So the day of the Royal Wedding is finally upon us! Right about now Harry will be probably nursing a hangover and Meghan will be in a frenzy of hair, make up, being pampered and primped til she feels every inch a princess. She’s probably just a teensy bit anxious about being walked down the aisle by Prince Charles himself
Will you be watching as the days celebrations unfurl? Personally I can’t wait to see the first glimpses of Meghan and her dress. I’m guessing she’ll have her hair up, scraped back off her beautiful face. Willing the world to see that she’s not a bit fazed by the journey she’s about to embark upon.
But also to show all the world, a large number of whom (tabloid press in particular) seemed to focus on nothing more newsworthy than the colour of her skin and her choice of profession, when news broke of her relationship with Prince Harry. As if your ethnic heritage and what you choose to do to earn a wage were the only way to define the measure of a person. (Seriously, it’s 2018. Are we still doing ‘this?’).
But I’ll get off my soap box for now and tell you all about the time I was asked to make biscuits for some Royal VIPs.
It was August 2016 and the news had dropped that the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge were due to visit Luton to open a new Youth project and visit the local hospice.
I was asked by the local organising committee to come up with some Union Jack themed biscuits for the Civic Reception and also some biscuits that the Royal couple could take away with them, as a gift.
It was a seriously nerve racking commission, and I will admit to being a bit anxious about the whole thing in the days leading up to the visit. Admittedly, compared to the very oomplex security arrangements, royal protocols and logistics that other local stakeholders were having to deal with, it was not that complicated. We put a lot of love and attention to detail in every biscuit we make, but this was something above and beyond that.
So the morning of the visit dawned and I popped over to the reception venue super early to drop off the biscuits and set up. This was so that the security services could go in afterward all the vendors had done their bit, do their sweep of the building and secure the site.
I returned to work and popped back a few hours later for the visit. My parents and kids joined me, super proud that my little bakery had been selected to make biscuits for royalty. It was an exciting morning and one I’ll remember for a long time.
A few weeks after the visit, a thick cream envelope arrived in the post. A lovely hand-written note from Kensington Palace thanking me for the biscuits, which was an unexpected but delightful surprise.
This was not the first time I had made biscuits for royalty. A year or two before this, I was commissioned to make biscuits for the then Princess Mako of Japan (she has since married a commoner and therefore forfeited her right to remain a member of the royal household), who had been studying at a university in Scotland and was heading back home. I loved making these biscuits with all the beautiful Japanese names.
So there you have it, my brush with royalty. Whether you watch the wedding or not, I hope have a wonderful Saturday.
Til the next time.
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Over the past few weeks, I've been telling you all about my journey to supply Harrods with iced biscuits. This is the fourth and final blog post, if you missed the previous three post then do go back and read these now. There are links to the previous three posts at the bottom of this blog post.
Fast forward to January 2016. So much had happened in such a short space of time.
I’d moved into premises, hired staff and everyone had settled in. We managed to get the distributor project completed - not completely without problems - but generally I was happy with how we’d coped with things as a new team in new premises. Christmas came and went and we’d just picked up our first big corporate client - Benefit Cosmetics - with exciting plans for the months ahead.
We’d also started working with Disney Cakes and Sweets Magazine who approached me after coming across my blog. That came completely out of the blue because I was pretty sure that no -one ever read my blog. I didn’t even know that this was a thing. That a small bakery like mine could be commissioned by Disney to make cakes and cookies to their designs.
It was a new year, fresh start so a few weeks in I thought I’d drop the Harrods buyer a note to see if we could again put forward designs for Christmas. The infamous Christmas brief didn’t hit my inbox til April. Again Harrods were looking for designs that were right up my street.
Scaling a food business
This time however, it felt different. I had a team to help me. I worked up some designs and shared them with the team and asked them to make some changes. One of the things they also needed to look at was exactly how they would produce the designs, how long it would take them, any tweaks they’d make to make sure production was efficient and effective. And crucially, anything they would take away from the designs. I think as creative people sometimes we have a tendency to throw a lot of detail onto a product to make it complete when actually a design is only complete once there’s nothing more you can remove (if that makes sense).
