why did you start your own business?
We initially started our personalised biscuit business because we missed the taste of home (Germany & The Netherlands) and because we loved baking. As new mums, we were also looking for a better work-life balance. Add to that, the fact that in our heart of hearts, we both have adventurous spirits. Pre kids we lived very vibrant lives. Setting up a business sparked that same kind of adventure in our minds.
How did you get started?
We had been meeting to bake and talk about selling our bakes at local farmers markets for years. But life always seemed to be getting in the way and we had babies…
We set the business up as a home bakery, initially only selling at local markets across Leeds. Our professional background in digital marketing however, soon enabled us to sell online and promote our brand through our website and social media channels.
We still operate from home as this is the best way to not compromise on time with our children. We have a wealth of friends and family who help us out when things get stressful, but we still bake all our biscuits ourselves and by hand.
What did you do before you started your business and how has that experience helped your venture?
Lisa worked in sales and digital marketing and Saskia worked in journalism and digital marketing before setting up The Biskery. Digital marketing is an incredibly important skill in this day and age. Understanding how to operate online really made a huge difference for us as a business. I would say that 90% of our clients come to us via our website.
How does family fit alongside the business?
We are wives to husbands and each have two children. So yes it gets a bit tricky sometimes. But working from home means we can be flexible to work around the kids. We don’t rely on after school clubs, we can spend quality time with our kids. But we also bake a lot in the evenings, after the kids have gone to bed. We couldn’t do it without our partners who look after the children when we attend markets or events at weekends.
What are your values and what role do they play in the business?
We are both very similar in a lot of ways. When we first started out we quickly noticed that our experience and outlook on life is very similar. And that helped so much in the creation of the brand. It felt like we both pretty much had the same feeling in mind for the brand. We wanted it to be kind, thoughtful, simple and clean. We hope we have succeeded in that.
We are very well aligned with our values and it makes running this business so much easier. From the start, we have said that we want to be honest and authentic. Both in how we communicate to the outside world as well as to each other.
We aim to have an as small as possible environmental footprint (that is why we use recycled packaging and compostable bags). And not over-complicate things, enjoy the little things, spread kindness.
What are the high points?
After nearly 4 years in business, the high point is that the groundwork is done. The foundation of The Biskery has been laid. A lot of hard work went into that. But now we can build on that.
To see what we have built from just 500-pound cash injection and from accumulating our own wealth is hugely rewarding!
And we have to be honest, baking for some of the above mentioned reputable brands is very very exciting.
What were the toughest challenges and how did you get over them?
Balancing parenting and business life. We sometimes feel we don’t do either role justice and it is a constant balancing act that can fuel a feeling of guilt.
Taking on corporate orders of thousands of biscuits can also be challenging. The first huge order we did for over 1000 biscuits we went in blind. We came up with a biscuit recipe for an international renowned spice brand. But they wanted 8000. We swallowed but said yes. And even though we had never done it before we knew that once we had said yes, we had to deliver. Don’t ask us how we did it, but we did. It’s hard when you are in it, but when it is done, the sense of achievement is brilliant.
Money – if you needed funding for start-up or to grow, where did you get it from and how was the process?
As mentioned above we invested about 500 pounds into the business. We paid our first market sales with that. Biscuit bags, cake boxes, ingredients, tools, registering a domain etc. We went to charity shops to find props for our first market.
In the first 2 years, we didn’t take a salary from the business and we were both still employed 4 days a week. Examples like this showcase that you have to love what you are doing otherwise 2 years will feel like a very long time.
Marketing – tell us about a marketing tactic that works really well for your business? What are your main sales channels?
Our main sales channel is our website, which we designed, host and update ourselves. We both have a digital marketing background and understand what needs to be done to operate successfully online.
A lot of engagement comes from Instagram as well. And whilst we also have profiles on Facebook and Twitter, a lot less custom comes from these channels for us.
Technology – how does technology fit into the business?
I immediately have to think about our printers here. We currently have three. A regular one, an edible ink printer and a 3D printer. We really benefit from having all these printers and it is also a great way to keep challenging ourselves.
What are your future plans or goals?
We want to become the leading supplier of branded biscuits in England, ideally landing some regular clients like Boutique Hotels or firms that need a regular supply of biscuits. We want to continue to grow and succeed in juggling family life and being business owners.
Three things you have learned?
When it comes to having a business partner, in our case 1 +1 doesn’t equal 2 it equals 3+. What you can achieve and the comfort it gives to be able to bounce off ideas with another person is priceless. This process can be very lonely and it is so nice to have someone next to you who understands what the reality is like.
Just building a business isn’t enough to gain clients/customers. You have to keep coming to the table with fresh ideas, with energy and enthusiasm. Because in your own business nothing happens unless you make it happen! Especially in the first three years. So much graft and love needs to go into it to maintain it.
Your best piece of advice?
Do what you love and you will be good at it. Start building your business from the skill sets that you already have. Exploit them. Draw strength from them because the beginning is hard. From there learn the basics of everything that is vital to running a business and then outsource it when your business can afford it.