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"I built my lockdown bakery start-up into a booming biscuit business"

Natalie Sanders of Pickles & Bakes  (handout)
Natalie Sanders of Pickles & Bakes (handout)

When schools shut and lockdown kicked in, Natalie Sanders watched her two young children spent their days on Zoom lessons, iPad playdates and virtual parties. This, coupled with their relentless requests for snacks, was the catalyst for her creation of a ‘paintable’ biscuit: “the thinking was that an activity and a treat, in one, would buy me some peace and quiet and get their creative juices flowing,” the entrepreneur explains. “Very quickly, Pickles & Bakes was born."

Since that winter of 2021, the company has shipped tens of thousands of colourable and paintable biscuits across the UK, secured listings with leading retailers including Selfridges, and licensing deal with Peppa Pig.

Here are five things Sanders has learnt along the way:

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1. Remain resilient. “I was endlessly told that paintable, colourable biscuits would be impossible to make on a commercial scale - but knocked on doors and metaphorically twisted some arms to get some prototypes made. The persistence paid off.”

2. Trust your gut. “The first few months were very tough - homeschooling all day, then baking until the early hours. Those around me suggested that I pause the idea until the kids were back at school. But I knew that however tired I was, I had to capitalise on the interest of equally frustrated locked-down families. It was worth it.”

3. Pool your extended knowledge bank. “In lieu of a fully-fledged team, my friends and family have inadvertently become part of the Pickles & Bakes team. (Albeit they aren't paid!) School friends step in as graphic designers and sounding boards, siblings as financial directors and my husband is everything in between. Even the kids are on board as advisors.”

4. Invest in real experience. “Having said that, we have invested funds in areas where we have huge knowledge gaps - seeking out specialists in food technology, for example, to ensure we are compliant with all the red tape.”

5. Be Ballsy. “I never in my wildest dreams thought Hasbro would say yes to my Peppa Pig Biscuit pitch, yet here we are with an exclusive license to make Peppa colourable and edible. Just go for it.”