Harriet Hastings: Founder of Biscuiteers
In honour of Afternoon Tea Week, we cast a spotlight on Harriet Hastings, founder of Biscuiteers and one of our all time baking heroes.
Biscuiteers began in 2007 as a small online biscuit business, but today it’s an empire with two icing cafés in London, a huge online emporium, and products stocked in Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, Harrods and many more. Over tea and biscuits (what else?) we quizzed Harriet on her inspiration, tips for juggling a business and motherhood, and intriguing icing requests…
My Little Black Book: Harriet, when did you initially become interested in baking?
Harriet Hastings: I became interested in biscuits rather than baking, if I’m honest with you. They have so much potential! Brilliant for creating a limitless number of amazing designs, delicious and good to post.
MyLBB: We understand that you first envisioned Biscuiteers while on holiday in New York. What was the catalyst that made you take the plunge and turn the idea into a business?
HH: I had just left a full time job in consumer brand PR and was keen for a new challenge and to test my entrepreneurial skills. My husband runs a catering and events company, Lettice, and I was convinced there was a big opportunity in food gifting. I thought that themed collections of iced biscuits could open up a whole new sector in the market. We launched with the strapline: ‘Why send flowers when you can send biscuits instead?’
MyLBB: Brilliant! Now, with four children, it must be a challenge at times to fit in engagements at work and at home. What are your top tips for juggling work and family life?
HH: I’m not sure I get this right! Essentially I work whenever and wherever I can, and technology has made that alarmingly possible. It would be nice to be able to separate work and home life a bit more but I find the two become inextricably connected. It’s the only way to get it all done. It doesn’t help if you work with your husband! On the positive side I wanted more flexibility about where and when I worked when I set up the business and I have achieved that.
MyLBB: As you offer bespoke biscuit icing, we imagine you receive some unusual requests. What’s the strangest icing request you’ve ever received?
HH: Well yes – we’ve iced pretty much everything you can think of in the last seven years! We’ve done some amazing 3D structures including a lifesize gingerbread house for Charlotte Olympia in Paris, a skyline of Lost London for Selfridges’ Christmas window, and a dolls house reconstruction of Leeds castle. We were thrilled to be asked to create a special present for Harper Lee to celebrate publication of Go Set A Watchman, too – her book jackets recreated in icing. We have also just finished matching lipstick pouts to lipstick shades for Clarins.
MyLBB: We love the idea of those iced book jackets! Your business has grown rapidly since 2007 and you recently set up a number of icing cafés in London. What’s been your secret to ensuring consistent quality when upscaling?
HH: As we have grown, we’ve had to focus on building our operational strength. Since all our biscuits are hand made and hand iced from start to finish, we have to ensure consistency of icing and detail. We train all our own staff – the majority have an artistic background – and have rigorous quality checking to ensure that only the perfect biscuits get into the tins!
MyLBB: Which businesswoman most inspires you and why?
HH: There are so many impressive women out there, but focusing on the entrepreneurial space I very much admire Chrissie Rucker’s White Company, which I think is a brilliant concept beautifully executed.
MyLBB: And finally, Harriet, what advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
HH: This is very apposite as I now have a 21 year old daughter. I think to be brave and experimental in your career choices. Retrospectively you realise that you had enormous freedom when you were young and I think you should use it. I wish that I had started my own business a bit earlier – taking the plunge is often the most difficult bit.
To learn more about Harriet and the Biscuiteers story, visit www.biscuiteers.com, where you can ogle (and order!) the beautiful iced designs. You can also follow the behind the scenes action on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
30 Second CV
Name: Harriet Hastings
Current Title/Company: Founder and Managing Director, Biscuiteers
Educational Background: History at Exeter University
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Wine or cocktails? Wine
Morning or night? Night definitely!
Favourite book? Something by Jane Austen, Nancy Mitford or Daphne du Maurier. I read a lot as I am also Managing Director of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, so tend to fall in love with new books all the time.
Favourite singer? Ella Fitzgerald
I wish I knew how to______? Play the piano
Best advice you’ve ever received? Just do it. You can do anything you set your mind to.
Woman you would most like to have lunch with (and what you’d order)? My mother – she died when I was 16. The order would be something Italian.