It had been really difficult but I’d reached the point where I’d stepped away from production, from the day to day fo dough making, icing, packing. The team in the bakery handled all of that. Which freed me up to work ‘on’ the business and not ‘in’ the business which is so important when you’re scaling a business.
The Harrods Christmas brief always includes a show stopper and this year the brief included a 3D design that I’d wanted to do for AGES, a sort of biscuit jewellery box. I wasn’t sure about this design because it was intricate and delicate and to be totally honest although I loved it, I didn’t think the costings worked. But I decided to include it anyway at the last minute just to show them our craftmanship.
For the third time I submitted designs and again dropped the samples into Hammersmith (remembering to go to the right place this time). Again the meeting seemed to well and again I waited.
A few weeks later, I got a phone call from the buyer to say that they were still making decisions on Christmas but she was ringing to find out if I’d be up for doing a project with them? Intrigued, I asked for more info and she said that someone from the Harrods Corporate Marketing team would be in touch in the next few days.
Making corporate biscuits for Harrods
It turned out that Harrods were planning the PR around the launch of the Harrods Sale. The Head of Corporate Marketing had been visiting the buying team and had seen the biscuit jewellery box and fallen in love with it and wanted something similar for the sale launch - get this - to be hand delivered on silver platters to key Press and PR contacts. Thankfully I didn’t have to do the hand delivery bit - just the baking.
They had lots of weird and wonderful ideas about jewellery boxes, pearl necklaces & perfume bottles but in the end we settled on a range of biscuits including a 3D Harrods Bag with accessories, some individual Harrods Bag Biscuits and some dresses, shoes and lipsticks biscuits.
It was such an amazing commission, one that I’d dreamed of since I’d started the business. To be working with such an iconic brand, who were so open to creative input and really keen to have something different with wow factor.
The biscuits were a huge success at the sale launch, with lots of comments and shares on social media. My only regret is not doing more press myself, I’m usually quite good getting PR stuff out but I just got so busy it slipped.
This was followed up a few weeks later by another project with Harrods Marketing team, this time to make some biscuits for a top secret project with Fendi.
Making Christmas Iced Biscuits for Harrods
So then, as fate would have it, a few weeks later, the buying team got in touch to say that they’d short listed 8 products that they wanted us to make for Christmas. I was so so chuffed, but a bit apprehensive too. That was a lot of products, and I didn’t want to set us up to fail. Even thought this was my dream, even with staff, premises, more production capacity I knew we had to be realistic about what we could achieve at a busy time. After thinking about it I decided we’d proceed with 6 products, linked to the Harrods Christmas Story.
Every year, Harrods has an instore theme/story for Christmas, with characters, decorations for the store and of course the world famous Christmas Grotto. Each of the 6 biscuits we designed was based on one of the characters. After a long Summer of redesigning, getting through Harrods technical audit and a few more visits to Hammersmith, the first consignment of biscuits went into store mid November 2016.
So there you have it. After 3 years of trying, my dream had finally come true. That Autumn I had Christmas biscuits in Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnums. Hat Trick! To celebrate I took the family on a whistlestop tour of all 3 stores. My kids were amazed and it was such a special feeling standing in Harrods food hall seeing all my products on display.
I’ve included a selection of images above from both the sale launch and Christmas project.
I’m not going to finish with any key points this time. Instead, I’d love it if you would let me have your key points. After reading through over the past few weeks what is the one BIG take away for you. What has surprised you? What insights have your gleaned?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
If you're a food entrepreneur looking to gain listings with premium retailers like Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges, I can help you to hone your pitch, coach you in negotiations and generally be a sounding board to help you to achieve your listing. I can give you much needed insight into the process which will save you time and money, and vastly improve your chances of becoming a supplier.
Contact me here to arrange a free 20 min call to discuss coaching packages.
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Hey I'm Nila. I make beautiful iced biscuits and I'd like to help you launch or scale your baking business. Welcome to my blog.