e-commerce

The Biskery: Sharing Thanks and Goodness, One Delicious Biscuit at a Time

The Biskery is a bakery based in Leeds (West Yorkshire) specialising in branded & personalised biscuits. Lisa & Saskia's (co-founders) journey began with a mutual love for tasty bakes and a heartfelt intention to spread homemade happiness within the community.

Step into a realm where biscuit ingenuity transforms into pure artistry – welcome to The Biskery.

Specialising in creating biscuits that cater to both corporate and private occasions, The Biskery stands as a purveyor of high-quality biscuits. Which is backed up by their recent Great Taste Award. Among its treasure trove of offerings, the spotlight shines on wafer-printed, hand-iced, impressed, fondant, and their signature jam biscuits – each a masterpiece in its own right.

At the core of this venture are Lisa Shepherd & Saskia Roskam, whose visionary prowess has propelled The Biskery to astounding heights.

Here's their journey, in their own words:

Can you tell us about your journey as co-founders? What inspired you to start your own business?

I met my business partner, Lisa Shepherd, in 2013 when we both started working for a digital marketing agency in Leeds. We got talking over a sourdough starter and from there we started to dream about one day opening a little cafe together. It took a few years of emailing back and forth in the office before we were brave enough to just do it.

We never established that café, but we did start a little monthly market stall in 2016. Here we sold what we called 'Germanic treats'. Cakes, pies, and biscuits based on recipes from our home countries (Germany and The Netherlands). Lisa and I have always lived adventurous lives before settling down and starting our families. A big part of the reason for us to start

The Biskery came from our desire to go on an adventure again. But it had to be an adventure close to home. One that was compatible with motherhood and stable family life.

What challenges did you face in the early stages of your entrepreneurial journey? How did you overcome them?

We had little money to invest in the business and limited time. So what we did is we both invested £500 over the course of some three months. This paid for market stall props, fees, tables, etc. domain name and web hosting. Buying ingredients, etc, etc. We were both working day jobs at the time. Lisa had an eight-month-old daughter.

And I had two kids aged five and two. So we worked in the evenings while our kids slept. In that time we baked biscuits, did all our digital marketing, set up our financial strategies, did admin, and read copious amounts of how-to guides on the internet to gain knowledge of how to actually run a business.

How did you identify the target market for your product/service? What made you confident that it would resonate with customers?

When we started we didn't have the vision of the business as it is now. We started wanting to share the tastes of our home countries with the people in Leeds (maybe Yorkshire at a push). The business as it is now came from us intently listening to the market demands. And our personal life demands.

Overlaying those two realities gave us answers to what was and what wasn't doable for us. The best market for us, as a handmade perishable food product, was the personalised gifting market. We fell into this market by accident. We didn't really know it existed in the business world. But people asked us if we could make branded biscuits and asked us if we could put words/names on our biscuits.

So we left behind our cakes and pies. And took from our Germanic recipe book only Lisa's grandma's linzer biscuit recipe. This now forms the base for most of our delicious biscuits. We keep listening to our (potential) customers. In that line of events, we just launched a live biscuit printing service. With this service, we go to events to draw in the crowds by live printing selfies, pictures of kids, dogs, etc directly onto biscuits in seconds.

It's proving to be really popular at exhibition stands to draw in the crowds.

What were some of the major obstacles you encountered while building your business? How did you navigate through those hurdles?

I feel like we never hit any major roadblocks. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here anymore. Any obstacles that we encountered were stepping stones for us. They were crossroads more than anything. Our biggest obstacle was that our business knowledge was null and void.

We had no idea if what we were doing was actually possible or correct. I am talking about Insurance, Legal, Finance, Hiring, etc. When you do not know what you are doing in this space it can feel very stifling. But the flip side of this is that if you are brave enough to do it anyway the playing field is actually way bigger than those who know the correct pathways.

We have taken a lot of detours to get where we are now. We have learned most things the hard way. In hindsight, there are so many decisions that we would have taken sooner had we known the effect on our business. Yet, I truly believe that things take the time they take for a reason. And there is a lot to say for taking the scenic route. Not just on holiday! but also in business. There are just lots of valuable things and people to meet along the way.

Could you share a specific moment of doubt or failure you experienced along the way? How did you bounce back from it?

