“We firmly believe that mothers are overlooked in the workplace, even though they have so much to offer – resourcefulness, efficiency, and problem-solving skills,” states Lisa Shepherd, founder of Leeds-based all-female biscuit specialist The Biskery.

It’s something Shepherd and fellow founder Saskia Roskam want to combat with a model based around family-friendly practices and working hours. They started The Biskery (then known as Bloom Bakers) in 2016 when, as new mothers, they were trying to balance parenthood with their careers. 

As the bakery thrives, the pair are committed to offering this to others while demonstrating that working with women and mothers enriches a business, rather than putting it at risk. Not giving parents a chance because they need flexible hours is “not only criminal, but a false economy”.

“It’s not about making excuses, it’s about enabling mothers to have a job that is not at the expense of having quality time with their children, and ideally for themselves, too,” explains Roskam.

The Biskery team - women in white aprons

Source: The Biskery

At present, the core team consists of seven women. They first expanded it in June 2021 with Holly, who is now production manager, and Amy in strategic partnerships and account management.The Biskery then added to its team again, bringing on board artisan bakers and biscuit decorators Kate and Zee, plus Olga, the “fabulous all-rounder” who works as a baker, tech support, and events professional.

“Most of us are working mums, who work part-time around their individual childcare arrangements and challenges,” notes Roskam, adding that The Biskery champions flexible and remote working where possible. While its difficult for the production team to work from home, the marketing, sales, and tech executives do so for the majority of the week. Some work school hours only while others work longer days when they have childcare and shorter days when they don’t.

“Normalise part-time and flexible work. It does not mean these employees don’t love their job, it just means they love their families more”

“Having the lived experience of juggling work and motherhood brings a lot of empathy to the table,” explains Shepherd. “We know what it’s like, and we also know that our team still want to have a career. Having both is only possible when we step out of the rigid nine to five in the office mindset.”

A truly accommodating approach requires flexibility, and the founders have monthly one-to-ones with team members to discuss individual needs. “Their needs vary hugely, and they cannot all be brushed with the same comb,” Shepherd asserts. “We manage the business’ needs by working together to make things happen when we get really busy and getting seasonal support when needed. Everyone is flexible and understands that our roles in a small business can be fluid.”

The Biskery kindness biscuits

Source: The Biskery

School holidays are understandably challenging as so many of the employees want or need time off, but the founders say they have a great team of seasonal workers who can step in.

“The nature of our business also allows us to plan ahead and get all hands-on deck so that we can then enjoy time off with the families. There are times when we bring our kids to work, and they are always welcome. As they get older, they are becoming more helpful, and it’s really special for us that they see their mums in action at work,” Roskam adds.

When asked what the baking industry can do to support working parents, Shepherd replies: “Normalise part-time and flexible work. It does not mean these employees don’t love their job, it just means they love their families more.

“Ask them what they need and find a way to make it work. Chances are it’s not that complicated, and your team will work together and show a new level of commitment to your company,” she concludes.