How Biscuiteers baked a multi-million-pound high-end biscuit empire - with a little help from Brightpearl
“Brightpearl gives us a really granular overview of the business from an operational perspective.” — Harriet Hastings, Founder & Managing Director, Biscuiteers
Harriet Hastings got the idea for her hand-iced gift brand Biscuiteers when she was on holiday in New York twenty years ago.
Cup-cakes were all the rage at the time, and she saw the potential in launching an ecommerce gifting business for biscuits instead – largely because they were more easily postable with a longer shelf-life and had limitless design opportunities for corporate clients.
Hastings had been working in PR and marketing mostly for booming dotcom clients and she had seen the great returns lots of fast-growing ecommerce retail businesses were generating.
She also had personal reasons for wanting to go it alone: she had just had her fourth child and wanted greater control of her time.
She had an ideal business partner in her husband Stevie Congdon, who was running the catering firm Lettice Events – so he had a good understanding of food production and how commercial kitchens worked. With Harriet’s knowledge of branding and ecommerce, they were the perfect team.
With £80,000 from savings, they launched in 2007 after spending months trying different recipes and ingredients for a delicious biscuit that could carry the icing.
The investment money was spent on packaging, branding and design for the first ranges celebrating birthdays, weddings and new babies.
Sales took off immediately and soon newly launched fashion biscuit collections caught the eye of big brands, and they received orders from Anya Hindmarch, Burberry and Mulberry.
New stockists came on board such as Selfridges and they moved to their own manufacturing space in southeast London before expanding again and moving to their current home, the Ministry of Biscuits, in Wimbledon.
One of the early challenges was ensuring the biscuits could be sent by post without breaking. A clever solution was found by gluing the biscuits to the tin with food-safe paper, so they remained static and unbroken on delivery.
Sales have grown over the last 15 years, but the biscuits are still hand-iced with the most popular designs including Little Miss Hug – possibly a reflection of the more caring attitudes inspired by Covid.
The firm now has two shops – its first icing cafe opening in Notting Hill, London, in 2012 with a second opening nearby in Belgravia shortly afterwards.
Celebrity fans include David and Victoria Beckham, Claudia Winkleman, Adele and Robbie Williams while corporate clients include FTSE 100 firms and the aforementioned fashion houses.
Covid saw a huge growth in demand with so many of us baking from home and Harriet realised that she needed to completely reconfigure the business as it generated sales from multi-platforms. She knew she needed a software programme that could pull all these strands together and help her to keep a close eye on stock and orders.
That is when Biscuiteers brought in Brightpearl.
Hastings explained: “Brightpearl is a back office system for us from which we run the business.
“The story of last year is that we doubled in size over lockdown. We absolutely needed to make an operational investment to meet the needs of the much larger business which involved a whole range of infrastructure changes of which bringing in Brightpearl was one. It became the leading business management tool which we are using.
“The key thing with Brightpearl is that it automated our back office and brought everything into one place – our sales, our accounting system, our point of sale where customers execute payments and our stock systems. So Brightpearl gives us a really granular overview of the business from an operational perspective.
“When you work in a handmade business it is quite hard to track stock because there are so many different elements. You don’t just order a shipment over from China or India. Everything has to be tracked along the way, so it has helped to have more accountability about where we are in terms of the production side of making stock and where it is stored.
“It helps us in our business analytics. We have a much more accurate view of our gross margins as a manufacturing business because it collects all the information in one place in an effective way.”
With the back office functions operating efficiently with the successful implementation of Brightpearl, sales surged forward further.
Sales doubled in the year ending April 2021, and they are set to rise again to £11.5 million this year.
Biscuiteers, which has been backed by a £1.25 million crowdfunding campaign and £750,000 private investment, launched its US site in September and is reopening European deliveries post-Brexit.
It has launched an app and is boosting Christmas sales this year with a TV campaign.
With the heightened efficiency aided by Brightpearl, they have been able to invest further in the business to prepare for the next period of growth on the international stage.
Turn-over is expected to rise to £11.5 million this year - up to from £10 million in 2021
Brightpearl implemented in under three months