There was never any doubt that building a team around Lisa and myself was going to improve the business. But people are expensive and so the decision to start recruiting was huge for us. It's both a risk to take for the business as well as for the team member who accepts a position in a small business. But that risk is what facilitates so much growth. Growth in mindset, in strategy, in production. With our first employees, there was no turning back. We were forced to make it work. It was no longer a glorified hobby. It was other people's livelihoods at stake. Success is paid in full and in advance.

Each time you pay towards the success you do not yet have with a sizeable investment, you doubt if you have made the right decision. These decisions though, are the ones that drive the business forward. Triumph for me lies in investing in people. Being able to provide employment is a very humbling experience and one that drives Lisa and me to do better, show up and deliver for our team.

How did you approach scaling and expanding your business? What strategies did you employ to ensure sustainable growth?

We grew from a kitchen start-up to a small business that operates from one commercial unit. We scale before we foresee hitting the proverbial ceiling. But we always scale to the demands of the market in order to make sure that our growth is sustainable. We made a conscious decision to not rely on outside investments.

To this day we have only every put in £1000 of our own savings. When there are no bank loans or cash injections from investors, scaling gets a bit trickier. So we scale by turning the dials up slowly on our marketing efforts. By making sure we are running effective paid campaigns.

By making sure to collaborate with strategic partners. And by communicating with our customers on a regular basis and keeping our ear to the ground to understand where our market is moving towards.

We do not scale through aggressive marketing campaigns that promise things we cannot deliver just to make a single sale. One of our values is sustainability in all areas and that also goes for growth.

Did you face any scepticism or resistance from others when pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams? How did you handle it?

Yes, so many people did not understand what we were building. As mentioned before with our limited business knowledge we made some very unconventional decisions. One of which was opening school hours only when we moved into our first commercial premises. To seasoned business people and accountants, this does not make any sense. And we can totally see their point.

There were so many more hours in the day that we could produce biscuits in and all they could see is that we were leaving money on the table. But what they didn't see was that in making that choice we were creating a deeply impactful backstory. A true backstory that resonated with people.

That sparked curiosity from others about a different way of doing business. We were practising what we preached and it was refreshing to see for people. With this, we attracted employees (we get emails all the time of parents asking if we have vacancies) and we attracted customers who wanted to support us in our vision and mission.

Can you describe a key decision you made that significantly impacted the trajectory of your business? What were the factors you considered?

I have spoken about our decision to work school hours only. That was one of the key decisions we took. We have since expanded our working hours to suit the demands of our team. The other key decision that we made was to rebrand the business.

For the first seven years of running our branded and personalised biscuit bakery, we were called Bloom Bakers. We came up with the name and brand ourselves. But a lot of times people came to us asking about bread.

The biggest reason though why we changed our name is because we could not trademark the name Bloom Bakers. You might wonder why trademarking was important to us. With our first employees in place, we wanted to protect the business. There was so much more at stake and we knew that with them we wanted to grow the business to really fulfil its potential.

We tried to come up with a new name ourselves, but after six months of trying we made one of the best business decisions we ever made and that was to work with a branding agency. They came up with the name and the new brand identity and it has transformed our business for the better. More than we could have ever dreamt, to be honest.

What advice would you give to aspiring founders who are just starting their entrepreneurial journey?

Clarity comes from action not from thinking. Go build and make it visible from the start. Do not expand the sandcastles in your mind only. Go and produce, design, etc. whatever is in your mind's eye and bring it to life.

Offer it to the people. Your own ideas are limited. Once you put your product or service to market the feedback that you will get, will be the making of a successful business. After all, you are in business to bring a useful product or service to the people. Let them tell you if what you are offering is useful.

What role has mentorship played in your entrepreneurial success? Were there any specific mentors who made a significant impact on your journey?

The first time we looked for mentorship was six months into the business. We reached out to the former director of sales (John Redman) of the digital marketing agency where both Lisa and I worked at the time. He offered some great advice.

The most notable was saying we should go to our then boss and ask if we could produce the Christmas present for the 100+ staff that year! We landed that corporate order.

So while we were employed by him, we invoiced him for our first corporate Christmas order. That was quite a trip. After that, we sought advice from a coach (Will Polston). He was incredibly powerful in letting us expand our mindset to see what was possible far beyond what we could envisage without him.

You can find out more at www.thebiskery.com

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