The couple behind Biscuiteers boutique try to convince Alex Larman that biscuits are the new flowers this Valentine’s Day
As the founder of Biscuiteers, along with her husband Stevie Congdon, there’s not much about lovely baked and iced treats that Harriet Hastings doesn’t know about. Since starting the company back in 2007, she’s managed to take what was initially a small and quirky idea (launched with the rather charming tagline ‘Why send flowers when you can send biscuits instead?’) and transform it into one of London’s most notable foodie success stories, branching out into chocolate and cakes as well. 2012 saw them open the Biscuit Boutique and Icing Café in Kensington Park Road in Notting Hill, and we can’t help thinking that this one’s just going to be the (sorry) icing on the cake when it comes to future success. We discussed all things sweet and savoury (but mainly sweet) with Harriet as she celebrated another tremendous year biscuiteering.
How did you and your husband first meet?
We met in Winchester at a party just before university. Stevie had just returned from Singapore where he was at school.
Where did your interest in biscuits stem from?
Stevie has had a catering and events company, Lettice, for the last 20 years so that sparked my interest in developing a food gifting company. My background was in marketing, PR and e-commerce and he knew all about the food production side so it seemed a good match of our skills. Also, we just love biscuits!
Why did you start the business?
I was looking for a new challenge and a business that would use our combined skills. Biscuiteers was the first business of its kind to launch in the UK and we thought there was an amazing opportunity to develop an entirely new gifting idea.
What were the challenges that you faced at the beginning?
Well we created quite a lot of demand before we had solved all the logistical problems – mainly around shipping. We had to deal with quite a lot of broken biscuits in the first couple of weeks! We also had to manage quite rapid growth in our first year which involved finding a new bakery at very short notice.
What are you proudest of having achieved over the past year?
We had an amazing year in 2013. This was our first year of trading in our first shop in Kensington Park Road and we have also really developed our school of icing and children’s party business. We rounded off the year with the creation of ‘Lost London’ in gingerbread in Selfridges’ main window which was immensely challenging and very exciting.
What’s the most impressive bespoke order that anyone’s ever placed?
Earlier this year we built a life size gingerbread house for Charlotte Olympia’s Paris fashion show. Charlotte served tea and Jolly Gingers out of the house! We also did a massive launch for Hugo Boss’s new perfume – creating 7,000 handmade biscuit perfume bottles to be tied to rose bushes.
If you were going to have a personalised biscuit or box of chocolates, what would it say?
I can’t imagine sending one to myself but I do love to send them to friends – most recently to congratulate a girlfriend with the message ‘You are amazing!’ Messages in chocolates somehow look extra special.
What’s the most romantic thing that your partner has ever done for you?
He has commissioned some lovely jewellery for each of our children featuring their names in the designs. The most recent one had a violet, an Elizabethan rose and a tiger in the design to match all her names.
Why do you think that biscuits can be synonymous with romance?
Because the thought and message is so personal and can be reflected in the choice of gift – our Jolly Gingers are a popular choice as they feature so many different personalities or our city tins to remind couples of times they spent together.
What do you think of Notting Hill as an area?
I love it. Having a shop here has given me a great excuse to spend more time in the area and reminded me what a brilliantly creative and unique part of London it is.
What are you looking forward to in 2014?
Well we are looking at some opportunities for international expansion, which are exciting, but I’m also looking forward to taking some good trips, spending time with my children and taking some time out in Suffolk where we have a house.
What’s your favourite kind of biscuit and why?
Our biscuit classics are amazing – a take on everyone’s favourite bourbons and custard creams but my absolute favourite is our new collection of Macaroons which are incredible.
194 Kensington Park Road W11 2ES