There’s no doubt about it; the past 18 months have been hard for everybody in varying measure. However, one Leicestershire business, which The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity is proud to have supported through one of our interest-free loans, has been bringing smiles to people’s faces.
The Kitsch Hen, owned and built by borrower Caroline Stafford, produces gorgeous, delicious biscuits designed with personalised messages, which can be delivered through a letterbox to create ‘hugs in biscuits’. A perfect way to have been able to show your love for those you’re unable to see in recent months.
Caroline’s product is undeniably a beautiful thing, although it is through in incredibly difficult period in her life personally that The Kitsch Hen can to be. Having lived in New Zealand for five years, Caroline returned to the UK and helped a friend run a deli. Upon her homecoming, she also met the man who would become her husband and planned to start a family. The pair started to go through what emerged to be unsuccessful IVF treatment which, understandably, had a huge impact on Caroline’s life.
“That experience is a massive part of the business,” Caroline revealed. “This business has grown into something very special through a truly horrendous period of our lives. I wouldn’t have this business now and it wouldn’t have the impact it has, had we not been through that. It’s been a beautiful positive that’s come out of a hugely negative situation.
“Every week, I look at the orders and I know that we have been able to make that number of people smile, because we believe that our biscuits will have made those people feel better,” she added. “A lot of the biscuits we sell are hugs in biscuits; just ways of letting people know that others are thinking of them or sending them love. I double that feeling, because I know the person sending the biscuits also gets that joy, because they’ll likely have the person they sent the biscuits to contact them and tell them how the biscuits made them feel.
“All of this has helped me make sense of that horrendous situation we had to go through – and continue to go through to some degree.”
Baking had always been a hobby of Caroline’s, albeit only producing goods for her friends and family. It was therapeutic and relaxing, and as she openly admits, a great way to show you care.
Having received terrific feedback for her biscuits and their personal messages or words of inspiration – her first set including the messages ‘You are brave’, ‘You are strong’, ‘You are loved’, ‘You are not alone’, ‘You’re enough’ and ‘You’re beautiful – Caroline started to market the biscuits and sales soon started to come through.
“We’d throw these packages onto our hard tiled kitchen floor to test them, trying to emulate what we believe could happen in a Royal Mail sorting office,” revealed Caroline when discussing the packaging for her product.
After discovering The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity through her local council in Oakham, Caroline applied for one of the charity’s interest-free loans as she looked to grow the business; moving out of her kitchen and into a bespoke premises and employing a member of staff.
“In my interview with The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity, in which I was expecting a full-on ‘Dragon’s Den’ panel and was terrified, but everybody turned out to be lovely and very encouraging; somebody asked why I didn’t have anybody working for me,” she recalled. “At the time, I remember thinking that I couldn’t possibly do that; it would be far too scary. One of the Trustees said that the minute I did, my whole business would shift because of that responsibility – but also because of that additional pair of hands. Moving to a new premises and employing a member of staff was all thanks to being successful in my application for a loan and the shift since has been huge.”
One of the positive impacts of COVID-19 has been the way in which more people have moved to support small, local businesses. After a great year for The Kitsch Hen, Caroline is hoping to see that mind-set continue as she targets business growth in 2021.
“I think that there has been a real move to people looking to support smaller businesses,” Caroline said. “I think that’s lovely and that’s something that I’m doing as a consumer, using social media to seek out small businesses to support. A big part of that is because I think, generally, the whole experience is nicer. I think you have a really nice dialogue with people.
“Moving forward, we have a growth plan. We’ve had a great year. I’m very much going for it and seeing where life takes us. The challenge will be growing a business which is very much a part of me. The business is personal, so moving forward I need to balance being a businesswoman and entrepreneur with keeping the business true what’s at the heart of it. I’d hate it if my business became a corporate factory churning out biscuits.”
For more information on The Kitsch Hen, please visit www.the-kitsch-hen.co.uk
Alternatively, please click here for details on The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s interest-free loans to help start or develop a business in Leicester, Leicestershire or Rutland.